Friday, February 15, 2019

Time for Pirates to put an offer on table for Jameson Taillon

By Kevin Gorman
February 14, 2019

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Jameson Taillon follows the business side of baseball with keen interest, from free agency to arbitration, and the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher was captivated by a trio of cases that could affect his future as the face of the franchise.
Mostly, Taillon was thrilled to see Gerrit Cole win his hearing against the Houston Astros for an arbitration-record $13.5 million salary this season, doubling his 2018 earnings.
“I was happy for him,” Taillon said. “Gerrit obviously is extremely interested in the process and how arbitration works and stuff. I knew he was committed to going into his case and, you know Gerrit, he’s going to help his own cause and be involved in the process so I know he put a lot of time into it.”
Cole was 15-5, with a 2.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and MLB-leading 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings for the Astros last year, after being acquired in a January 2018 trade with the Pirates for pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and minor-league outfielder Jason Martin. That deal looks lopsided, but the Pirates didn’t believe they could sign Cole to a long-term deal and probably were right.
The Philadelphia Phillies, however, avoided arbitration with 25-year-old ace Aaron Nola by signing him to a four-year, $45 million contract extension that bought out two years of free agency.
Maybe Nola would have thought twice about his deal if he had known what Cole would win.
Nola was 17-6, with a 2.37 ERA, 0.975 WHIP and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings last season, putting up better numbers for half the 2019 salary but more long-term security.
“Gerrit, I was really happy for him on a personal level but Gerrit, by winning his case, pushed forward that starting pitcher market, which has been kind of stuck in arbitration for awhile,” said Taillon, who replaced Cole as the Pirates’ MLB Players Association representative.
“With Nola, I don’t know him but I just sense that the Phillies would try to lock a guy like that up. I’ve heard they’ve had some money to spend, and he’s their guy. … Good for him.”
Perhaps, but Nola’s deal is far below market value.
That could be bad for Taillon’s future with the Pirates, now that Cole has cashed in and Nola sold himself short. Not that the Pirates have made any attempts to lock up Taillon with a long-term contract, allowing him to play for slightly above the MLB minimum at $575,000 despite going 14-10, with a 3.20 ERA and 1.178 WHIP last season.
Taillon has heard nothing about an extension from the Pirates.
“We haven’t talked about anything,” Taillon said Thursday at Pirate City. “You never know, my agent could be in contact with them at some point but I haven’t heard anything right now. I mean, I’m pitching for the minimum and, right now, that’s a pretty good deal so I understand there’s a side of everything and how it works. Right now, I’d be ready to just go year to year because that’s all I can do.
“That’s all I know, all I’m getting ready for.”
That’s a risk the Pirates have to weigh, considering the arbitration outcome of another pitcher. Trevor Bauer won his case against the Cleveland Indians for $13 million, only to insist he will only sign one-year contracts for the remainder of his career.
That could be tempting for Taillon, seeing the bigger payday for pitchers came by taking teams to free agency. Taillon used Max Scherzer’s seven-year, $210 millon contract with the Washington Nationals in 2015 — half is deferred in $15 million annual payments through 2028 — as an example of a player who took a calculated risk.
“I love a guy who bets on himself,” Taillon said of Bauer. “That fires me up, a guy who is confident in himself.”
The Pirates’ strategy could be as simple as drafting and developing players, maximizing their value through their 20s and either trading them when they reach arbitration, like Cole, or before they reach free agency, like Andrew McCutchen.
In Taillon, the Pirates have a potential combination of Cole and Cutch, a player who can be the ace and face of their franchise. They made Taillon the No. 2 overall pick in 2010, and he’s appreciative that the Pirates made that investment in him (over Manny Machado) and shown patience through his injuries on his way to stardom.
“I don’t try to be that; I just try to do my job,” Taillon said of the ace-and-face tag. “But when I got called up, we had Cutch and we had these guys who the city could look to and identify what Pirates baseball is. I think it’s nice from a fan perspective to have somebody you can root for.
“I bought a place in Pittsburgh. This city means a lot to me. This organization took a chance on me. They drafted me out of high school. It’s not something where I’m waking up every day, going, ‘I’ve got to represent baseball in this city.’ I’m just trying to do my job. But, at the same time, yeah, I’ll embrace it. I’ve connected with the city, with the fans — I’ve connected with them a bunch over the years — and if I am someone they look at, it’s awesome.”
Taillon is someone the Pirates should be looking to lock up, not as a goodwill gesture to fans but rather as a cornerstone for a club that talks about winning a World Series but is silent when it comes to spending.
It’s time for the Pirates to put one on the table for Taillon.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Oilers’ Connor McDavid still has improvements to make defensively

By Mark Spector
February 14, 2019

Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins moves the puck in front of Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers at PPG Paints Arena on February 13, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH — The coach — or in the Edmonton Oilers case, coaches — always talks about the difficulty of outscoring their defensive mistakes. On the flip side, who better than Connor McDavid to test that theory?
But on a night when Edmonton lost in Pittsburgh, a tight game with a late empty netter, it was McDavid’s minus-2 that stood out more than the one assist he managed in a 3-1 loss.

McDavid and the first power-play unit were delinquent in allowing Bryan Rust to walk out from behind the goal and score a short-handed goal to tie the game at 1-1, and then McDavid allowed Teddy Blueger to walk right past him in the defensive zone on the 2-1 goal. Blueger was wide open in the slot to rifle home a pass for the goal, and despite a myriad of Oilers chances, that one stands as the winner.
“Kind of an awkward play,” said McDavid, who was at the end of a long shift. “He was coming in on a change and he was the high guy and he drove right to the net. I’m not actually sure whose guy he was. Maybe mine.”
On the short-handed goal, Leon Draisaitl admitted, “We have to be a little bit more aware in that situation. We played it a little too loose. But we had more than enough chances to tie it up later.”
“We can’t give that up,” added McDavid, now winless in six games against Sidney Crosby. “We had a chance to maybe go up two. Not good.”
Look: McDavid (nor Draisaitl) is nowhere near the problem in Edmonton. He is by far their brightest light, obviously, and if he’s not the best player in the world today he’s second behind the guy wearing No. 87 for Pittsburgh Wednesday. You simply can’t say enough about him as a player. He is the furthest thing from the issue when it comes to this mess in Edmonton.
But great players play at both ends of the rink, and at 22-years-old, McDavid’s game is not yet complete. This was the rare night when two lax defensive efforts both ended up in his net, and McDavid — despite a penalty shot and some fine offensive efforts — was not able to erase the deficit against a stellar Matt Murray in the Pittsburgh net.
“Maybe I left them out too long on the 2-1 goal,” offered head coach Ken Hitchcock. “Tired on the shift and that’s on me. We had a bunch of chances to tie it and I have to find a way to bear down on a couple.”
It also wouldn’t hurt if one of the other lines chipped in, the way a couple of depth guys scored for the Penguins. But that’s how it is for Edmonton’s two young stars — they’re on an island here, and whomever the new GM is, his first priority is to find them some help on the wing.
Meanwhile, Crosby had an assist on a plus-1 night. If or when McDavid gets to Crosby’s level of defensive awareness, we can bury the debate about who is the best player in the NHL.
Hitchcock was a Team Canada assistant coach at the Vancouver Olympics, where Crosby scored the golden goal.
“When we were at practice, there were times when we’d say to ourselves, ‘What the hell is he doing? Where is he going?’” Hitchcock recalled. “Well, he was practicing plays that weren’t connected to the drill we were doing. And then you’d see it pop up in a game.
“The bigger the game, the more he was a factor. As the games got bigger he just got to a higher level that no one else could obtain.”
McDavid was a teenager when he watched that game, and it wasn’t the last time he marvelled at something Crosby did. There aren’t a lot of guys in hockey that a player with McDavid’s skill set will watch in search of grabbing a tip or two.
Of course, Crosby is one.
“How strong he is down low,” McDavid said. “As the low centreman, playing against him, he’s so strong on his skates. So stocky. He’s tough to knock off the puck, which is a great quality to have.”
If there’s one place where McDavid’s game will still mature, it’s that strong play down low in both zones. Crosby is tough to knock off the puck when he has it, and doesn’t let you get to his net when he doesn’t.
“I think I’m pretty strong on my skates, but probably not to that level,” McDavid said. “Ultimately I’ll never be as stocky or as wide as him, but it’s definitely stuff you can work on.”
It’s that stern defensive game that the league’s best players eventually find, and if an annual Art Ross candidate can become tough to play against defensively, then you have the complete superstar.
“Sid thinks at a level, when the other team has the puck, that’s above everyone else in the league,” Hitchcock said. “His anticipation when the other team has the puck is so high, he knows where it’s going ahead of time. He can pick off passes, make you make errors… And then he also knows where people are located on the ice, so he can turn that turnover into a scoring chance.
“Connor has that in him. He sniffs out danger offensively. Sid thinks it defensively — he has both going.
“That’s where Connor is going to get to.”

02/13/19 Condensed Game: Oilers @ Penguins

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Crosby, McDavid the leading beneficiaries of high-scoring NHL

By Mark Spector
February 12, 2019
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PITTSBURGH — As Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby get set for another of their biannual meetings tonight in Pittsburgh, they can nod at each other over the opening faceoff, knowing that — finally — the shooters are starting to take back the National Hockey League.
McDavid is on his way to a career season, while Crosby is on pace for his most productive season in five years. After more than 25 years of goalie equipment growing to the point of the absurd, the NHL has finally swung the pendulum back towards the skaters.

It’s only incremental, but as the league’s top two players meet on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, the scoring needle is pointing up and save percentages have taken a hit.
Through roughly two-thirds of the 2018-19 schedule, teams are combining for more than six goals a game, or 3.06 goals per game each. The last time NHL teams averaged more than three goals per game was the first year back from the “lost season” lockout, in 2005-06.
Historically, goal scoring fades a bit in the final third of the season as teams buckle down defensively down the stretch. If the NHL stays above 2.97 goals per game, however, it will mark the fourth straight season that goal scoring has been up from the prior season.
Heading into Tuesday night’s slate of games, only Alexander Ovechkin was on schedule to score more than 50 goals, comfortably scoring at a 56-goal pace. On Dec. 12 there were 11 players on a 50-goal pace, but today there are still a handful who are a two- or three-goal night away from re-joining that club.
Jeff Skinner and John Tavares are both on pace for 49. Patrick Kane and Leon Draisaitl are on pace for 48. Brayden Point is on pace for 47.
We haven’t seen a 50-goal scorer since Ovechkin hit the mark right on the nose four seasons ago, and since 2010 only four players have posted a 50-goal season. It’s a dying art, and that post-lockout season was the last time five or more players notched half-a-hundred in a single season.
But production is up among the top point getters. There were three 100-point players last season: McDavid (108), Claude Giroux (102) and Nikita Kucherov (100). This season, there are seven players on a 100-point pace, heading into the final third of the season.
It starts with Kucherov, who is on pace for a career-high 123 points, and winds down through McDavid (121), Kane (119), Mikko Rantanen and Johnny Gaudreau (112), Nathan MacKinnon (110), to Brayden Point (101). Blake Wheeler is on schedule for 98 points, as is Mitch Marner and Draisaitl.
This stat might be the brightest light for offensive hockey, because it appears to show that the stars are being allowed to ply their trade more often over the course of a full season. In 2014-15, Jamie Benn won the Art Ross Trophy with just 87 points, and you have to go all the way back to 2006-07 to find five or more 100-point scorers in the same season.
This season, McDavid has 31-50-81 thru 55 Oilers games. That puts him on pace for a seasonal line of 46-75-121, which would be career highs in all three categories.
Crosby, meanwhile, has 24-41-65 through 56 Penguins games. He is on pace for 35-60-95, his most productive season in five years.
It’s not really about how much scoring is up, but more so for those who prefer to see a little more offence in their hockey, the fact it is trending in the right direction. The trend isn’t due to shots on goal, which are down a half a shot per game, or power plays — 80.06 per cent this season compared to 79.82 per cent last campaign.
We would then surmise that the most influential change is the continued decrease in the size of goalie equipment, the runaway train that has finally been brought back under control. The NHL managed to further reduce the size of the goalies’ leg pads two years ago, and this season the league went after chest and arm protectors. It’s simple math that the smaller goalie makes less saves, and taking a look at save percentages around the league, that math is borne out.
The average save percentage around the league this season is .908 — a 10-year low, down four points from last season’s .912. If teams are shooting less and scoring more, that has to be a sign that the changes in goal are beginning to bear fruit.
Finally, it’s the shooters’ turn.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Flyers pain worsened by Sidney Crosby’s three points, Evgeni Malkin’s assist, and Carter Hart’s ‘L’

By Marcus Hayes
February 11, 2019

Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his first period goal against the Philadelphia Flyers with his teammates on the bench on February 11, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s not often you watch playoff hockey before Valentine’s Day. That’s what this felt like, before and after.
Especially after.
It hurt that bad.
It stung a bit that Flyers’ 10-game point streak, with nine wins, ended, period. The run salvaged a lost season that cost a coach and a general manager their jobs, but now a playoff berth was within reach; more so if the Flyers could beat the Penguins.

It stung a bit more because the current run of success was fueled by the precocious play of rookie goaltender Carter Hart. No town loves its next goalie messiah more fervently than Philadelphia, which sees few enough of them. The loss ended Hart’s quest to become the first goalie in NHL history to win nine games in a row before the age of 21.

But the 4-1 loss stung most, and deepest, because it was delivered by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Evgeni Malkin, and, of course, Sidney Bleeping Crosby.

“It’s a huge game to lose,” said Jake Voracek, grimacing. “It was a four-point game. Biggest game of the year.”

And won by the Flyers’ rivals, whose best players are their nemeses.

Crosby scored the first goal. Malkin assisted on the second. Crosby assisted on the third and fourth.

They didn’t tell the entire tale. Penguins goalie Matt Murray had a career-high 50 saves. He outplayed Hart, who was occasionally brilliant himself, but, Hart admitted, “I’ve got to be better, at the end of the day.”

Not this day. In the biggest game of the season, the Penguins were, simply, better.

Predictably, maddeningly better.

Maddeningly, because it’s the same Pens who have won their five Stanley Cups since 1990 while the Flyers watched on the other end of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, their two straight Cup wins faint memories of the Watergate era. The same Pens who dominated the Flyers in their six-game, first-round playoff series win last spring.

The same Pens whose smirking leader’s face iced the urinal cakes at the Wells Fargo Center in the playoffs last year.

Monday night, he played like he was ... ticked.

His team needed it.

The Penguins had lost four in a row and were clinging to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as they visited the Flyers for the first time this season. The teams had three games remaining. The Flyers were within six points of the Pens, whose once-fearsome power play was 1-for-19 over the last eight games.

That’s a six-point swing if the Flyers had swept the three games in regulation. Now, their path must be different; and, most likely, more difficult.

It seems like an opportunity lost. Not wasted -- the Flyers played well -- but lost.

How big was the game? So big that Voracek was espousing defensive responsibilities at the morning skate.

How big? Malkin had missed the previous five games. He was expected to miss another Monday night, but desperation (the four losses) and history sped his return. Malkin had compiled 68 points in 54 games against the Flyers, his second-highest total against any team.

He’s almost as prolific as Crosby.

Sid the Kid had a point in the previous five games against the Flyers, 10 in all -- three goals, seven assists.

And he thrives on antipathy. By far the most hated of any opposition player, Crosby had 16 goals and 27 assists in 30 games at the Wells Fargo Center.

He destroys the Flyers, who are paving his way to the Hall of Fame. He had 39 career goals against them, his most against any opponent, in 64 games.

Make that 40 in 65.

Crosby scored just over 8 minutes into the game. It was the easiest goal of the 40.

Ivan Provorov sent the play to the northeast corner, away from Crosby ... and followed it. Crosby lingered by the southeast post ... as Sean Couturier cheated up ice. The puck bounced back to Crosby.

Somehow, the Flyers lost Crosby. Somehow, the Flyers lost the puck. He found it, and potted it. Both Provorov and Couturier blamed the quirky bounce. Neither explained how Crosby found himself alone.

It was a rare moment of sloppiness, especially with Couturier on the ice. His line hadn’t been scored upon in the Flyers’ current five-game homestand.

Malkin struck, subtly, just over seven minutes into the second period. He charged down the left side, drew a defender then left it softly for Nick Bjugstad, who was alone. Bjugstad snapped it briskly under Hart’s left pad.

Crosby started the play that ended with Jake Guentzel’s team-high 27th goal, a wraparound stuffed between Hart’s legs. He found Kris Letang for an empty-net goal with 13 seconds left.

The Flyers hardly could have done more.

They had a power-play goal nullified by an errant whistle, which would have cut it to 2-1. Nolan Patrick poked in Travis Konecny’s rebound with 7:07 left in the second period, but the official, assuming Murray had gloved the puck, erroneously blew the play dead.

They outshot the visitors, 51-27, their highest shot total of the season. They fired a team-record 28 shots in the second period, three more than the previous best, done twice. They top-loaded lines, occasionally mixing Claude Giroux with Voracek.

And ... nothing.

“In the standings, this hurts, yes,” Couturier admitted.

They out-hit (29-23) and they out-hustled and they frustrated the Penguins. Malkin took a match penalty when he chopped down Michael Raffl (after Raffl punched him in the back of the head). That gave the Flyers a power play for the rest of the evening, and Voracek scored once.

Hart was fine. He deftly turned aside the first two shots of the game, and he brilliantly stoned Bjugstad 6 minutes into the third, and he finished with 24 saves.

He also finished with his first "L" since Jan. 12.

He’s only had six.

It’s easy to figure which one hurt most.

It was his first game against the team Philadelphia likes least, but certainly not his last.

Said Hart: “You could definitely sense the rivalry.”

02/11/19 Condensed Game: Penguins @ Flyers

Monday, February 11, 2019

Sidney Crosby delivered on much-hyped promise

Mario Lemieux scored 100 points 10 different times

Crosby has created own legacy with Penguins

The first time I saw Sidney Crosby play for the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was Jan. 25, 2006. I wasn't covering the NHL then. I was just a hockey fan, and I happened to be in Pittsburgh, and man, I had to go to the game.
It was the second matchup of Crosby and Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, then the NHL's hotshot rookies. It also was the day after Mario Lemieux had announced he was retiring for good.
It wasn't what I expected, and when I think about the meaning of Crosby (916) passing Lemieux (915) for most games played in team history, which he did on Saturday, I go back to that night. 
The game was not sold out. The crowd was announced at 14,415, more than 2,500 short of capacity at the old Igloo, then known as Mellon Arena. I bought a ticket on the street for, I think, $10. It might have been $5.
There was no elaborate ceremony. The Penguins hadn't had time to plan, and Lemieux had asked for them not to go overboard. So there was a video tribute during the first TV timeout and a standing ovation, and Lemieux waved from a private box.
Crosby had four points (one goal, three assists) in an 8-1 win, his highest total 50 games into his NHL career, and the goal was vintage Sid. He buzzed around the net, splayed his skates at 10 and 2 o'clock, kicked the puck from his right skate to his left-handed stick. and made a poor defenseman look silly.
But when Crosby was introduced as First Star, he waved a Terrible Towel. The Pittsburgh Steelers were headed to victory in Super Bowl XL in 11 days. The Penguins were headed to the second-worst record in the NHL.
"The Great Lemieux ended his career officially and, this time, finally," columnist Gene Collier wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It was the day the Penguins effectively became Crosby's team."
Think of the way Crosby was heralded when he entered the NHL. He was known as the "Next One," as if he were the second coming of the "Great One," Wayne Gretzky.
Think of the situation he inherited.
"The Penguins are for sale," Collier wrote in that column. "The building is an albatross. The savior who wore 66 just boarded up the miracle business. And still Crosby is the brilliant light behind every obstacle."
"Sid the Kid" -- and back then he really was a kid, only 18 years of age, living in Lemieux's house -- was supposed to follow in the footsteps of not one but two of the greatest players in history and resurrect a franchise.
No pressure, eh?
"Hockey's lost a great player and a great person," Crosby said of Lemieux in that column. "I don't think it will change anything for me, but this happening makes a lot of the younger guys realize what he meant to the team and the city. It makes you want to do things for the team and the city that he did."
Crosby has done just that.
You can compare and contrast their styles and statistics and individual awards. But Lemieux and Crosby are different players who performed in different eras, and each had health problems that skewed everything.
Who knows how many games Lemieux could have played if healthy? How much more he could have accomplished? Same for Crosby. At least Crosby is playing at a high level at 31. We can only hope he has many years of good hockey ahead of him. Lemieux got only 170 games after that age. 
What this milestone does is remind us of how, despite all the expectations, all the pressure, all the adversity, Crosby has built upon Lemieux's legacy. Like Lemieux did, he played with superstar teammates but made hockey matter in Pittsburgh more than anyone else in his time.
The season before the Penguins selected Lemieux No. 1 in the 1984 NHL Draft, they finished last in the NHL in points (38) and average attendance (6,839). They won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992, and averaged more than 16,000 from 1992-93 to 1996-97.
The season before the Penguins selected Crosby No. 1 in the 2005 NHL Draft, they finished last in the NHL in points (58) and average attendance (11,877). They won the Stanley Cup in 2009, 2016 and 2017, while opening a new arena in 2010 and averaging more than 18,200 -- more than 100-percent capacity -- every season afterward.
There were six rinks in the region when Lemieux arrived and 33 when he retired. Crosby started the Little Penguins youth program in 2008, and the Penguins opened the state-of-art UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in 2015.
It says it all when kids are skating in Crosby jerseys in the practice rink named for Lemieux, when the new arena rocks and the miracle business is back and the light shines so bright you can't see the obstacles anymore.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Bob Friend, 88, Mainstay of Pirates Team That Stunned Yanks, Dies

By Richard Goldstein
February 4, 2019

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Bob Friend, who learned how to pitch on lowly Pittsburgh Pirate teams of the early 1950s, then became one of the National League’s finest right-handers and an anchor of the team that stunned the Yankees in the thrilling 1960 World Series, was found dead on Sunday at his home in O’Hara Township, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. He was 88.
His death was announced by the Pirates. Friend’s son, Bob, told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Friend had died of a “cardiac event” in his sleep.
Friend won 197 games in his 16 major league seasons. But he lost 230 games, mostly for teams that struggled after Branch Rickey, the Pirates’ general manager, embarked on a rebuilding period.
Friend had fine control and was exceptionally durable: He never had a sore arm and was never on the disabled list. He was the ace of a Pirates pitching staff that also featured his fellow right-handed starter Vern Law and the reliever Roy Face.

Friend had his first winning season in 1955, his fifth year with the Pirates, when he altered his windup so he could hide the ball and his grip from batters until the last possible moment. The Pirates finished in last place that season, but Friend went 14-9 and became the first pitcher to lead the N.L. in earned run average on a basement team when he posted a 2.83 mark.

Friend led the league in innings pitched twice, totaling almost 600 innings through 1956 and 1957, and led the N.L. in games started each season from 1956 to 1958. His best season came in 1958, when he had a 22-14 record, tying the Milwaukee Braves’ Warren Spahn for the league lead in wins. He was an All-Star in 1956, 1958 and 1960.

“I had a real good sinker that carried me through most of the prime of my career,” Friend recalled in an interview with Clifton Parker for the Society for American Baseball Research. “I had also had a hard curve and a fair off-speed pitch, but it was the sinker more than anything else.”
“I was able to pitch every third or fourth day for more than 10 years and never miss starts,” he said.
Friend went 18-12 in the 1960 regular season while Law was 20-7. But coming off a heavy workload in September, Friend pitched poorly in the World Series against the Yankees.

Friend started Game 2, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fourth inning after yielding three runs in a 16-3 trouncing by the Yankees; he earned the loss. (The Yankees outscored the Pirates 55-27 in the Series.)
He was the starter again in Game 6, giving up five runs in two innings as the Yankees went on to even the Series. In Game 7 at Forbes Field, Friend relieved at the start of the ninth inning but left after yielding a pair of singles. The Yankees scored twice to tie the game, setting the stage for Bill Mazeroski’s bases-empty ninth-inning home run off Ralph Terry. Pittsburgh’s wild 10-9 victory gave the Pirates their first World Series championship in 35 years.

Robert Bartmess Friend was born on Nov. 24, 1930, in Lafayette, Ind., and grew up in West Lafayette, the home of Purdue University. Friend’s father conducted local band concerts, and Bob began taking piano lessons as a child with thoughts of becoming a concert pianist.
But he was a baseball and football star at West Lafayette High School and, while a freshman at Purdue, was signed by the Pirates’ organization before the 1950 season.
After a year in the minors, Friend joined the Pirates in 1951. They finished in seventh place that year and in last place during the next four seasons under Rickey, who took over as general manager in Pittsburgh in 1950 and hoped to duplicate the success he had had building the Brooklyn Dodger teams that would dominate the N.L. for much of the 1950s.
“I simply wasn’t ready to pitch in the major leagues, and for four years it was a terrible struggle,” Friend told The New York Times after he was traded to the Yankees in 1966.
Rickey’s signings and the deals made by Joe L. Brown, who succeeded him as general manager in the mid-1950s, eventually built a solid lineup and pitching staff. The 1960 Pirates featured Roberto Clemente in right field, Bill Virdon in center, Dick Groat at shortstop and Mazeroski at second base, complementing the pitching of Friend, Law, Harvey Haddix, Vinegar Bend Mizell and Face.

Friend became a Yankee before the 1966 season. He posted a 1-4 record before they sold him to the Mets in June. He went 5-8 for them to close out his career.

He pitched 3,611 innings, struck out 1,734 batters, threw 36 shutouts and had a career earned run average of 3.58.
Friend was active in the major league players’ union, serving as the Pirates’ player representative and the N.L. player representative in negotiations with the club owners. He attended Purdue during off-seasons and received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1957.
After leaving baseball, Friend remained in the Pittsburgh area. Running as a Republican, he served as the Allegheny County controller from 1967 to 1975, and he was a three-time delegate to the Republican National Convention. He was later an insurance broker.
Friend had a passion for golf and played recreationally at leading courses in the United States and Scotland, attaining a notably low 6 handicap. His son, Bob, played on the PGA Tour and other circuits.
In addition to his son, Robert Charles Friend, Friend’s survivors include his wife, Patricia (Koval) Friend; his daughter, Missy Alexander; five grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
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Bob Friend at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Pirates' 1960 World Series win over the Yankees at the former site of Forbes Field. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Over the years, the Pirates’ 1960 World Series victory has been celebrated by fans gathering in October at a remnant of a wall from Forbes Field, which was demolished in 1971, to hear the rebroadcast of Game 7.
Friend, who attended many of the annual commemorations, was hailed as a special guest in 2014.
“It was a magic season for all of us,” The Post-Gazette quoted him as saying. “The team had suffered a long time.”