Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Perhaps some of you
who are old enough to remember can recall that back in the day when Mario Lemieux was set to come out of junior hockey that the NHL did not have the weighted lottery system that it has today for first round picks. Back then, if you were the worst, you got the first pick. Period.

ABOVE: Mario immediately after being drafted by Eddie Johnston. BELOW: Separated at birth EJ's twin, Grandpa Munster (I couldn't resist).

In 1984 when Mario was coming out, he was being heralded as the greatest player EVER in junior hockey. Lemieux's records were so gaudy that no one was even arguing that fact. However, as the season wore on, the Penguins found themselves nip and tuck with a few other teams. That's when EJ took over.

General manager at the time, Eddie Johnston, brought several players up from the minors and gave them extended playing much time in fact that other teams were screaming foul that the Penguins were intentionally "tanking" games so that they could get "Le Magnifique".

The Pens lost just enough games that they possessed this most cherished of picks and selected Mario number one. The rest, as they say, is now history. But there were enough complaints that the NHL changed their system and put in the element of chance into their draft.

Baseball has no such element and the Pirates, though currently not the worst team in the majors, have a chance to end up with that record since they have the youngest team...far and the majors at 26 years, 251 days average per player. As luck would have it, Mario Lemieux or LeBron James or Mean Joe Greene is available in this year's baseball draft...well at least the baseball equivalent.

Meet Bryce Harper.

ABOVE: Bryce Harper is quite simply "the greatest thing since sliced bread".

Harper, only 16 is a Las Vegas kid who has such prodigious talent that he may very well be the highest rated prospect ever drafted. In fact, he possesses such unreal talent that his family took him out of high school and got him a GED so that he could go to junior college and be eligible to be drafted a year early.

A catcher, Harper possesses tremendous arm strength, power and speed. He has thrown out base runners from his knees and has hit 96 when on the mound. While a player with his hitting ability will probably not remain behind the plate in the majors, he projects to be possibly a corner infielder or outfielder. Harper has played occasionally at third and short...he's also that good of a fielder.

At a recent high school power hitting competition at Tropicana Field, Harper hit a home run that was estimated at 502 feet or the longest ball ever hit in that major league park. He then hit a few balls up onto the catwalk which is around 465 feet. So incredible are his skills that he is being called the "LeBron James of Baseball". Harper also hit a ball in high school baseball that was hit across a major highway into a patch of desert. This amazing shot was 570 feet! Even more incredible, he did this when he was 15 and at 16 now, he's far from being done growing. This kid could make Albert Pujols look like Nyjer Morgan!

ABOVE: The flight path of the incredible shot hit at Tropicana Field by Bryce Harper. BELOW: Ain't no mountain high enough for this kid.

Is it possible that the Pirates could latch onto a talent this big? I know, I know, they passed on Matt Wieters, but this is different. If the Pirates could land him could you imagine a lineup that potentially might feature Harper, Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen among others? Now we're talking a serious lineup!

ABOVE: This kid is a phenom if there ever was one. Wouldn't it be justice if the Pirates were to get the greatest prospect ever?

Of course a lot of planets have to line up in the sky or a lot of sevens have to line up on the slot machine before any of this comes to pass. But remember, it wasn't so long ago that the Penguins hit the lottery and got Sidney Crosby, then followed that up the next year with Evgeni Malkin.

ABOVE: He looks like he's playing for "Kiss" in this shot, but the only real similarity is that Harper "kisses a lot of balls goodbye".

The Pirates have been down and out for so long that it's about time that something like this happened for them. In the meantime, Pedro Alvarez is really starting to tear things up in Altoona. There could be a perfect storm brewing...for the rest of major league baseball!

ABOVE: When you've been as bad as long as the Pirates have been, you're due to catch a good wave.