If you have the MLB Network, tonight at 8 they're showing this game, apparently in its entirety. Game tying double by Gary Varsho in the 9th, walkoff double by Don Slaught in the eleventh? Yes, please. Set your DVRs accordingly.
Chris Gomez is a Pirate no more. Yaaaaaaaaaawn.
I really like Nicolas' idea to do a sort of Pirates' "Futures Game." I'm pretty sure the team used to do something like this in the 90s, but stopped.
RIP Dave Roberts (1979 Pirates' version)
I know I wrote this at FanHouse a couple days ago, but how friggin' weird is John Smoltz going to look in a Red Sox uniform?
Replacement Level Yankees Blog has run the Hardball Times projections through a simulator 100 times and has the standings posted. Guess what? The sim says the Pirates are going to win 68 games! Unheard of! (via BBTF)
That's pretty much it. What a boring time of year. Is it time for camp yet? When does the WBC start?
I'm going to be at a symposium all day today (The BIG World of Little RNAs!), but there's one link that I had to share; Pirates might look to Pearce for power option.
"Steve Pearce is a viable option, and he has been from day one," Huntington said.If Craig Wilson was Thor, what's Steve Pearce ... Puck?
The phone rings in Neal Huntington's office.
Brian Cashman: Uh, hi, is this Neal?
Neal Huntingon: Yup.
BC: Don't you, like, have a secretary or something?
NH: Dude, I don't even have a bullpen. What's up?
BC: Well, we just picked up Mark Teixeira, so we really don't need Nick Swisher AND Xavier Nady and I kinda thought, that, you know ...
NH: That'd I'd just give them to you in return for Paul Maholm and Nate McLouth and maybe if I haggled really hard you'd include Melky Cabrera?
BC: Did you just read my mind? Because that's incredible. It's like ... wow. What are you even doing in a front office. You should have your own TV show or something.
NH: Excessively complimenting me is not going to make this trade happen.
BC: What is?
NH: Uh, remove Swisher and Nady from the deal, add Jackson and Betances, and make it for McLouth OR Maholm and we'll talk.
BC: You're much meaner than the guy on The Mentallist. Call me back when you feel like taking overrated, overpaid players in return for the only talented players you have on your roster.
OK, so maybe that's not how this happened. But it's pretty much how it went down in my head.
I meant to write something yesterday, but as you probably know by now, Kevin McClatchy has sold his final shares of the Pittsburgh Pirates and gave up his spot on the board, meaning that he's officially as affiliated with the team as you or I now (unless you're Bob Nutting, in which case, "Hi").
As you might expect there's been some nasty things being written about McClatchy since the news was announced yesterday, but he never actually struck me as a bad guy. He seemed like someone that was trying, but was in over his head when it came to day-to-day baseball operations. His biggest mistake, and it was a huge one, was hiring and sticking with Dave Littlefield far after it became obvious that Littlefield was not a good general manager. But someone had to put a group of owners together in 1996 to keep the team from leaving, and McClatchy was the one that did that. And someone had to get the ball rolling to get PNC Park built and McClatchy was the one that did that.
His baseball management was terrible and that's the main reason the team is as bad today as they are, but he's also the main reason that they're able to be terrible in Pittsburgh and not Portland or St. Petersburg. This might sound like a backhanded compliment, and maybe it is a little bit, but thank you, Kevin, for not being Jeffrey Loria.
Welp, there goes that.
The week before Christmas I wrote a post wondering who Jack Wilson thought the Pirates were going to "go out and get" when he said that the team needed "more players." Baldelli signing with Boston is exactly what I meant. There's no real reason for Baldelli to sign with the Red Sox over the Pirates beyond the fact that the Red Sox are the Red Sox and the Pirates are the Pirates. In Boston, he'll be behind Jason Bay, JD Drew, David Ortiz, and probably Jacoby Ellsbury on the OF/DH depth chart. In Pittsburgh, he would've had every chance to start. Now, I obviously don't know all the details of his health, but I'd think playing time would be important to a guy trying to prove he was healthy.
You can blame this on the team not ponying enough cash for Baldelli, but that sure wasn't the case with Daniel Cabrera and I doubt that's the case here. You can say Baldelli's from New England, sure, but it's not like Pittsburgh is an incredibly long flight from Rhode Island. And we've got some pretty good health care in the city, if that's what he's concerned with.
So really, what useful player is going to sign here right now?
Dejan reports this afternoon that the Pirates are still in the mix to sign Rocco Baldelli. I was actually going to write something up this afternoon about their odds to get him increasing after the Reds re-signed Hairston and the Rays saying they've about hit their payroll ceiling, but I'll take actual reporting over having to speculate any day.
It seems like the choice for Baldelli is whether he wants (or is healthy enough) for regular playing time. In Pittsburgh he could almost certainly be the starting left fielder over Nyjer Morgan, while the AL teams that are interested in him are mostly contenders like the Red Sox and Yankees. If he's not completely healthy yet, he may want to stay in the American League where he wouldn't be expected to play daily and could DH from time to time. If he is healthy, I have to think he'd be interested in playing for a team like the Pirates where he could prove his health and given his age (he turned 27 in September), parlay that into a longer-term, bigger money deal.
I'd still like to see Rocco in a Pirate uniform for the same reason that Oliver Perez piqued my interest last night. I think a lot of people are misunderstanding some of my more recent posts to mean that I think that the Pirates should completely ignore the major league club until the players in the minors are ready. That's not my argument at all. What I've been trying to say is that the focus, and most of the resources, should go into the developing the minor leagues because the big league club can't contend right now. Therefore, signing a player like Pat Burrell or keeping a player like Jason Bay, who are both good hitters and not terribly old but have very limited upside and limited interest in being in Pittsburgh at this point in their careers, is a waste of time and especially a waste of money for the Pirates.
Baldelli represents something different. He's an unknown quantity with a huge ceiling that won't command a big salary this year due to his injury past. The potential is there to for him to improve the big league club immediately and if he does turn out to be healthy, the Pirates would have an inside track at keeping him here if things go well with the team. Since he's 27, it's not entirely out of the question that he could be useful if the Pirates begin to turn things around next year or the year after. If he's healthy and playing well and indicates no desire to stay in Pittsburgh, we can always trade him.
That line of thinking was why I asked about Perez. Yeah, he's asking for eight figures, but if Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu aren't getting $11 million and Ollie's a free agent in February, that asking price is going to come down. And he's still only 27 (he's just two months older than Baldelli). The point made by Bishop in my post from last night is probably the truth: Ollie's had five years in the league and there's just not a lot to indicate that he can duplicate 2004, which makes him a waste of our time.
I'm sure as hell not interested in Braden Looper or even Derek Lowe or Andy Pettitte or Bobby Abreu, but that doesn't mean that there's not any interesting players for the Pirates in free agency.
So I'm sitting here watching the MLB Network tonight (featuring Trenni Kusnierek, who's probably more popular among long-time WHYGAVS readers than any ex-Pirate not nicknamed Thor) and Al Lieter, Harold Reynolds, and Joe Magrane just did a "free agent pitcher draft" for the Pirates, Padres, and Reds. Lieter, who's a pretty astute guy, represented the Pirates and picked Oliver Perez with his first pick.
Now, this whole exercise was hypothetical, but I thought about it a bit and really, Ollie is the ultimate Neal Huntington project. He's got a better arm than probably 95% of everyone in the majors, he runs up a ton of strikeouts, and he's hard as hell to figure out. I think Joe Kerrigan could potentially do a lot of good for him, just like Rick Peterson did in New York. Plus, picking Perez up probably lets a guy like Ohlendorf go to the pen, where he's probably best suited to be. So the question is, if the price was right, would you want Oliver Perez back in a Pirate uniform?
You know, I thought that I might make it the whole life of this blog without naming a post that sounds like a bad graduation speech. Anyways, I almost made it four years. I guess that's not bad.
This morning, DK posted a letter on the PBC blog from a season ticket holder to the Pirates, informing the club that he would be cancelling his tickets. You can read the letter for yourself, but the guy basically says, "I'm sick of this crap and I'm sick of waiting. Have a nice life." DK goes on to note that while there are some people (like me) that aren't concerned with the outcome of the 2009 season if the new front office continues to move the team in the right direction on the minor league front, there is a vast majority of Pirate fans that's just plain sick of waiting and every year that passes, more and more fans bleed from the fanbase.
Before I go much further, I want to note that I'm not criticizing Andy (the fan that wrote Dejan), nor am I criticizing anyone that cancels their tickets. The Pirates suck. They've tortured us fans again and again and again over the past sixteen years and while I think that things seem to be moving in the right direction under Huntington and while I'll argue the value of a good draft vs. the value of trade returns or free agent signings and which of those things are truly more important to the Pirates until I turn blue, I get it that people are jumping ship and I'm not judging them, even if I don't think they're giving the front office enough of a chance.
In writing the Road to 17, I've spent more time wallowing in the Pirates' recent past than any sane person should. Probably the most interesting part of it, for me, is really looking at the teams from the first three quarters of this streak and really examining them, the players they had, and the choices that lead the team to the point they're at right now. Doing that has made one thing incredibly clear: both Cam Bonifay and Dave Littlefield ultimately failed because they tried to straddle the line between rebuilding and respectability at the same time.
Bonifay had put together a legitimately interesting base after the 1996 fire sale, but rather than sticking with what he'd built he caved when the public pressure mounted to put the '97 immediately over the top. Instead of sticking with the initial (and now much maligned) "Five Year Plan," he gave bad contracts to worthless veterans and dealt Jose Guillen for catchers after Jason Kendall's injury, even though Guillen was a young, high-upside player and the Pirates weren't going to contend in 1999 either way. This plan bottomed out in 2001 and lead to his firing and the hiring of Dave Littlefield. Littlefield seemed constantly concerned with not being as awful as the club was in 2001 and he pursued that goal with as much fervor as anything, often leaving the actual rebuilding process as young players were routinely blocked by mediocre veterans who helped ensure that a Littlefield team never lost more than 95 games, but also ensured they never won more than 75.
The reality is that the past two GMs here failed not because they were terrible talent evaluators (Bonifay was a good scout before becoming the Pirates' GM and is still a scout in the league for the Reds and I'll still argue that Littlefield was actually incredibly good at what his primary goal was, which was staying employed), they failed because they misplaced their priorities. Instead of focusing on what they thought the Pittsburgh Pirates needed to do to get better, they both fixated on what they thought other people wanted to see from the Pirates, be that the fan base, the ownership, or whoever else.
In the end, the only thing that's going to bring fans back to the park is consistent winning. A one-year run at .500 might generate interest, but if it's not sustained then it won't truly change anything. That means that if Huntington and Coonelly think what they're doing (building through the draft, strengthening international scouting, and trying to pick a few players up in trades for the table scraps that Littlefield left them) is the best way to fix the Pirates, then they have to keep doing it, no matter how many people show up at PNC in 2009. This is not an easy thing to do. The public, who loves Jason Bay far more now than they ever did when he was a Pirate, will be screaming bloody murder if the offense has another month like last August when 2009 opens. Bob Nutting will likely be none too pleased if he starts hemhorraging money when the fans disappear. Pot-shots like this one from the media will only increase, especially if the Steelers, Pitt basketball, or the Penguins win a championship.
The biggest key for the Pirates this year is that Huntington and Coonelly stay the course. I take a lot of crap for being too easy on the new front office and I think I probably am. There's a reason for that: I think it's clear that they have a vision. Maybe they're signing guys like Chris Gomez and Ramon Vazquez, but the way they've approached the draft, Latin America, and yes, even the trade market seems to be much improved over the previous two regimes and everything seems to be done with a clear goal in mind. I think that's the most important thing for a front office in the position the Pirates are in right now. Prior to Huntington and Coonelly, there was no vision. I think this joke has been made 100 times before, but it's true and I'll use it again; Littlefield plan for the team was the baseball version of the plan the Underpants Gnomes used on South Park to make money.
- Collect baseball players the fans will recognize.