Lastings Milledge and Andy LaRoche are big question marks in Neal Huntington's plan to acquire blue chip talent after losing some luster. They're both talented players that will likely be productive on the big league level, but with a chance to exceed that level and grow into something more. Doing so would give the Pirates a much needed offensive jolt from beyond Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Doumit, and probably Garrett Jones (assuming he doesn't turn into a pumpkin). Most importantly, they're both young enough that if they perform anywhere near the high expectations that other teams had for them in the past, they shore up a position for the Pirates for the long haul.
Now that Baseball Prospectus has released their initial PECOTA projections (they still have some tweaking to do on the team standings and the PECOTA cards aren't out, but I'm fairly sure that the actual player projections aren't going to change much), we've got five major projection systems to build our roadmap for 2010 (please read this FanGraphs post by Dave Cameron before you start yelling at me about how unreliable projections are). The projections are fairly stable for both guys; each has one low outlier (MARCEL for LaRoche, ZiPS for Milledge), but beyond that everything is really pretty close. Here's what we have in terms of triple slash lines:
- PECOTA (beta)- .247/.344/.392
- CHONE- .259/.343/.408
- MARCEL- .245/.328/.380
- Bill James- .254/.338/.402
- ZiPS- .260/.345/.399
- PECOTA (beta)- .272/.343/.412
- CHONE- .284/.343/.423
- MARCEL- .278/.340/.418
- Bill James- .283/.340/.413
- ZiPS- .272/.329/.398
For this week's poll, I wanted to make it a discussion point. Which of these two guys is most likely to exceed these numbers? They both have reasons they might do it; Milledge battled a wrist injury that sapped much of his power last year and LaRoche took a big step forward after an abysmal start to his career in 2007 and 2008 while ending 2009 on a huge tear. Both are young enough (Milledge will be 25 in April, LaRoche turned 26 in September) that there's room for improvement.
So which one is more likely to exceed expectations in 2010? Why? Vote in the left sidebar, explain your vote in the comments.
Good catch by Charlie and his readers over the weekend: On Rocco DeMaro's broadcast from Piratefest yesterday, he asked Neal Huntington about Jose Tabata's age and Huntington, while acknowledging that both their records and the Yankees' records indicate that he's 21 as he says, responded, "He's not thirty," and "If he's 24, he's still a young player with great upside."
I've listened to the comments a couple times (first link, about 39:00 in) and I honestly can't tell if Huntington is saying, "Look, we think he's 21 and so did the Yankees, but people have been wrong about this sort of thing before and what exactly are we supposed to do about it if he is older than we think?" or "Yeah, he's probably 24." It obviously is a big deal if Tabata's 24 (22 is probably OK, 23 is pretty iffy, 24 means that suddenly he's been age appropriate the whole time in the minors and that makes the whole "We're moving him along and he'll develop power when he gets older" thing almost completely null), I'm just not sure if that's the conclusion we're supposed to infer from that statement.
A similar thing happened earlier in the weekend when Huntington was asked about Bryce Harper and made comments that I read as, "If we draft him it'll be because we scouted him and we liked him, not because of what someone else thinks," and others read as "He's not even in our top ten right now." I guess having such a candid GM can be a drawback sometimes.
As expected, word that Mario Lemieux might be interested in buying the Penguins lit the internet on fire yesterday. Here's a rundown of some of the fallout.
The Pensblog checks in, of course.
Brian at Raise the Jolly Roger feels similarly to the way I do; it'd be cool, but just because Mario is a good hockey owner doesn't make him a good baseball owner and it's probably not happening anyways, so let's not worry about it.
Finally, DK has an update at the Post-Gazette today with one very interesting paragraph about halfway down about Lemieux and Burkle's potential plans:
Each team's television rights are owned by FSN Pittsburgh, and each is generally satisfied with its rights fees. Another possibility is starting a fledgling cable network, which is becoming more common for sports franchises. Those tend to need more than one major league team to sustain year-round programming.I've said before that one of the huge differences between the Pirates and teams like the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox is that while the team might be "satisfied" with their deal with FSN Pittsburgh, that deal can't compare to what teams that own their own networks make. The Pirates are obviously not in position to do something about this right now. If they were to pull off of FSN Pittsburgh and launch Fam-a-leeTV and demand a particular rate from each cable company per subscriber to carry Pirate games, they'd be laughed at. If the jointly owned Pirates and Penguins were to launch launch PittsburghSportsTV, they'd have to be taken seriously because of the immense popularity of the Penguins in the region.
In news that's guaranteed to prompt the most angry phone calls to drive-time radio talk hosts in Pittsburgh, Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle apparently approached Bob Nutting about buy the Pirates a few months ago and were rebuffed, according to Dejan Kovacevic. My only opinion on this story is this: Bob Nutting has never, ever even remotely hinted (at least not publicly) that he's interested in selling the Pirates and any discussion about a potential sale is only going to be frustrating for everyone. So let's not discuss it.
UPDATE: OK, I realize that I owe everyone a lot better than to be all "whatevs" about it, as my friends at the Pensblog put it.
I, like any other Pittsburgh sports fan my age, love Mario Lemieux. I don't remember a lot about the Pens' two Stanley Cup runs because there's only room in my brain for so much and most of my pre-1994 sports memories are Pirate memories. I know they won, I know it was cool, but that's about it. When baseball went on strike in 1994 and didn't come right back, I was sports starved and I started watching hockey. I was captivated by Jaromir Jagr and the Pens in their own lockout shortened season. As my dad noticed me watching more and more hockey, he told me, "If you think this is fun to watch, just wait and see what happens if Mario Lemieux comes back."
He was right. When Mario returned to the ice the next season, I knew I was watching something amazing, even though I hadn't played or ever really watched much hockey to that point. Even on pre-HDTV, it was like he drew your eyes to him whenever he touched the ice. When he was out there and healthy, it was like everything else slowed down around him.
Like everyone else, I got chills when he scored on a breakaway in what seemed sure to be his last game at Mellon Arena in the 1997 playoffs. The night of his comeback in late December of 2000 is always going to be one of the single best, most inspirational sports memories of my life. When things started going downhill after that season, my friends and I at Duquesne would still Student Rush Penguins games to see him, even if he was a broken shadow of his former self. When he pulled the Penguins out of the fire, first buying the team in 1999 and then striking a deal for a new arena in 2007, he saved a piece of my connection to my city. Seeing the Penguins beat up in the Hurricanes in the RBC Centre with a couple thousand Penguin fans in the Eastern Conference Final last year was an amazing experience. Five hundred miles south of Pittsburgh, we all felt at home in the same building. Mario wasn't on the ice, but he was the only reason that was possible.
There are several reasons my initial instinct was to brush this story off. The first is that it's going to get a lot of yinzers fired up, and I honestly just don't want to deal with that. As much as Mario Lemieux means to me (and to a lot of Pittsburghers) personally, Bob Nutting owes him absolutely nothing when it comes to the Pirates and it's silly to expect him to want to sell the team just because Lemieux and Ron Burkle have asked him about it. Nutting has said time and time again the team is not for sale and there's no reason not to take him at his word.
The second reason is that even if Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux buy the Pirates, Pittsburgh doesn't get any bigger. The team's contract with Fox Sports Pittsburgh doesn't get any more lucrative. The relationship between the Pirates and the city of Pittsburgh doesn't change. The same fans who will "NEVER GO TO ANOTHER GAME AGAIN" and then continue to go to their one or two games a year and complain about the Pirates will call in to radio shows and write letters to the newspaper about how great this is and how they're on the phone to buy seasons tickets, and then they'll keep on going to their one or two games a year until the Pirates actually start to improve. And as much as Mario is a Pittsburgh icon and as rich as Ron Burkle is, neither of them got to where they are in life by being stupid, and so the money that goes into the Pirates will still be tied closely to their revenue streams and that won't greatly change until the product on the field does. Which means that the Pirates will have to continue to make good decisions to build a farm system to put a good product on the field. To extend an analogy I made earlier this week, if I'm on a road trip from Chapel Hill to San Francisco and I change cars in Tulsa, I'm still in Tulsa.
Which is simply to say that if Bob Nutting were interested in selling the Pirates and the Lemieux/Burkle group were interested, I'd find that news exciting but only with the knowledge that there's still tons of work to be done and though the ownership group's net worth and loyalty to Pittsburgh would have improved, the actual situation that the Pirates are in would be largely unchanged. And since Nutting isn't interested in selling, this is more likely to cause unnecessary wailing and tooth gnashing than anything else.
Tim Alderson answered questions from some Baseball America readers today. Certainly worth a read if you've got the time.
I know that a lot of people disagree with me when I say this, but I still like John Russell a lot. Today, his sentiments on payroll echo my own:
"Payroll has never and will never be an issue with me," manager John Russell said Thursday. "Our talent level has increased tremendously over the past couple years. We are very much looking forward to moving forward with a very talented group of major league players, with very talented players on their way from our system. The players are looking forward to this season, too, and they know the talent we have."
I understand that payroll is always going to be an issue for a team like the Pirates, but can we stop talking about it? Just, like, two days off would be super.no comments
A certain blogger at the Post-Gazette with the apt initials BS, heretofore known as the Pointy-Haired Blogger or PHB (this is actually, sadly, a Dilbert joke and not a reference to the much meaner "CHB" moniker that some Red Sox fans use to refer to Dan Shaugnessy), recently wrote a blog entry at the Post-Gazette in which he more or less accuses everyone who doesn't think Bob Nutting is a bald-faced liar is some kind of gullible, mouth-breathing idiot. Since I'm the exact sort of person that he's talking about you might think I'd want to respond, but being a gullible, mouth-breathing idiot makes work on my PhD in biochemistry frustrating enough and so for quite some time now, I've done the best I can ignoring PHB because doing the opposite only serves to bring my life unwanted extra frustration and give him the attention he so desperately seeks (not giving him said attention is the reason I've not linked to his post, nor referred to him by his name out of the assumption that PHB is the sort of guy that Googles himself just to see what people are saying about him).
So, when I read PHB's post the other day I decided to ignore it, as difficult as that was. I read Matt Bandi's excellent rebuttal and was planning on linking to that whenever I got to my next all-too-infrequent linkdump and washing my hands of the situation (you should read that now for a more literal debunking of PHB's post because within two sentences I'm veering off that highway). You can already see how worked up I'm getting over this and we're not even to the part that really set me off yet. In fact, I'm kind of imagining you, the unnamed reader, reading this and imagining me typing away furiously with my fingers flying, my teeth clenched, and a big vein pulsating on my forehead.
In any case, I'd been set to let the whole thing drop until I was reading the comments on a Bucs Dugout post and found that one of the commenters there (MarkInDallas) had tried to use logic with PHB and was, in turn, actually accused of working for the Pirates because of his defense of Bob Nutting. I'm sure that PHB will say that it's all in good fun and he wasn't being serious, but in this line of conversation that sort of thing is something that even I, an irreverent, sometimes cynical, gullible, mouth-breathing moron with almost zero journalistic training would have serious reservations joking about. What really pisses me off ("Oh wow!" the unnamed reader who's met me once or twice thinks, "PG-13 language means Pat's so angry he might actually be frothing at the mouth now because even though he has a tendency to swear like a sailor in real life he almost never does on WHYGAVS!") is the implication that not only do you believe this guy, but you believe him and cite evidence, which is so ridiculous in this open-and-shut case that not only are you obviously a gullible, mouth-breathing moron, but you're also a gutless sycophant who works for the Pirates and defends them in a public forum because your boss has asked you to!
Even if MarkInDallas were a Pirate employee, that sort of ignorance from PHB is incredibly frustrating to me. Yesterday afternoon, I put this poll up on WHYGAVS:
I'm sure that PHB would accuse me of mixing some tasty Kool-Aide here that you, my mouth-breathing, witless, gutless, hopeless, gullible, moronic, sycophantic readers, have downed in gulps, only to have your hopes, dreams, and indeed entire reason for being crushed when Bob Nutting destroys the Pirates and I, an apparently devious and cunning gullible mouth-breathing moron, am named his Minister of Truth.
The real truth of the situation is that I don't want people to treat Bob Nutting like some kind of savior, because he's not. Nothing's been saved yet. The Pirates have had three losing seasons with him as owner and they're lining up for number four. They've made progress, but it's the same progress I'd make by making it to Tulsa on a cross-country drive from Chapel Hill to San Francisco. There's a lot of work to be done, and it won't get done if Nutting doesn't deliver on the statements he's made at various points in the last three seasons.
At the same time, progress is progress and it needs to be acknowledged as such. Bob Nutting has put money into aspects of the franchise that were previously ignored and he has stood behind his management team and it's not an insane proposition to think he will continue to do so. His management team can't turn around Dave Littlefield and Kevin McClatchy's mess overnight any more than I can drive to San Francisco in two hours. If I'm in Tulsa asking for directions to San Francisco and you tell me I'm in Washington DC, I'm probably going to think you're a moron
Because I don't have a lot of time today (read: Because all I did last night was play Mass Effect 2), I've decided to use my newly restored polling powers to duplicate the question the Post-Gazette asked its readers earlier in the week: Do you think Bob Nutting has the Pirates moving in the right direction?. Just how far out of the mainstream are WHYGAVS readers? Let's find out. As always, the poll is in the left sidebar.