Bucs are interested in him too. If we're interested in signing someone that can actually be useful as a utility/fourth outfielder in 2009, Hinske scores much higher on the scale than Luis Gonzalez. I have taken this occasion to actually make a new poll, which you can find in the left sidebar.
You know, I honestly had no idea that Luis Gonzalez was still in baseball. Apparently he is and he's looking for a bench role that will enable him to get paid $1 million or so to stay in baseball. And hey, whaddya know! The Pirates are game!
Gonzalez, 41, a career .283 hitter with 354 home runs and impeccable leadership credentials, batted .261 with eight home runs and 47 RBIs in 341 at-bats with the Florida Marlins last season and is looking for a similar, bench-type role this year. Two other teams are interested, though those are not known.
When a player arrives at the point in his career in which his impeccable leadership credentials are mentioned before his most recent stats, you're going to get what you pay for. Oh, to be a fly on the Federal Street walls today.
Frank Coonelly: Good God, Neal, the incessant bitching by these fans about Jack Miller and Doug Manklabitz is driving me nuts.
Neal Huntington: Jack Wilson and Doug Mientkiewicz?
FC: Whatever. Who can we sign to pacify them?
NH: Well, Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, and Ben Sheets are still free agents ...
FC: Can you get them for less than $5 million a year?
NH: No, probably not.
FC: Aim lower then, dammit!
NH: Well, there's always Luis Gonzalez. Decent career batting average, lots of home runs ...
FC: These fans don't want stats! They whined when Jason Michaels left and he hit like a high-schooler, for chrissake! What about his grit quotient? If we don't re-sign Mientkie-whatever am I going to be verbally assaulted every time a Pirate fan sees me in public, or will this signing keep me from having to deal with that crap? WHAT ABOUT HIS LEADERSHIP CREDENTIALS?
NH: Well, they're not Mientkiewiczian, but they're still pretty freaking impeccable.
FC: Dooooooo iiiiiiiiiiiiiit!I'm mostly kidding, of course, but Gonzalez certainly isn't a player that's going to be flipped for anything of value at the trade deadline. If the Pirates sign him, he'll be here to take the Jason Michaels' role from last year. He'll be much better at it than Michaels or Craig Monroe. If you were expecting the Pirates to sign a free agent that could start in left field and might have some value at the trade deadline, well, you're going to have to keep waiting, because Luis Gonzalez ain't it.
The biggest problem with the Pirates' pitching staff in 2007 wasn't that Tom Gorzelanny or Ian Snell imploded, it was that they both did. One implosion we possibly could've handled. Two was disastrous. If the Pirates' pitching staff is going to improve enough to make a difference in 2009, Gorzelanny is going to have to figure out what was wrong last year and fix it. So what was wrong with him? Was it an injury or did he just forget how to pitch? Which is worse?
To start with, I'd recommend you read Dave Golebiewski's examination of Gorzo's ugly 2008 at FanGraphs. It starts by pointing out that Gorzo's 2007 was much better than his peripherals would've indicated, which you may or may not have already assumed from his walk and strikeout rates that year. He goes on to talk about Jim Tracy's insane abuse of Gorzo at the end of 2007, which was something that we all talked about at the time. In fact, I wrote this post last February after Gorzo was scratched from a spring training start:
I say that Gorzelanny was abused last year by Jim Tracy and if things keep going like this, I'm going to be surprised if he pitches 125 innings this year.
He threw 105 with the Pirates and 35 in the minors. I'm still saying I called that one.
It seemed to me that Gorzo was dropping his arm slot early in the year to compensate for his shoulder pain. I really wanted to use PitchFX to compare his release point from 2007 to 2008, but there weren't many parks that had PitchFX cameras installed in 2007, so I instead decided to go with three games that Gorzo pitched at PNC in 2008, one in April, one in June, and one after his return from the minors in August. As usual, a hat-tip goes to Brooks Baseball for the charts.
Here's April 13th against the Reds:
Here's June 29th against the Rays:
And here's August 29th against the Brewers:
It's really hard to draw any conclusion from just three games, but it certainly seems to me that after his return from his rehab/demotion trip to AAA that his armslot is much higher in the August start than the other two (for a guide, look at the release point in relation to the 6 foot line).
The real question from that centers on his trip to AAA. The team never put Gorzo on the DL and never really discussed his health after his stiff shoulder in February, but he certainly pitched like a guy that was hurt and the team treated him like one. His last big league start before his demotion was on the Fourth of July. He then didn't pitch again until July 12th, and then not again until July 20th. After that, I know he pitched on the 25th and 30th, but I'm not certain where he went from there. Still, that information coupled with the fact that he was on a strict pitch count (his longest start out of his first four in the minors was 5 1/3 innings), and we've got a "demotion" that looks an awful lot like a rehab stint.
This is what makes it so hard to figure out what to expect from Gorzo in 2008. We can be fairly sure he was hurt, but I honestly I have no idea how badly or what the long-term implications might be. Seeing that he pitched all year, I've got to assume it's something that was cured by winter rest, but how can anyone be sure? He mostly dominated at the end of his AAA stint and while it's true he looked better (both from the arm slot observation above and my anecdotal memory of those starts), his numbers certainly didn't improve much.
So what we know about Gorzo coming into 2009 is this: he was probably hurt last year, he lost some weight and he's had a winter of rest, which is probably helpful given that some downtime last July seemed to straighten him out a bit. All of this is to say that I really have no idea what to expect from Gorzo in 2009. I think that he'll probably be OK healthwise, which is the most important thing for him, but I'm certainly not positive about that. Even if he is healthy, it's not likely that he'll be able to post a sub-4.00 ERA again. If I had to make a guess, I'd say that his year this year will probably resemble Zach Duke's in 2006 (4.47 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) with fewer innings (Duke threw 215 1/3). But hey, anything's better than 6.66, right?
Are you then that Virgil, and that fountain, that pours out so great a river of speech? O, glory and light to other poets, may that long study, and the great love that made me search your work, be worth something now. You are my master , and my author: you are alone are the one from whom I learned the high style that has brought me honor. See the creature that I turned back from: O, sage, famous in wisdom, save me from her, she that makes my veings and pulse tremble. --Dante's Inferno, Canto I
OK, so that's probably asking a bit much from Virgil Vasquez. But I did find myself in a classic literature class at Duquesne four years ago in which I head to read Virgil's Aeneid and Dante and dammit, when I have a chance to put some of that into action, well I'm going to do it.
There are two ways you can possibly react to the news that the Pirates claimed Virgil Vasquez. You can shrug and say, "Oh well, we need as many arms as we can get next year," which is about what I did, or you can be upset and say something along the lines of, "HOW COULD THE PIRATES CLAIM VIRGIL VASQUEZ OFF OF WAIVERS WHEN BEN SHEETS IS A FREE AGENT?!? GAWD THIS FRONT OFFICE IS CLUELESS, WE'RE NEVER GOING TO WIN."
The dichotomy of the reaction about describes where Pirate fans are right now. There's a great discussion about this at Bucs Dugout today between Charlie and Dejan, stemming from Dejan's blog post this morning discussing that very divide. If you haven't yet, I strongly recommend that you take some time and read the entire discussion. It's a very interesting discussion about both the future of the Pirates and what happens when blogging and reporting cross paths.
While I may have some more to add to the second part of that discussion in the future, right now I'm mostly concerned with the future of the Pirates. And the only thing I can add to the conversation is this: if you honestly believe that the Pirates can rebuild and contend at the same time in 2009, you are wrong. This off-season, the Yankees added half a billion dollars in future salary through free agency and they still might be the third best team in the AL East. Think about that for a second. They went out and signed CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Mark Teixeira, and now have brought Andy Pettitte back, and they still might not be a playoff team. The Pirates, while they may have enough money to support a much larger payroll than the one they're going to take the field with in 2009, certainly can't bankroll the kind of off-season the Yankees did.
And that's the problem. The Pirates can certainly afford a few one-year deals right now and if guys like Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu or Ben Sheets are amenable, the Pirates certainly might be able to swoop in in February and pick up one or two of them the way they did with Sanders, Lofton, and Suppan in 2003, then deal them at the deadline for something they wouldn't have had to start with. And so long as the draft and Latin American scouting budget remain untouched, there's nothing wrong with that. But none of those moves are going to make the Pirates competitive and if the price isn't right, there's no reason to get bent out of shape over the Pirates not signing anyone.
The Pirates have been losing for 16 years. When you really break it down, 50 or 62 or 70 or 85 wins are all fungible if the Pirates don't make the playoffs. All that matters right now in 2009 is what the Pirates do to set themselves up for the future. It's terrible and it's awful that we as fans have to think like this, but it's not Neal Huntington's fault.
It's true that the front office will eventually be judged on big league results, but there's nothing to judge right now. If in 2012, the Pirates are a Bobby Abreu or Ben Sheets-type player away from competing for the NL Central and the team sits on their hands with a $50 million payroll, yeah, I'm going to be as pissed about it as anyone. But for now, it's hard to ignore the money being spent in Latin America. It's impossible to ignore the talent that last year's draft brought in. You can't look at the farm system right now and tell me that it's not better than it was when Littlefield was in charge. Will this yield better future results for the club? It's true that I can't say with certainty that it will, but I can say that for the first time since I've started blogging (and we're almost to four years now), I feel like the team is headed somewhere.
Let's do this. Right now, I'll write down Goldstein's top 11, Sickels' top 10, and WTM's top 20. In a year, when these lists come out again, we'll reevaluate. THEN, we'll have something to judge. Is the farm system still moving forward? Is it moving backwards? How did the trades from the 2008 deadline really pan out? What moves did Huntington make in 2009? Yeah, it's a year from now. Yeah, it sucks to wait that long. But you can't build a baseball team overnight.
"The free-agent market is not over," president Frank Coonelly said during the second question-and-answer session with management this weekend. "We're still being very active. I would be very surprised if we don't ... sign players that you would fall in love with this year, between now and the beginning of Spring Training."
Now, I know there's lots of aversion to signing free agents because of the way that Dave Littlefield handled things in his disastrous run as GM, but Charlie's got a good post up on his blog about how the Nationals did a nice job of turning stop-gap free agent acquisitions into useful prospects, and it's something that Huntington and company can take to heart.
I'm guessing the team is looking at someone to come in and play left/right field for 2009 until Andrew McCutchen is ready, probably in 2010. I mean, there's got to be more to this kind of talk than Braden Looper, right?
It's that time of year again. I just got word from the Hardball Times guys that they've finished printing the 2009 season preview and it's available for sale now. David Gassko gives a nice rundown of all of the features of the book today at THT, but I'll say again that this book is unique in that every chapter is written by a blogger/fan of that team. Of course, I'm mentioning all this because I authored the Pirates' chapter, but I really enjoyed last year's book because of the diversity in writers and the different perspectives on every team. If you're interested, make sure to check it out through the publisher's page.
I can't even imagine what it must be like to be Neal Huntington sometimes. From today's writeup at the PG about day 1 of Piratefest:
And, when another questioner asked why the Pirates had not yet re-signed Doug Mientkiewicz, the assembly broke into loud applause before anyone on stage could answer.
And from DK's morning linkdump:
Walked across the floor with Neal Huntington once early in the evening, as he moved from one session to the next. He was stopped once by a fan who wanted to know if Jack Wilson is staying, by another if Doug Mientkiewicz will come back. This is his life, surely.
Can you even imagine spending a full year working on rebuilding a farm system, only to be mobbed in public by people that are more concerned about Jack Wilson and Doug Mientkiewicz? It's like asking, "Hey, Neal, I know Littlefield got fired because the public hated him so much and he sucked terribly at his job, but do you think you could be a little more like him? Please?"
You know what? I actually wish I was at Piratefest this year because I have some serious questions for the front office right now.
- Is the budget for the draft going to be the same in 2009 as it was for 2008?
- Will anything that happened in the Pedro Alvarez negotations change your willingness to work with Scott Boras draft picks in the future?
- We know how Pedro Alvarez is doing, but what about the other draft picks? Where are guys like Robbie Grossman, Quinton Miller, Wesley Freeman, and Justin Miller Wilson going to start the season?
- What should we be expecting from Brad Lincoln and Bryan Morris this year, now that they're two years removed from Tommy John surgery?
Maybe there are people asking these questions at Piratefest this year, but it sure doesn't seem like it.
Photo from the PG, where Dejan has more details.
So it was rumored for a few days, and now we know: the sleeves are back and the new alt is black with a gold "P" on the chest. It's easy to know why they did it, too. When Frank Coonelly took over Kevin McClatchy's role in 2007, it was already too late to file a request for uniform change in 2008. This is pretty clearly Coonelly's way of distancing himself and his front office from the previous regime. But that's not really what I'm concerned with. What I'm concerned with is how good we look.
The new home/road combo
I can start by admitting that I'm a vest apologist. I love those vests. To me, they're the classic Pirate uniform. Something about the way the black and gold looks with the black undersleeves is timeless. I see those vests and I see Maz and Roberto and Vern Law and they're perfect. Vests don't look good on every team, but they did look good on the Pirates. That said, I guess this look isn't a bad look. It is a little bland. It's hard to see in this picture, but the collar, pants, and and sleeves all have a gold/black/gold striping pattern. I think maybe it'd be a little more distinctive if the gold and black were reversed, but maybe I'll think differently if I see more pictures. In the end, they're black and gold, they keep the subtly unique font and number style, and it's hard to complain. I think these are a little more boring than the vests, especially with that striping pattern but these are still pretty decent looking. For some reason, the home unis look substantially better (read: less boring) than the road unis to me. Maybe they should've kept the vests on the road. Also, if everyone wore their socks like Nyjer Morgan, I'd be more OK with these.
The black alternate jersey
You have to look closely (or look here), but these come with their own cap, which has the "P" outlined in white. That's a purely mercenary marketing move, which kind of irks me. The black alternates themselves aren't so bad. I kind of like the fact that they're not just the regular uniforms with a black shirt, to be honest. I know that's for marketing, too, but it's some nice variety. And we all agree that the gold "P" on a black field is one of the most badass logos in sports, so there's nothing wrong with featuring that, in my book. So long as we keep the signature number/name font on the back, I think I'm OK with these. Actually, I'm more than OK with these because they aren't brutal attempts to introduce a needless third color into the uniform scheme.
The pinstriped Sunday jerseys
I hate these, but not for how they look. I hate being a "four jersey team." I hate that if an out-of-town fan flies in for a three game series on Friday, he'll see three different jerseys on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I know that's the point, but we're the Pittsburgh Pirates, we've got 121 years of baseball history, and maybe the last seventeen years have sucked, but we've got some tradition here, dammit, and I wish we'd act like it in the jersey department.
UPDATE (1:07)- Dejan confirms ... the sleeves are back. Oddly enough, you heard it here first (thanks to K in the comments). I have to go to class, but if I find pictures of the unis on players, I'll replace the pictures below with them or maybe give them their own review post.