Sunday, July 12, 2009

#126: Twelve Games Under

---Number 17, Here We Come---

2009 Pirates at the All-Star Break: 38-50 (12 games under .500)

2008 Pirates at the All-Star Break: 44-50 (three games better)

2008 Pirates after 88 games: 41-47 (six games better)

In a season where upper management is telling and (in some ways) showing the fans that their focus is full-bore on rebuilding the team from the ground up, the Bucs have managed to only slip somewhere between three and six games off the pace from last year (depending on which measuring stick you use). Some think that's a good sign, but others have sense.

True, management has been doing things differently, but it is still doing those same things.

It's hard to blog about the Pirates, even when I find the time, because it almost always comes back to the same issue: owner Bob Nutting couldn't care less about having a winning team.

Instead of trading one major leaguer for one minor leaguer (maybe two, if fortunate) as was the case when Dave Littlefield (supposedly) had control of personnel movements, we see Neal Huntington making, for the most part, deals where the Pirates receive multiple players for one, perhaps two, major leaguers.

From what I have seen so far, the moves are not making the team stronger, on any level. At best, they are weakening one part of the team, while arguably bolstering another part. Breaking even.

Or, maybe, just about four-and-a-half games worse.

They went the safe route in the first round of the amateur draft again, following up their high-stakes drama involving third baseman Pedro Alvarez, with highly-signable catcher Tony Sanchez.

There are rumors that the Pirates are looking at signing teen Dominican phenom Miguel Angel Sano with the money they saved on Sanchez's deal, but there are teams who won't let Pittsburgh outbid them for a potential superstar.

I have every confidence that this new "five year rebuilding plan" (keep track now: we're halfway through Year Two) will fail to produce a contender.

If things were truly being done to better the team on a regular basis, the Law of Averages should have at least come into play at least once since 1992 where the Pirates managed to squeak out an 83-79 season, even if they didn't qualify for the playoffs. But empty promises and mismanagement (intentional or otherwise) have ensured the Pittsburgh Pirates would not find favor with that Law.

The only new trick Nutting could pull out of his sleeve at that point would be to sign free agents who are approaching or in their prime. But that takes money. Nutting doesn't spend money. Except when he absolutely has to, like the $10 million on pitcher Matt Morris, which I theorized some time back was a result of luxury tax-paying teams complaining to Commissioner Bud Selig that Pittsburgh wasn't spending the money they were receiving.

The franchise virtually has no power bats (with Garrett Jones being a question mark at this time) and the pitching it has received in return for said power is not enough to compensate for its absence.


Which will happen first? ...

A) The Pirates will have a .500 or better season

B) The Pirates will deal or otherwise release Andrew McCutchen

C) Bob Nutting will sell the team


My money's on (B) right now.

Brian Giles was supposed to be a core player at one time. Then they traded him for Oliver Perez and Jason Bay, the latter of whom was later said to be a core player. Then McClouth rises to All-Star status and is touted as a core player before he was sent to the Braves.

Trading or otherwise releasing Andrew McCutchen, who has been heralded since he was drafted as a legitimate 5-tool player, would (or at least should) be the final affront to Pirates fans.

Pirate fans: You've done enough for this owner. It's his turn to do something for you. Stay away from PNC. Don't buy Pirate merchandise (most of it's not made in America, anyway). Watch the games at home or listen on radio.

This should be abundantly clear at a time when the Steel City has a defending Superbowl champion, a defending Stanley Cup champion, and a baseball team that is 32 losses away (out of 74 remaining games) from setting the all-time streak for consecutive losing seasons in North American sports history.

In the same calendar year.

Don't go to the games.