Have you read the headlines about Duke’s game today from the press and Pirate blogs?: he pitched flat, he got hammered again, fans wondering if he is tipping his pitches now, that Zach simply needs a kick in the pants, some blogs simply ignored the outing, and yet others simply talked about the roster moves, as if that was more important than Duke’s performance. And we haven’t even seen the good ones like the Post-Gazette or Perrotto’s column published yet.
Folks, what you saw of Zach Duke today is about the best you will get from Zach Duke when he pitches against experienced MLB batters. Oh, expect to see excuses in the paper like he was pitching high, had a dead arm, didn’t want to throw all his pitches, was working on pitches or whatever. But, that was Zach Duke.
Everyone seems to forget that the National League, and certainly the NLCD, is a division of mediocre offenses and the Pirates have a better than average infield D combination up the middle in Castillo and Wilson.
Duke faced a very good hitting Twins team who raked him. Duke would get raked against them 9 out of 10 times he faced them this year. Duke is not the pitcher everyone thinks he is – except in the NLCD where his value climbs with the Pirates middle D.
So does this mean Duke is a bad pitcher? Not one bit. What it means is he was exposed. By exposed I mean, you can’t put a young, inexperienced pitcher on the mound with routine mechanics against veteran MLB batters and not expect to see the pitcher get raked unless he has three solid MLB out pitches, including solid heat, which Duke does not have. How will Snell do if he throws tomorrow? I expect the Twins to back off their lineup Sunday and give Littlefield a break some, to be quite honest. I think Snell will still get hammered, although since it is early in the season, he might get an extra couple of K’s throwing some high heat past a few batters.
Consider this about Duke’s performance today –
– every single batter but two put the ball in play leading to 13 balls hit to the outfield and only 4 of them going for outs, and 9 balls staying in the infield with 7 of them going for outs.
– the battery accounted for four of Duke’s 15 outs with two K’s, a pickoff, and a caught stealing. Think about that a minute – 27% of all the outs Duke got were accomplished by the battery yet he only K’d 2 of 24 batters. That is really, really, high, although it is also a good thing too.
– Duke threw 59 strikes and 25 balls by my count. He wasn’t trying to fool anyone at all – he simply put the ball over the plate and said hit it, and the Twins did.
– Duke saw two errors from his defense. One, a poor throw in the dirt by Jack Wilson to Casey who couldn’t scoop it up. Jack has been making poor throws all spring to 1B. No E was called on Jack or Casey for some reason. The second was a Sean Casey dropped ball in a run down play. Again, no E was called. So, two E’s/miscues/bobbles/whatever you want to call them in just 5 innings of work.
– Both home runs off Duke were hit by right hand batters and both were to left field. Forget about the wind for right now and consider these batters were able to pull Duke that strong with that much power. In fact, even 4 of the 5 balls put in play by left hand batters went to the right side of the field.
Duke simply got hammered by a good hitting team that is seeing the ball well right now. Don’t expect to see the same results from NLCD teams. It won’t happen. Duke has enough sink, enough heat, and enough poise to get NL batters out. But he would probably get crushed in the AL today. But so would a lot of pitchers.
Further in Duke’s defense, there were a lot of scouts down watching this game. I knew something was weird when Zach threw only one ball during a 14 pitch third inning. He wasn’t showing everything he had – not that it would have made a lot of difference anyway. The fact that 14 of the 22 balls put in play were either hit on the ground or were liners, and two others were infield pop ups, tells me his sinker was working and he was trying to get batters out with it. The fact the Twins batters hammered him tells me he simply is a young, inexperienced pitcher who was taken advantage of. He was exposed.
Now it is up to Duke to put this behind him and move forward. If he dogs himself the next few days till his next start about how bad he was, which is typical of a young pitcher, he will come out and get hammered the next time too trying to overcompensate for his mistakes against the Twins. But if he forgets it and moves on and throws his typical game, he’ll do well.
All-in-all, I think he pitched a very good game today despite how hard he was hit. I expected it to be a lot worse, to be honest.
The Pirates announced today that McLouth made the team. Big deal. If Littlefield and Tracy sit him on the bench, it does Nate absolutely no good. Nate has to get reps and he should start the season in center field until Duffy can prove he can come off the bench and do better. Yes, I understand Nate in CF will deal the Pirates a defensive blow but I am counting on that blow to be less than one-half run per game and I think Nate’s offense can contribute more than that right now.
Santos over Duckworth was the right move, imo. Gerut being sent down was appropriate too – he is a one-dimensional player that will be needed later in the year *if* we ever contend for more than last place.
Defense, defense, defense.. the last 5 games we have seen 2 dropped balls, 3 balls thrown in the dirt to the first baseman, 2 balls off an infielder’s glove for a hit, 3 miscues or bobbles, and 4 plays where the outfielder was out of position allowing an out to fall for a hit – two by Bay alone. And that doesn’t even account for 6 runners who advanced farther than they should have on our outfielder’s arms.
I have said over and over that this team’s D is horrible and they are proving it everyday. They *have* to step it up. Our young pitchers are not going to be comfortable throwing the ball over the strike zone if the position players can’t execute routine outs. And if they don’t throw strikes, they are going to overthrow and get injured or walk too many batters.
Let’s hope this is simply spring training blues and they leave it in Bradenton.
Bounce here, wiggle there, turn different colors, then melt into water. McClendon, affectionately called Mac by Pirate fans, does all of that in his latest interview with Pirates beat writer Alan Robinson earlier this week.
"My fate was probably sealed when we traded away the franchise player," McClendon said."
Originally I was going to pass writing about it because poor Mac took the brunt of Littlefield’s incompetence. For years Mac had been told who to play, where to play them, and when to play them. He was like a robot or, as some fans have said, his was David’s Littlefield’s servant boy.
"Yes ser, Mr. Littlefield ser! We’s gots to do that, ser!"
Lloyd valued his job, he was a good corporate man, and a great company team player who always, and I mean always, got more productivity out of the trash Littlefield gave him to field as a baseball team than probably anyone else ever could. But Lloyd also had a failing – he did not run the clubhouse.
THAT is what sealed Lloyd’s fate.
Operation Shutdown was a phrase started by Derek Bell in 2001 when he lost his starting job
SS to Jack Wilson. Coincidentally, the initials OS were used by the players in 2004 and 2005 to describe Littlefield’s future tenure with the club. As the 2005 season wore on, it was obvious Lloyd no longer could control the clubhouse as the players did what they wanted, when they wanted, and how they wanted to do it. Including playing poorly.
My guess is that the players thought their actions would get both McClendon and Littlefield jettisoned in one fast swoop but it didn’t work — McClatchy held on to ‘yes man’ Littlefield. The players are not found of Littlefield in my opinion, because he doesn’t have the balls to stand up to McClatchy and Nutting. But either did McClendon, who represented the players interests to the front office.
It wasn’t that or the Ramirez trade, the Benson trade, the Schmidt trade, or Littlefield’s annual blue-light specials in July that sealed McClendon’s fate.
It wasn’t because Lloyd is black, despite the fact many of the Pirates owners live in the holler in back woodsy Ku Klux Klan states like West Virginia and North Carolina and the Pirates were sued not too long ago over racial problems (and don’t bother sending me your West Virginia is not a Ku Klux state – think about Sen Byrd).
In fact, Alan Robinson asked Mac straight out in the interview ‘if some others in the Pirates organization were glad to see him fail and McClendon said, "Next question." The rumors are out there – we hear them as fans. Alan tried to get Mac to open up but he refused. After all, its not good for the game, of course.
It was because Littlefield had to point at something and say – ‘THAT is what’s wrong. NOT me.’
Some of the current players have openly dogged Mac and his past staff in the press recently. While I find the new found open communications refreshing, I note that they are talking about the past – something that is gone – not about Daddy Nutting who controls everything, or Daddy McClatchy that pays the bills, or Daddy Littlefield who determines the roster.
I don’t see Bay running his mouth like Giles did when Brian said it would be nice to see this organization get some real help. Even Kendall stood up and openly criticized the organization for not fielding the best team they could afford. Or Kris Benson who stood up to Littlefield. There used to be men on the roster.
No — instead they are talking about Lloyd McClendon and his staff who were the victims of their childish clubhouse antics. Lloyd McClendon, David Littlefield’s boy.
What a shame.
Because in reality, every single player on the Pirates roster who doesn’t stand up and speak their mind about the obvious payroll disparity the Pirates ownership force them to work under, is just as much Littlefield’s ‘boy’ as McClendon was.
But that’s my take –
Someone please explain to me how David Littlefield continues to have a job as a general manager?
His latest bungle involves Craig Wilson. Yesterday we heard that Craig was on his way to Seattle for Pineiro. I received an email from a pretty good source claiming that it was almost a done deal. Today the Post-Gazette reports Mariners GM Bavasi denied that Pineiro had been offered. I believe my source because they have never been wrong, but I also have to believe what I am reading at the PG. So, let’s assume Craig starts the year with the Pirates.
If Craig plays behind Burnitz and Casey, he is not going to get many at bats. Further, Craig finished the year with poor performance in September last year. I mentioned earlier in the month that I thought Wilson’s value was close to junk bonds since he had a hand injury, he had a poor September, and his contract value was too high for most teams. In essence, I felt Craig wasn’t worth a can of corn to another team.
So, how does that make Littlefield a poor general manager?
When Littlefield picked up Sean Casey to play 1B, Craig’s role on the team was demoted to a right fielder. But Littlefield already had McLouth and Gerut to open the year, plus he had Bautista in the farm and Sadler begging to play. So, why did Littlefield continue to hold onto Wilson knowing he was damaged goods and knowing he was in a contract year? Especially when other teams wanted him?
He shouldn’t have.
As soon as Sean Casey was signed, Littlefield should have shopped Craig but he didn’t. Word I am getting is that Littlefield only started shopping him within the month. But March is too late to shop a high end corner outfielder when organizations have already filled their rosters and spent their payroll.
Littlefield made a huge mistake on the timing of shopping Craig and it is going to cost Kevin McClatchy and Ogden Nutting at least $3.3MM this year because of it. That is almost 7% of the entire Pirates payroll that will be lost in space because, unless a team loses a corner outfielder for an extended period of time and doesn’t have a replacement level player, Craig’s value will tank like a lead ball in water as soon as the season opens. Nobody is going to want him.
But this isn’t the first time Littlefield misguaged the market. He routinely does so – think back to the Benson deal, or having to get Santiago too late then paying him to golf, or the Aramis Ramirez deal, or even the fact Ryan Vogelsong continues to be on the roster – or will be released Saturday. There are at least 10 good examples just in the last 3 years alone.
How can Kevin McClatchy justify the $3.3MM error to his investors? More importantly, how does Littlefield justify it when he had teams wanting him after the Casey deal?
There is no excuse.
Unless Littlefield pulls off this Pineiro deal, or a similar type of deal asap, there is no possible way Littlefield can recoup the millions that he wasted because of poor management. And, just think, take Wilson’s $3.3MM and add it to Burnitz’s $6.7MM minimum contract and you have $10MM that might have obtained another starter, even if it was only Weaver.
Isn’t it time Ogden Nutting and Kevin McClatchy wake up to the mismanagement, the ill timings, the ridiculous waste, the total incompetency, and the poor drafts and say – gee, this isn’t working. See ya Dave.
I think it is.
No wonder so many investors have been running to my website the last week. Moody’s cut McClatchy Company’s rating to Baa and threatened to take them to junk status today.
Looks like Moody’s knows the same McClatchy we know.. leveraged BS.
Ok Kev – time to sell and put all that money into dad’s buyout to get rid of the junk status. Or, maybe you can sell your last vote on the Pirates Board for another mil or two to Ogden "losing money in his newspaper business too" Nutting.
and when the clowns
come marching in
oh when the clowns come marching in
oh how i want
to be in that number
when the clowns come marching in….
We have heard rumblings about Seattle wanting Craig since November last year but every time they got close Littlefield ran away. Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the Pirates might be interested in Joel Pineiro for Craig.
Folks, if David Littlefield makes this deal he needs to be fired for two reasons. One, he has passed on multiple deals from the Red Sox, Phillies, Marlins, Indians, and Blue Jays early in the winter keeping him off the market. Two, he could have even expanded a deal with a couple of teams to get a prospect but declined to make Wilson available as well.
Now, Littlefield’s back is up against the wall because he knows if he keeps Craig on the bench behind Burnitz and Casey, his value will continue to tank and he can’t afford that. Thus, Littlefield *has* to deal Craig for whatever he can get – and that won’t be much because most teams have full rosters and full payrolls.
So, Littlefield wants to take on a reclamation project from one of MLB’s most coaching abusive teams (for pitchers – worse than the Royals) who is earning over $6MM? Be serious. Not only did Pineiro put up a 5.62 ERA last year at Safeco, considered one of the most pitching friendly parks in baseball, he did it while complaining of shoulder tightness all year and the Mariners made him pitch through it. Pinerio, you see, is coming off UCL surgery in 2004.
If the Pirates are going to just throw money away, why not go give it to the local Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs or feed the homeless. Gosh, send it to me.
This deal makes zero sense. If Littlefield makes it, he’ll be the laughing stock of all GM’s — again. Never mind, he already is/has been/will be.
Hey Littlefield – why not pick John Wasdin off the waiver wire instead and get an A prospect for Wilson? You know – W-A-S-D-I-N.. the player you sent to the Blue Jays for Rich Thompson in 2003. At least he isn’t a reclamation project and he throws strikes, albeit he gets hammered too like Pineiro will.
I think Littlefield will continue to try and find a third team to help him get Sosa from the Braves since the Braves won’t deal with him directly. But that could very well not be available any more either.
Gosh the mismanagement in this organization is unbelievable.
UPDATE 2:30 Eastern: I just got an email that this deal is almost a done deal. The only issue holding it up is the cash and possible a prospect. More later.
I just saw where Carrara was reassigned leaving Terry Adams to open with the club. Here is another reclamation project but this one with elbow problems instead of shoulder problems. The good news is, Adams pounds the plate and has a healthy league ERA, unlike Vogelsong. The bad news is, batters pound Adams. Maybe Marte is opening the year on the DL and Littlefield needs another pen arm? If so, this makes sense — short term. It also makes sense if Littlefield is going to use him in a trade and that could explain why Adams has only seen 7 innings of work. Of course, so could a tender elbow.
After running over 200 simulations in my modeling computer, I have determined the best lineup for the Pirates is:
This lineup produces 793 runs with each player playing 140 games. When Randa is inserted in the two hole and Wilson dropped to eighth with Duffy in front of him, we score 796 but we create more double plays. Tracy’s atypical NL lineup of Duffy, Wilson, Casey, Bay, Burnitz, Randa, Castillo, Cota produces almost two times the number of double plays and 87 less runs scored. And, no, my modeling software wasn’t used to pick Tike to bat 3rd by Littlefield.
After sleeping on it last night, I am going to call on Littlefield to start McLouth over Duffy in CF. Duffy needs to be put on the DL or sent to Indy for a rehab assignment if he complains about being on the DL. The more I watch video of Duffy the more I am convinced is is still hurt. Let’s open a roster spot for someone like Bautista who can help this club.
Still hearing Vogelsong is going to be released if they can’t get him traded.
I have been telling everyone to open their eyes to Oliver Perez this year and he showed us why today with a very nice three-hitter against the Red Sox over almost 6 innings of work. He K’d 7 and, more importantly, only walked one along the way. Not only was his heater jumping, not only was his slider sliding, but today was the first time since 2004 that I saw Oliver ‘think’ on the mound. Nice to see it coming together for him.
Any trade involving Craig Wilson seems to be drying up fast as the Marlins picked up Wellemeyer from the Cubs and the Indians signed Heredia. Both teams were in need of LH relief pitching and an outfielder and both clubs had been in contact with Littlefield. More and more it looks like we called Littlefield’s intentions correct, expecting Craig to stay around because Casey will be dealt in July.
I am a Chris Duffy believer but I am getting more and more disgusted by Chris’ play. Three K’s is inexcusable from your leadoff batter – especially a contact hitter who is watching third strikes fall into the catcher’s mitt. Then in the third with two men on base, Chris swings at the first pitch he sees and promptly grounds out to end the inning. Duffy is getting to look a lot like Tike Redman in the batter’s box to me. I hope this changes in a hurry.
Another disappointment today was Jeromy Burnitz swinging on the first pitch with two men on base and Bay just walked. He ended up hitting a slow roller to 1B to end the inning.
These two rally killing at bats are atypical of how we played in 2005. We can’t expect to score runs when we don’t put the ball in play in a smart way.
How about the Joker and Gerut? How do you sit Gerut on the bench in favor of Duffy playing? Man.. getting hard to make a good decision. But please don’t put Bay in CF Littlefield. We would be better off with Gerut in CF if we sit Duffy. And Casey batting third is just plain nuts. Put him in the leadoff spot! Let the Joker bat behind him and Castillo third.
Not sure how it happened, not sure I really care, but my blog is being inundated with investors wanting information about McClatchy Newspapers all of a sudden. They are mostly coming from Google from this link: http://finance.google.com/finance?q=mni&btnG=Search — the right corner has "More Blogs" and I guess that is where everyone is coming from. My hits have jumped off the map.
Good – I’m glad they are getting to see how pitiful one McClatchy is at managing a business and how little he seems to care about those who spend money on his products. Afterall, he has single-handedly orchestrated the highest consecutive number of losing seasons in any professional sport — currently at 13 and almost guaranteed to be 14th this year under his leadership. Yes, he is a loser.
But that’s ok, he’ll tell you. He would like to be better. He just can’t help himself to making money like Bud Selig or Ms. Schott did. Afterall, baseball *is* a business, right Mr. McClatchy? Not that you really care about this business it seems.
Good thing the rumors are that you are selling out and running away with your tail between your legs real soon. It is also nice to know you have your mommy and daddy’s bank account and stocks to fall back on. God knows you’ll need them. Personally, I can only wish the very best tank job in any future business venture you get into like you have tanked the Pittsburgh Pirates organization with Ogden Nutting of Ogden Newspapers as your side-kick.
By the way Kevin, did you pay your mortgage note? Oh – that’s right, the foreclosure was a procedural error. Yeah – and cows fly. Anybody else have their home foreclosed because of a "procedural" error?
Was that when you lost your second vote on the Pirates Board to Ogden Nutting Kev? Or was that after you
stole got another free, no-strings attached $20K loan from the City of Pittsburgh? Gosh – they all run together.. it’s hard to keep track anymore.
All this McClatchy talk reminds me of one of the best videos I have ever seen on the Internet. The theme goes like this:
Paul Maholm pitched a great game today vs. the Devil Rays. Not great — sorry.. more like BRILLIANT.
Not only did he one-hit one of the best offensive teams in baseball, he did it against most of their starters and against guys like Huff and Gomes who have been red hot this spring.
Don’t forget, we are talking about a pitcher who only has 116 innings of work past A-ball in the farm.. just 41 innings in the bigs. For him to throw a one-hitter over five tells me he is right where he wants to be. Oh.. wait.. he also had 5 K’s in four innings last outing too.
Ok.. so he lost his arm socket in the 6th. Big deal! It is dead arm time for pitchers right now. I couldn’t care less. Nothing speaks louder than his 5 K’s against the 12th hardest team to strikeout last year.
Considering I have yet to see anyone else but Gorzy get 5 K’s over 5, and most of Duke’s starts have been against split or limited squads, Maholm’s performance is even more impressive.
I mentioned back March 21 that:
"Fans will be forgetting the name Duke by July and saying Maholm instead *if* he stays healthy."
Put this one in your book — go to the bank with it. Paul Maholm is the real deal. Just give him a couple more weeks to get that sinker working even better and he will be lights out. Gosh knows I wish Gorzy was one year ahead of where he is at. Can you start to feel a 2008 run? Ohhhhhhh babbbyyyyyy!
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s stats guru has thrown in the towel:
"With less than a week until opening day, the Pirates’ pitching rotation is taking shape and should be set by June, or July at the latest."
That’s encouraging.. O’Neill goes on to suggest:
"Given the unlikelihood of contention this year, it might make more sense to trade Wilson for prospects rather than a stopgap, because the rotation is due for a mid-summer overhaul anyway."
Wow — no contention, huh? Already gave up Brian? What a shame.
What the Stats Geek should have said was "Given the unlikelihood of ever contending with Ogden Nutting in control..".
However, just how many prospects, and of what quality, does O’Neill figure Craig Wilson will bring, anyway? Maybe a "B" pitcher in A-ball? What team in the right mind is going to give up a decent prospect for a strikeout king in his contract year? Chuck that idea out the window. Maybe Brian was just pressed for a story this week and threw anything out he could? He usually has a better perspective than this week’s column allows.
How about this Post-Gazette headline:
"Perez not a member of Tracy’s K club"
Anybody else read "red flag" in his comment? Man, if I was Littlefield and I knew Oliver Perez could not get his heater back up to 95+ mph, I would have traded him as fast as a lightening bolt can hit the ground. Boy, I sure hope Tracy is playing mind games with NL batters with his comment and Oliver is ok. I counted on him for 15 wins after a big contract was delivered to him this year.
But, with Tracy’s latest revelation, Oliver ‘no velocity’ Perez could very be a member of Tracy’s new "K" club..
.. the ‘going under the ‘K"nife club because no velocity means something isn’t right in the shoulder. Combine that with Ollie’s inability to find the plate, which typically means something isn’t right in the elbow, and Ollie might be a candidate for another "K"nife club act. Let’s see, Benson had surgery 2 years before his time was up in Pittsburgh and Olliver has – what – 2 years left now too? Oh my..
Snell’s work today was admiral, considering he was pitching against the Reds. Oh, I saw his PR where he said ‘it doesn’t really matter’ but I also saw where he said he wasn’t going to show them everything he had either.
Kudos to Snell for not throwing his little league slider or change. No wonder he did as well as he did. I mean, only 74% of the balls put in play were hammered today vs. 79% his last outing. I only remember a few announcer comments today like:
"oh man, that is the longest shot I have seen this spring.. had to be 500′ foul";
"it’s over Burnitz’s head for a double";
"Wilson catches it on the warning track";
"Griffey hammered that ball over the black netting in dead CF for a HR";
"that one almost took Snell’s head off";
"Duffy makes a great over-the-shoulder grab at the warning track";
"that was the 22cd pitch to Griffey alone today";
"too bad Ian couldn’t get the sac bunt down with 2 men on";
"Snell seems to be hyper about the runners on base today";
"that one is over Duffy’s head and off the CF 400′ mark on the wall".
Impressive Ian – keep up the good work. Gosh this guy stinks as a starter.
Still hearing Vogelsong might be traded or released. I really don’t buy it because Littlefield can’t afford to let him go. Expect Ryan and Ian to change spots within 2 Ian Snell starts.
Littlefield is having a hard time making deals because nobody will play fair with him. DL wants the deal of the century for Craig and other GM’s seem to be laughing at him because everyone has spurned his requests. Boston and Toronto all but begged Littlefield to do a reasonable deal but DL would have nothing to do with either one so far. I still expect to see Craig in Toronto this year — sooner than later.
I keep seeing fan reports about Maholm and Duke. I mean really stupid stuff like ‘Maholm will be in Indy by June’ and ‘Duke is not going to keep his ERA under 6 this year’. Man – where do these idiots get their ideas?
READ MY LIPS: Maholm and Duke are sinkerball pitchers. Sinkerball pitchers traditionally don’t shine early in the year. They will do fine but they will most likely get hammered early in the year. So what? If Wells was out there, he’d get hammered too. Same with Fogg. Let the kids learn and stand behind them. I know, I know.. I hear all you Snell lover’s saying ‘why don’t you stand behind Ian, Jake?’ Because there is a *huge* difference between Snell and Duke and Maholm. Huge.
But that’s my take..
When I heard Kevin McClatchy announce the hiring of David Littlefield back in 2001, I laughed within myself that he should have been standing on PNC Park’s first base foul line. After all, it was Friday the 13th.
When Littlefield’s birth date was announced, I cringed even more: 6/16/60.
Those initial feelings I had were rekindled when I saw the URL of the press release of the signing of Jeromy Burnitz at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette: http://www.postgazette.com/pg/06003/631666.stm
I almost dropped out of my seat.
Baseball is rich in superstition, of course, so it doesn’t help the fans as we remember that the Pirate organization has had 13 straight losing seasons, is now run by a man born on the 13th day of the year, directed by a guy hired on Friday the 13th who has 666 in his birthdate, and that we just signed a player on a date that numerically adds up to 13, who has 13 letters in his name, and has played 13 years.
The true Pirate fan that I am, I started digging for some positive reinforcements and noticed that every single coach we added this year had a first name that starts with a J, or a last name that started with C. And, sure enough, Joe Randa, Sean Casey, and Jeromy Burnitz fit that bill as well. To me, the initials ‘JC’ stand for Jesus Christ.
Then it hit me – Dante Alighieri.
Dante must have had a vision about the life of a Pittsburgh Pirate fan in the McClatchy era when he wrote Divine Comedy. After all, his poem begins on Holy Thursday and speaks about his travel through the three realms of the dead (the three canticas are He*l, Purgatory, and Paradise).
Kevin McClatchy bought the team on Thursday, February 14, 1996.
Pirate fans could easily consider the next five and one-half years as the equivalent to Dante’s journey to, and through, He*l:
"Through me the way is to the city dolent;
Through me the way is to eternal dole;
Through me the way among the people lost.
Justice incited my sublime Creator;
Created me divine Omnipotence,
The highest Wisdom and the primal Love.
Before me there were no created things,
Only eterne, and I eternal last.
All hope abandon, ye who enter in!"
Only to end up at the seven terraces of Purgatory, where we:
– couldn’t stand up under the weight of Cam’s dealings – Pride;
– shut our eyes during the ‘retooling’ years – Envy;
– heard smoky PR ‘financial flexibility’ BS for years – Wrath;
– kept running over the bridge to PNC hoping – Sloth;
– had given up and laid down admitting defeat – Avarice;
– are now mad and ready to not attend any games in protest – Gluttony;
– want to see the McClatchy era go up in flames – Lust.
Obviously, we haven’t made it to the Paradise stage quite yet. Maybe, just maybe, the JC theme is a sign of light.. our Garden of Eden, if you will?
The additions of Randa, Casey, and Burnitz, certainly don’t make the 2006 Pirates anymore of a contender than the 2005 Pirates were. Sure, we might win a few more ballgames, and, sure, the casual fan has renewed hope because of the new names on the roster, and even the analytical cripples in the mainstream media will give McClatchy kudos for "improving" the team. Shucks, we might even land a new sponsor – Viagra; or, as Tracy used to say: “Think Blue!”
Instead, die-hard, black-n-gold Pirate fans see real opportunity developing in 2006.
Not for a potential McClatchy, record breaking, .489 winning percentage year, not because we know Casey and Burnitz are more likely than not going to be ‘salary dumped’ after the All Star Game, not because we might see Kip Wells and Oliver Perez turn the corner, or Burnitz try to muscle 30 home runs, or rookies Zach Duke and Paul Maholm try to win more than 10 games, or Ian Snell try to win even one, but, rather, because we know in our hearts that this team will probably lose another 85 games or more which should mean only one thing..
David Littlefield will finally be fired.
Paradise might indeed be closer than we think.
Io veggio ben che già mai non si sazia
nostro intelletto, se ‘l ver non lo illustra
di fuor dal qual nessun vero si spazia.