Bucco Blog has only been with MLBlogs since January 2006 but we are honored to be a part of their team. Our readership continues to grow in unbelievable fashion considering the Pirates are headed for their 14th consecutive year of losing.
Many readers have been asking us to release attendance figures showing how we are doing so I compiled the stats for the last five weeks (logs roll every Sunday morning). While we are just a rookie and can’t compete with the large market blogs here, we are encouraged by how many folks walk the Internet bridge to get here every day.
Many of the blogs on the Internet have chat rooms and discussion threads that artificially increase attendance figures so we are even more stunned by our batting average and hope to be in the hunt for ‘Rookie Blog of the Year’. hehe
In the meantime, we will continue to keep the blog commercial free (no Google ads, no commercial ads, etc..) for your viewing enjoyment and hope to add a lot more features as the year goes by.
Thank you for your support! — Jake
Click the image below to view it in a separate window. I processed the daily stats section to show just July 31st so the image wouldn’t be so large.
Everyone has a different opinion on the trades today and so I thought I would dig out some of the best I found published so far and post the links for you to read.
First, here is Dave Littlefield’s 8:00 pm podcast on MLB Radio where I asked him point blank if he traded Perez too early (not allowing Colborn enough time to work with him — third of the way through):
Blogs, Discussion Forums, and Online Publications
With Chris Duffy being recalled, Kip Wells removed from the rotation, Sean Casey gone, and Xavier Nady and Shawn Chacon added to the roster, there have been a lot of changes to the active roster today.
Whether or not Will Carroll accurately reported Chris Duffy’s entire feelings on being recalled, I believe Littlefield needs to play him everyday to help our defense and to build his trade value up, which Duffy should want.
But Duffy needs to learn to keep his mouth shut.. even to those he thinks he can trust. If he doesn’t want to play in Pittsburgh, now is the time to walk away. Not Wednesday, not Saturday, not Sunday.. right now. Either get your agent or the team to clear up the communications mess at Baseball Prospectus or walk Duff. Put up or shut up time.
That being said, here is the active roster depth chart as I see it. Some of the pieces are interchangeable like Duffy and Bautista, but I laid out what I think the org will go with short-term.
I see a Doumit/Nady platoon down the line (although Littlefield will probably play Nady every day the rest of the year to see where he lands), Gerut taking over RF with his cannon arm and decent bat, and I wish Tracy would go to a 6-man rotation adding Santos behind Gorzelanny to reduce innings pitched on Duke, Maholm, and Gorzelanny this year, but that won’t happen. Look for Duffy to hit the pine for the short-term until he proves his worth.
Play the kids will be the theme the rest of the way. Expect a lot of errors, a lot of miscues, a lot of problems, and a lot of mishaps. Considering we are only 4 games behind the Royals in the race to the cellar, that might not be so bad.
Update — Littlefield said tonight that Chacon might be sent to the pen and Santos back in the rotation so that might be the only other change.
Ok – Littlefield is starting to heat up — here is the first deal:
10:00 am – Sean Casey to the Tigers for ‘prospect’ Brian Rogers
Classic July salary dump.
The positive side to this deal is that Littlefield didn’t attempt to resign Casey and for that reason alone Bucco Blog gives a neutral thumbs up/thumbs down to this deal. Getting anything for Casey was going to be a chore so the Rogers deal is better than releasing Casey before he ended up costing the org a ton of disabled list days and dollars.
Rogers’ plus pitch is his slider and he has a developing changeup that is said to be in the "B" range. He only throws mid to upper 80′s with his fastball so for him to make it to Pittsburgh he is going to have to either find some serious velocity or add a couple more plus pitches. I’ve seen some fans drooling at his K/9 and BB/K rates thinking he a Matt Capps reincarnation, but the dream stops right there.
3:30 pm – Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez for Xavier Nady
Poor development and player relations = Littlefield taken to the cleaners, plus salary dump.
Wow.. what can you possibly say good about this deal?
Ok, it was time for the Perez experiment to end. There were questions about Oliver’s health, there were questions about his heart, and there were questions about his makeup. He had to go – he was Littlefield’s alter ego.
The obvious problem with this deal is that Littlefield waited too long to deal Perez and devalued him even more by sending him to AAA. Perez could have been dealt over the winter for far more than a Nady and, if Littlefield had half a brain, he would have dealt him after 2004 when he knew the questions existed.
Nady is not exciting by any means. He is a career .260 hitter vs. NLCD teams, a .237 hitter vs. right-hand pitching, he rarely hits clutch as his .203 BA/RiSP indicates, he hits everything in the air trying for the fence ala Burnitz, and while he has raw power, he doesn’t have the hand-eye coordination and bat speed to make him a good prospect. Combine all that with the fact he is injury prone and you have a mess.. a mess Littlefield can control until Nady leaves in free agency in 2009.
3:40 pm – Craig Wilson for Shawn Chacon
Wilson’s wrist injury prohibited a better deal.
If you caught my MLB Radio podcast you heard I had mentioned I thought the Yankees would be taking Craig Wilson so this was no surprise to me. As I mentioned here, I couldn’t see the Angels making a big play for Craig’s services so far out of the hunt anyway.
Littlefield acquired a Wells clone (stats wise) in Chacon for Craig who he will deal in the winter or next July, as Chacon becomes a FA in 2008. He isn’t flashy, he isn’t dominating, and he isn’t healthy all the time, but either was Craig. Personally, I think Littlefield got the best of Cashman here although I know the fans will look at Chacon’s ERA and think otherwise.
3:50 pm – Kip Wells for prospect Jesse Chavez
Salary dump – one that was needed.
Getting anything for Kip Wells is a miracle with all the problems he has had – especially of late. Chavez is never going to make it to Pittsburgh but he could help make Littlefield look better in the farm. He is a power pitcher throwing straight heat around 95 mph with decent command, he has a "B+" slider, and nothing else, including a body. He is just 155 lbs dripping wet and at 6′ 2" tall looks like a green been on the mound. As I said, he isn’t much to get for Kip but getting anything was a miracle anyway.
4:05 pm – More than half of the Pirates fans turn their computer off until next year.
The fans aren’t going to like the salary dumps for the day one bit as the moves Littlefield made were not good for public relations by any means.
But one common theme emerged – Littlefield gave every single player he traded a chance at what they wanted.. Casey, Wilson, Perez, and Hernandez to contenders and Wells closer to home. (I had initially heard that Perez was going to be dealt to SD putting Ollie closer to home but that deal didn’t happen). Give DL credit where it is due.. he watched out for the players the best he could. Those traded are happy and the players we received are fit to be tide. What’s new?
Dave Littlefield simply didn’t have much to trade this year and to be able to pull off as much salary dumping as he did amazes me. DL will get brownie points from McClatchy and the Nuttings but the fans will be quite upset.. and they have a right to be.
Littlefield has a poor trading history and his inability to gauge long-term needs, ward off long-term problems, and develop within the organization has hurt the organization pretty deep. Letting Perez walk in a salary dump is a great example of that. Just think what the return of Perez would have been in 2005?
Likewise, just think what the return on a Duke this last winter would have been? Or a Snell right now? These are the risks smart GM’s take when they know their goals, know their players, and know their needs. That is where Littlefield fails.
Overall? It was another sad day for the organization because of Littlefield’s poor player relations and poor development capabilities. But, based on what he accomplished from the position he had put himself into, he didn’t do too bad.
The question becomes, where will the extra player salary saved go? 2007? Hmm..
– Tidbits –
WELCOME BACK DUFF!!
(What’cha mean ya doesn’t like it up der, Duff?)
What a strange day this was for the Giants. They woke up at their team hotel to find the water had been shut off because of a main leak at 3 am and wasn’t back on until well after they left for the park.
Arriving in a stink from no water, some of the Giants showered at the park and then proceeded to play in high daytime heat and humidity until the game was called in the top of the 7th from a rain delay — too much water. Two hours later on a get away day to the west coast, they finally take the field to finish the game.
The game was tied 0-0 into the 8th inning when Matt Capps served up a 1-2 heater to none other than Todd Linden, the player who had been rumored to be coming to Pittsburgh in any Sean Casey trade. The score remained 1-0 until Jose Castillo led off the bottom of the ninth and hammered a home run into the left center field seats to tie the game off of Pennsylvania native Steve Kline who had purchased a luxury suite for his dad to watch the games in.
Now if all that wasn’t strange enough, the Pirates held the Giants in check the top of the 10th and then Jack Wilson led off the bottom with a single when Jim Tracy pulls a strategy move out of Jack McKeon’s book by having the National League’s best hitter sacrifice Wilson to 2B with a bunt.
With Wilson at 2B and one out, Bay lines out to LF for the second out in the inning and Joe Randa was intentionally walked by Giants manager Alou for some bizarre reason (Joe was 1-1 career against Kline). Up to the plate comes Jose Hernandez who has struck out 50% of the time (5-10) he has faced Kline but who also owns one of the best batting averages against him in the NL.
Sure enough, three pitches later Hernandez rifles a line drive down the left field line, Jack Wilson scores, and the Pirates sweep the Giants. That victory gave the Pirates their fifth straight win – the best in MLB the last 5, obviously.
When you’re hot, your hot and when you’re not, you’re not. The Pirates sent the Giants back to the Bay area on a very long flight wondering what happened to them and the local SF media decrying the Giants had ‘hit rock bottom’.
Rockies Killers. Brewer Killers. Giant killers. Braves Killers?
Duke pitched an acceptable game against an extremely flat Giants team that has had so much bad karma lately their fans are now calling them the ‘Pirates of the West’. Home plate ump Mark Carlson gave both Giants starter Matt Morris and Zach Duke a big strike zone to move the game along much like Zach saw from Carlson April 5th against the Brewers.
The Pirates just couldn’t find any offense against Matt Morris who came in with a 12+ ERA his last two outings, but a 6-0 career record at PNC. Morris scattered 6 hits and 2 walks over six innings limiting the Pirates to an 0-7 BA with a walk in runner in scoring position opportunities, albeit 4 of the 7 were from Cota and Duke.
One of the great story lines from this series that I assume won’t be talked about in any of the local papers was Jim Tracy’s outstanding managing. Not only did he out manage Giants manager Alou several times, he continually put opportunities in the players hands to win each game and the players responded every time. Yes, the players played the games and their performance dictated the wins. But when games are close, the first team to bend usually loses and it was Alou who bent first each game – not Tracy.
For instance, in the 10th inning in today’s game, Jack Wilson lead off with a single. Freddy Sanchez then came to the plate as the National League’s best hitter and few managers would have had Sanchez sacrificing Wilson to 2B even with the game begging for a bunt. But Tracy did, Freddy’s sac bunt was a success, and Jack stood at 2B to be later scored by Hernandez.
Throughout the entire series, when Tracy had a chance to make a difference from the dugout, he did. From relief pitching match ups, to runners off with the pitch, to using his bench, lineup card, and opportunities to an advantage. It paid off.
Kudos to Tracy. The players got the wins but the sweep belongs to Tracy in my book.. one of the few times this year his managing was noticeably proficient – a deflated Giants team or not.
– Tidbits –
Ok.. so stop sending the emails! I have received over 30 emails in the last two hours asking about rumors. Who knows what Littlefield will do. Get some sleep because it won’t happen until tomorrow anyway.
Here is the latest —
Hernandez is all but certain to be dealt – probably a Yankee by this time tomorrow. Some are saying now this may only happen if Proctor is moved by the Yankees. Hernandez represents the only commodity the Pirates have that anyone really wants in the hunt for October.
Craig Wilson looks to have a shot at being traded – probably to the Angels (and I still don’t understand this deal at all for the Angels). I know the Angels and Littlefield have been working on a larger deal to try and land Kotchman here but I don’t think it is going to happen because he would have to deal more than he can afford or should.
In other words, not much is happening, nor do I expect anything much to happen. I will be shocked if Casey or Wells are traded unless they are dumped, I will be surprised to see Grabow or Marte moved unless dumped, Burnitz isn’t going anywhere unless some team gets him as a tag on in a larger deal, and it is doubtful even Craig leaves. Randa probably is the second best commodity Littlefield has (ok.. maybe third to Wilson) and even Joe isn’t getting much play.
Too many teams are in the wild card and that inflated prices, which it should. But like a house being put on the market for sale, if you over price it and don’t find that perfect match ****** to do the deal immediately, in just a few short weeks you will dry your market up and, even if you lower your price later, most folks will see it as still too expensive.
BTW, a recent study that researched July trades covering 125 teams over many years found only 2% average VORP had been added with the players received. Part of that is due to two-thirds of the season being over but that still isn’t much value overall and why you rarely see blockbuster trades made in July unless they solve long-term solutions for the club as well. So all the hype about the July trade deadline is just that – hype, for the most part.
How about Cota? Whoa.. he has thrown out 4 of the last 8 base runners attempting to steal on him going back to June 7th. He is quickly closing in on Paulino’s high CS rate. It is hard to find two catchers with such a high rate nailing runners. Pretty impressive.
Brad Lincoln looks like he was lit up yesterday in Hickory but it wasn’t as bad as his 9 hits and 6 runs allowed line looks. Only one batter made it to 2B through the first 5 innings other than by stealing the base or due to an error. Thru 5 Lincoln had K’d 5 and walked nobody and the two runs that scored came from a Blair throwing error. But Lincoln was obviously tired in the 4th and sweltering in the 96 degree heat (probably more like 100+ on the field and like 110 in the uniforms) and did all he could to get through the 5th.
By the 6th he was toast and it was obvious. His pitches were off the plate and even threw one or two away, his reactions to balls hit were slow, and he shouldn’t have even been on the field, considering how many innings he has already pitched this year.
Overall he pitched a great game but Jeff Branson hung him out to dry – for no reason what so ever.
A well deserved day off for the Pirates on Monday.
As if to send a message to long time San Francisco Giants lover Kevin McClatchy, the real Pirates showed up last night and played perhaps the best game of the year by annihilating the Giants in nearly every faucet of the game. By winning the first two games of the series, the Pirates have kept the Giants from gaining ground on the Reds, the NL wild card leader, and possibly dealing an uppercut to the Giants’ post-season play. A Pirates win on Sunday would probably be the knockout punch.
Tom Gorzelanny pitched a wail of a game spotting his 96 mph heater in pinpoint locations early in the count and forcing the Giants to put in play his off speed junk, resulting in just six hits and two earned runs over seven innings of work to pick up his first major league win. Not only did Gorzy get his first W, he also got his first RBI with a groundball in the second inning scoring Burnitz from 3B to tie the game 1-1.
But Gorzy’s line card should have looked even better than it did. In the first inning, Durham doubled off the right field wall with two outs and Bonds came to the plate and hit a little flair into medium centerfield. Unfortunately, Bautista decided to dive for the ball even though he was 5 feet away from it and the ball rolled past him allowing Bonds to take 2B and Durham to score.
All things being equal, if Bautista had simply played the flair as a single and picked up the ball on the bounce, there was no possible way Durham would have been sent and, if he was, there would have been an easy play for Bautista to throw him out. I scored it as a single with a Bautista error allowing both runners to advance and an unearned run to Gorzy. The official scorer at PNC scored it a double – which it wasn’t, imo.
While Gorzelanny’s pitching was the main course for the evening, the dessert was the Pirates infield defense. Play, after play, after play they somehow managed to snag groundballs, turn awkward double plays, and pick balls out of the dirt unlike any game this year. There were so many highlight plays turned that Pirates’ fans had to be wondering where the heck all this defense had been all year long. It was easily the best defensive game of the year. From Paulino calling a very good game, to Gorzelanny pitching to the defense, to the defense making the plays behind Gorzy.. it was all textbook.
Tonight he made two glaring errors – one on the Bond’s hit I mentioned above and the second by getting picked off second base with no outs and two on in the fourth inning, which is one of the biggest cardinal sins in baserunning.. a little league type of mistake.
I don’t know what is in this kid’s head.. maybe he is just rebellious.. maybe he is headstrong.. maybe he just doesn’t care.. but he is simply killing every thread of hope I had that he would have a chance to play at the major league level. The more I see of him the more I realize that, even with his youthfulness, his head isn’t into the game, his actions aren’t team oriented, and his game is just plain short. I am starting to think he and Castillo would make good bed buddies in the utility column. We’ll keep watching them both hoping their heads come out of the sand – there is still a lot more baseball to be played this year but they have a long way to go in my book.
Offensively, Wright opened his own can of worms in the 3rd inning by walking two of the first three batters he faced then got Burnitz to hit a slow roller just off the mound for the second out and advancing the two walked batters up 90 feet each. Paulino and Castillo then both delivered clutch two-out hits to score an rbi each and putting the Buccos up 3-1. In the 5th, Burnitz crushed a Wright heater into the left centerfield stands for a HR putting the Pirates up 4-2 and that was all we needed.
Tracy used his pen effectively in the 8th to shut down the Giants and then in the 9th, Gonzo gave up back to back hits to lead off the inning and allowing one run to score, then got Linden to hit into a double play, and Randy Winn to ground out to end the game to notch his 18th save of the year.
– Tidbits –
It was Sean Casey bobblehead last night but Sean sat on the pine in favor of Joe Randa. Word is Casey and Craig Wilson are all but gone to the Angels. I don’t understand this at all with the Angels so far behind everyone, but there you have it. I know the media said Sean sat last night because of a pulled rib muscle – and I’m sure that is what the org said – but I heard there might be more interest in Randa than Sean Casey in some circles. But at 1B? Hmm..
How about Burnitz lighting up with scouts in attendance? Makes you wonder why he didn’t light up just playing everyday earlier in the year. The Yankees are said to be hot on him if they can’t get someone on their short list and God knows we all hope they take him. C-ya JB – don’t let the door hit yer behind on the way out. Looks like Hernandez will probably be heading to the Bronx with him.
I don’t see much else happening. It seems Littlefield simply isn’t getting the calls since he overpriced his commodities a couple of weeks ago. I did see the local media reports about the NY teams having an interest in Kip Wells but if you believe all that, I have a bridge to sell you.
I did hear Littlefield will pull the trigger on one deal Sunday but for the life of it, I can’t figure out what deal it could be.
How about Perez blowing up last night in front of six scouts against one of the worst teams in the IL? Ollie only retired one batter and allowed eight runs. Man, I don’t know whether to thank Ollie or cry. I think Perez has a lot more Kris Benson in him than we all know about.
Are the Pirates really 23 – 12 in night games at PNC Park this year? Whew.
Second largest crowd at the park last night to get their Casey bobbleheads. Even McClatchy showed up. Amazing.
Bucco Blog picked up the "Blogger of the Week" award yesterday from MLB.com and MLBlogs. You can listen to the live podcast above.
If the Giants plan to be in the hunt for October, they better find some ballplayers that can mash right-hand pitching.. and fast.
The last three right hand starters the Pirates threw at the Giants have a combined 0.86 ERA, throwing 21 innings, allowed just 2 earned runs, and scattered 12 hits. Considering those three starters were Kip Wells, Victor Santos, and Ian Snell, Giants GM Brian Sabean has to be scratching his head wondering if his team is a legitimate contender.
The Pirates dealt a knockout blow to the Brewers this week and with tonight’s win, coupled with the Reds victory against the reeling Brewers tonight, the Giants have now fallen 4 games back in the wild card standings and were handed their 5th straight defeat. One or two more losses to the Pirates this weekend could spell SELLER.
Kip Wells took the mound tonight and immediately got in trouble giving up two singles to the first two batters he faced. Up to the plate came Moises Alou with his career .313 BA against Wells and he beat the ball into the ground to Sanchez for a double play. Bonds comes to the plate sporting his career .714 BA against Wells and he beats the ball into the ground to Casey for the third out and Kip escaped.
That storyline continued for Kip much of the evening as Kip’s heater had good sink allowing him to get 12 of his 18 outs on groundballs – a sign Kip is pitching on top of his game. I won’t say it was the best I have seen Kip pitch, because it wasn’t. The Giants had three innings where they stranded men in scoring position against Kip failing to produce the clutch hit they needed to blow the game open.
None were as big as when Kip opened the 8th by hitting leadoff batter Alfonso and Linden singled putting men on 1st and 2cd. Tracy pulled Wells (who left to a standing ovation and even nodded to home plate ump John Hirschbeck his thank you) and went with the best numbers by bringing in Grabow to face Finley. Unfortunately, Finley hit a little chopper under Castillo’s glove to load the bases and then Grabow got Vizquel to strikeout for the first out.
Again working the stats for the best matchup, Tracy reached into the pen for Torres to face Alou who was 1-9 career against him and he popped out for the second out and Bonds came to the plate. Knowing Bonds is only hitting .186 vs. left hand pitching this year, Tracy pulled Torres and went with Marte who got Bonds to fly out and the three relievers combined to shut down a bases loaded, no outs Giants threat with no runs scoring. But they weren’t quite finished yet..
Tracy brought Gonzo on to close the game out and, wild as always, he walked the first batter he saw on 5 pitches. Hillenbrand then hit a double putting men at 2cd and 3rd with no outs. In a repeat performance of his July 20th game against the Marlins, Gonzo then K’d the next three batters to end the threat and pickup his 17th save. Shades of Jose Mesa, huh?
One of the scouting knocks on Giants starter Jason Schmidt is that he typically gets blown out the third time through the order and tonight was a textbook example of that. The Pirates managed just one lonely single against Schmidt until he imploded in the 6th when, with two outs, McLouth and Wilson singled, then Sanchez hit a clutch rbi single scoring McLouth from 2B and moving Jack to 3B.
Eleven pitches later, Schmidt had walked Bay and Casey to force home the second run and then Bautista flied out with the bases juiced to end the inning. In the 7th, Paulino singled and then Castillo hit a double into the right centerfield gap to score Ronny putting the Pirates up 3-0 and ending Schmidt’s evening. Seven of the eight batters that faced Schmidt the 3rd time reached base – five of them by way of a hit.
Defensively we held our own. There were two groundballs hit past Jose that probably should have been collected for outs instead of going for hits, Paulino misplayed a ball in the dirt (called a wild pitch but it wasn’t a wild pitch.. Paulino blocked the ball and went to collect it but pushed it about 20 feet away and that was when the runner advanced meaning error Paulino – not wild pitch), and Sanchez and Casey played well by handling more than their fair share of hammered groundballs.
It looks like the players are bent on being a spoiler the second half. They forced the Brewers into becoming a seller by taking 2 of 3 games, took 2 of 3 from the Rockies and sending them spiraling to a 4-6 record their last 10, and now taken 1 of 3 from the Giants — all of whom are/were in the wild card hunt. If they hadn’t been so defensively challenged in Miami, they could have taken 2 or 3 of those 4 games as well.
It was a good win tonight with a sellout crowd on fireworks night. The only seat I saw open was Kevin McClatchy’s.
– Tidbits –
Even though Kip Wells is getting a feel for his pitches again, I still don’t see a contender wanting to give him a spot on their 25-man roster.
By acquiring Mike Stanton from the Nats for a minor leaguer today, the Giants pretty much signaled the Pirates they have no interest in Roberto Hernandez or Sean Casey. The Angels are still shopping for a first baseman but let’s be serious here, do they have a club that is going to beat the Twins or White Sox to the wild card? Hardly. Look for them to make any moves this winter.
The Braves picked up Baez from the Dodgers ending speculation of their interest in Solomon Torres. Since Littlefield left Cashman at the alter not too long ago, I still don’t see any Yankees/Pirates trades on the horizon meaning that Craig Wilson might end the year a Bucco unless Littlefield pulls off another last second deal on Monday giving him away for some promising, but injured, minor league player to be named later deal.
And to be quite honest, I hope Littlefield doesn’t trade Hernandez unless he gets blown away. I feel Hernandez offers too much value in the positive mentoring he provides to Mike Gonzalez and some of the pen to be traded in a junk deal. If we eat any salary, his would be the best meal I could have.
Burnitz? Why didn’t Littlefield just release him mid-July hoping another team was stupid enough to sign him and relieving the Pirates of some salary? Same with Kip Wells.. and Joe Randa. If these players are still with the team August 1, there should be some serious Nutting finger wagging at Littlefield unless he had some realistic trade opportunities we haven’t heard about. Littlefield might also get lucky if a contender loses a key player to injury in August and he can deal one of them. But don’t count on that. August deals are rare.. very rare.
"Industry sources say Pirates GM Dave Littlefield is asking a lot for relievers such as Salomon Torres and Roberto Hernandez." — SFGate
"Lots of grousing about the return Pittsburgh GM Dave Littlefield is demanding for the players he is seeking to trade, reliever Roberto Hernandez, outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, first basemen Sean Casey and Craig Wilson and third baseman Joe Randa. All will be free agents this winter — unless the Pirates surprise and pick up Burnitz’s option — and the perennial doormat Pirates are in a spot where Littlefield must take advantage of what he has. He can’t be giving these players away, but the Pirates can be hurt just as badly if his demands are so high that the Pirates don’t deal and are stuck with these free-agents-to-be." CBS Sportsline
"Each July, you can count on baseball front-office people griping that some executives live in a parallel universe. This year Pittsburgh general manager Dave Littlefield, one of the game’s few bona-fide sellers, is the focus of lots of carping for what colleagues perceive as unreasonable expectations. "It’s one thing to aim high," said an executive whose club recently inquired about Pirates reliever Roberto Hernandez. "It’s another to scare people out of the conversation." — ESPN
The list of media publications hammering Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager David Littlefield’s stance on the eve of the trade deadline is growing by the hour. "Asking too much".. "scaring people off".. "demands too high".. are common phrases.
Every July we hear the same exact lines and then the first week of August we hear all the deals Littlefield missed out on that somehow leak out. It’s a never ending storyline.
Littlefield isn’t the only GM who over values his players in trades – look to Bill Stoneman of the Angels as the most frightening GM to deal with in the industry, some say. The difference is, Stoneman gets deals done – Littlefield doesn’t.
Take the Roberto Hernandez to the Yankees trade rumor. Obviously this one had some credibility or Littlefield wouldn’t have wasted his scouts time watching Steven White last week. White puked as expected not wanting to be traded away from the ever loving Yankees organization to a sinking ship. Too bad Littlefield trashed his scouting staff in 2003 – maybe he wouldn’t have had to send his scouts on the trip?
I was reminded of a famous quote by George Washington today as I read through some of the Littlefield hype:
"One of the difficulties in bringing about change in an organization is that you must do so through the persons who have been most successful in that organization, no matter how faulty the system or organization is. To such persons, you see, it is the best of all possible organizations, because look who was selected by it and look who succeeded most in it. Yet these are the very people through whom we must bring about improvements."
As we approach the last 72 hours of the 2006 trade deadline, Pirates fans are haunted by Kevin McClatchy’s statement just a short month ago:
"We’ve fallen on hard times," the Pirates’ managing general partner said yesterday at the unveiling of the team’s Highmark Legacy Square at PNC Park. "It’s not acceptable. … We have to do a better job. It’s going to fall on the general manager [Dave Littlefield], the manager [Jim Tracy], myself, the players. Nobody is beyond reproach with this thing."
"Nobody is beyond reproach.." Amazing words yet so little credibility, as Mr. Washington might propose. Considering the only success story within the organization since Kevin McClatchy bought the team has been the ability of the marketing department to sell tickets to the numb fans in Pittsburgh, and that group was in place before Mr. McClatchy took control, I would assume Mr. Washington would concede there is little hope in Pittsburgh.
Consider this Theodore Roosevelt quote:
"I have a perfect horror of words that are not backed up by deeds."
Perhaps if you were a shareholder in the Pirates instead of a fan, you might consider McClatchy has done a good job. After all, Mr. McClatchy was able to not only put off one debt he owed the City of Pittsburgh by showing a paper loss every year through 2000, he was also able to go back and get another loan from the City in 2001, and then renegotiate both loans so he may never have to pay either of them back. The savings? At least $61m – two-thirds of the price he bought the team for. Go figure..
So leadership is obvious in place and, as Mr. Washington stated, improvements have to start there. Without McClatchy’s fire to light Littlefield’s path, all we can expect as fans is more misery at the trade deadline this year. "Given away".. "lopsided deal"… "taken to the cleaners".. "salary dump".. perhaps those will be the statements we hear from the media the first week of August this year.
"Executives from several clubs believe that the high asking prices of GM David Littlefield will result in the Pirates failing to trade several of their veterans — an outcome that would be inexcusable.." — Fox Sports
Inexcusable?? To whom?
Certainly not the rats that will be running from the sinking ship this year leaving the fans to drown.
The Brewers theatrics in Monday night’s game were too much.. over the line.. and as one player said, breached serious professional baseball etiquette. Two of the more egregious acts were when Lee hit his home run in the 3rd inning off Duke putting them up 10-2 and their bullpen played out an immature knockout punch act. The second was Bill Hall’s HR in the 5th putting the Brewers up 12-3 when Hall stood in the box looking at the flight of the ball then did a slow trot around the bases.
Those two clown’ish acts pissed off the Pirates so much that they came back the next two games with fire in their hearts wanting to teach the Brewers a lesson. Because, by taking the series against the Brewers, the Pirates showed the Brewers front office that the team isn’t serious enough to push for a wild card.. they don’t have the discipline to make the late push.. they don’t have the players to do the job. By dropping the Brewers 10 games behind the Cards and 6 games behind the Reds in the wild card race, the Pirates all but nailed shut the Brewers coffin.
And it was because they woke up a sleepy team with their own foolish acts.
Kudo’s to the Buccos.. they beat the Brewers where it hurt the most – on the field in the win/loss column. C-ya Lee.. hope you end up in the AL somewhere.
Now THAT is what baseball is all about.. beating a team that is toooo cocky.
Maholm had a rough start to the game today mostly from poor pitch selection. He walked Clark on 9 pitches to open the game then, on an 0-2 count, grooved a heater right down the middle of the plate and Cirillo crushed it for a double. Up to the plate comes Hall who had hit two home runs against Duke Monday night and, instead of beaning him, on a 3-2 count Maholm grooves another heater on the outside part of the plate waist high and Hall took it yard. And, yes, he sat back and watched the flight once again.
But Maholm immediately regained his composure – the mark of a good young pitcher – and retired 18 of the next 24 batters he faced allowing only one additional run. Of the six he didn’t retire, one was a single off Jack’s glove that should have been caught, one was a hit batter, three more were singles, and one a double.. all scattered. In fact, only one more Brewer touched 2B with Maholm on the mound after the first 3 batters he faced.. and he ended up being the fourth run allowed.
Offensively the Pirates had a solid heartbeat going 4-10 with runners in scoring position, scored five of their eight runs after two outs, and mauled Brewer pitching for a .333 game batting average. The big hit of the day was Craig Wilson’s two-out clutch double in the 5th scoring two and putting the Pirates ahead to stay. Also worth a mention was Maholm’s clutch two-out rbi liner in the 4th inning. However, every Pirate starter contributed with at least one hit in the game and Bay and Bautista had home runs.
The offensive output was expected though.. Brewer starter Capuano had a 2-4 career record vs. the Pirates with an ERA over 6. I guess his 10.80 ERA today won’t help that a bit. *ouch*
– Trade Tidbits –
The Pirates head home and have an off day Thursday before the Barry Bonds circus act comes to town. The Giants are rumored to be interested in Roberto Hernandez but I believe they want Mike Gonzalez. Considering the Giants are Kevin McClatchy’s favorite boyhood team (like the Red Sox are Littlefield’s), don’t count McClatchy out ordering an ok on a shaky deal with the Giants, especially with all the rumors floating that this is Kevin’s last year with the Pirates. The Giants are an NLWD team and they need relief pitching bad.. real bad. They also have very little in the farm so the only way this deal gets done would be if a team needs to dump salary in the deal.
Yep – in walks Burnitz. The Giants need Burnitz like a whole in the head but can afford to just release him if they can’t give him away. A Gonzo/Burnitz deal to the Giants would lessen the impact Sabean would need to pay for Gonzalez and allow Littlefield more breathing room to spend in another trade.
One of those could be Craig Wilson and Sean Casey to the Angels for Casey Kotchman as a player to be named later. I spoke with Tom Kotchman today who said Casey is getting new tests done on the viral infection he picked up in December. The ironic part about Casey’s infection is that he most likely picked it up speaking to the children at the elementary school his mom works at. Tom said he expects Casey to be ready to play in winter ball – perhaps in the Dominican.
He didn’t mention any trade rumors about his son but he did say that the Angels seem to be interested in a short-term solution at 1B for the run. Enter stage right – Sean Casey as a possibility, I would guess. The problem becomes, who else does Littlefield have to give up to make this deal work.. if it can be worked at all without a third team like, say, the Yankees.
The Yankees are back on Roberto Hernandez now that Littlefield has seemingly dropped the Burnitz tag along part of the deal. If Cashman can’t land another solid veteran setup man without dealing with Littlefield, Hernandez is his man.. and Littlefield knows it. But if Littlefield can’t shove Burnitz off on the Giants, the Yankees might be the only place left that could absorb his contract in a deal. But they will most likely refuse leaving Littlefield holding Burnitz’ bags.
That brings us back to what else Littlefield needs to add to the pot to get a Kotchman. My guess? Gonzo, Casey, Hernandez, Burnitz, and Craig Wilson out the door and either Kotchman or one of the coveted Angels farm starters to the Pirates. A good possibility exists that Sabean would like both Hernandez and Gonzo and Stoneman Wilson and Casey. How it all works out is anyone’s clue – if it even does.
There has been some talk about a couple of teams interested in Oliver Perez and I just don’t see Littlefield pulling that trigger without getting blown away. I realize DL likes Mench (too much in my opinion) and might be able to do a deal to get him, but I hope he doesn’t. He doesn’t fit.. he never has.. he never will.. just like Shealy, imo.
In the end, who knows what happens but the dominoes will start falling real soon.. most likely when either Lugo or Soriano are dealt. Right now teams are working on short-list wish lists but that will change real fast once the market explodes which will probably start Saturday.
– General Tidbits –
"Littlefield, the Pirates GM/resident slugwit, has several moderately appealing spare parts with expiring contracts to deal off: Craig Wilson (Yankees?), Roberto Hernandez (Giants?), Joe Randa (Padres?), Jeromy Burnitz (the CBS SportsLine softball team?). I’ve been told, however, that he’s slightly more difficult to deal with than a 2-year-old on a cake-frosting bender, demanding A-list prospects for his C-list trinkets. If he can’t get even a meager return on these guys and Sean Casey, firing is not a severe enough fate for him. Maybe somebody could follow him around with a radio tuned to local pundits discussing the Pirates’ record under his watch?"
There is a bit of history between Maxim and the Pirates in an indirect way, of course. Anna Benson, Kris Benson’s wife, posed for them awhile back and Dobrow has interviewed Kris since. While Benson didn’t condemn Littlefield, he made it well known that he was happy to be away from Littlefield and the Pirates. So Dobrow’s comments aren’t totally unexpected. Not surprising, Littlefield is also rated as Dobrow’s #1 Maxim You ****: Baseball’s Dumbest Executives 2006.
BTW, Kris didn’t like being in Pittsburgh and stayed on the DL alot. He also said he didn’t like Baltimore either and, guess what? He now is undergoing assesment for ‘elbow discomfort’ he has had now for ‘two months’. Nobody knows how to play the disabled list game better than Krissy.
And how about Jerry Crasnick’s article at ESPN (insider subscription required) who basically said that the industry views Littlefield’s deals as being ‘over valued’. And they are/have been/will be..
Chris Duffy Watch: Duff got an rbi single off of Jose Lima (yep – I said Jose Lima.. the 33 year old Met) as Lima pitched a four hitter over 7 innings of work tonight against Indy. Duff also had an error bobbling a grounder allowing a runner to advance on him. Hurry back Duff (and, no, I don’t believe the trade rumors about you).