For a team that sparked when Kevin McClatchy announced his resignation, they have sure looked pretty flat their last six games scoring just 3.2 runs per game on average and losing four of six.
But in every contest they have had their chances but failed to deliver knockout blows, like Friday night against the Brewers.
The seventh opened with the Pirates down 3-1 and LaRoche and Nady had back-to-back singles. Bay then had an unproductive at bat by grounding to Braun at third who failed to turn a double play with Weeks leaving Bay at first and LaRoche at third and one out.
Paulino then drove the ball into the right centerfield gap that Gross bobbled giving Paulino a double, scoring LaRoche, and Bay ending up at third with the score now 3-2 Brewers. Jack Wilson was then intentionally walked to load the bases and Tracy replaced Armas with Josh Phelps – the Pirates hottest bench hitter in August.
Five pitches later Phelps was walking back to the Pirates dugout shaking his head wondering ‘what in the world was that’ as he froze on a Gallardo 2-2 hook that hung splitting the plate. Four pitches after that, McLouth swung wildly at an up and out heater striking out ending the inning and you could smell the momentum change in the air.
Three Pirate strikeouts, three infield groundballs, and a single later, the Brewers had won game one of the series.
Despite LaRoche crushing the ball in every at bat and ending up with a 3-4 night including a 4th inning monster blast.
The Pirates have been horrible with non-productive at bats the last few games. For instance, in the 6th after McLouth singled and stole second, Bautista hit a groundball to the left side of the infield unable to advance McLouth. Same with Bay in the 7th with two men on and no outs, although LaRoche was forced to third on the play.
There are quite a few on the Pirates roster who simply "don’t get it" whether they haven’t bought into the winning mentality, don’t care, or just don’t have the ability to adjust at the plate, I don’t know. But we have lost a ton of potential runs this year because of non-productive outs.
Nady’s bobble of a Gabe Gross single that allowed Gross second in the 3rd was not called an error I assume because the official scorer felt Gross would make second no matter what. But had Nady made the routine catch of the ball on the bounce, he would have easily nailed Gross at second with a decent throw. Gross eventually scored the Brewers second run of the game in the extended inning.
Armas had a good start against a team that notoriously doesn’t hit sliders too well. As long as Jim Tracy continues to cautiously pick starts for Armas, he’ll do ok as I mentioned earlier in the year.
Wa-HOOO! Andrew McCutchen stole home in Friday night’s game against Justin Mallett. I didn’t see it or hear the play but numerous folks emailed me about it. Evidently he doubled home Bullington then stole third and then home.
I don’t know what is in the air in Indy but Walker has tanked and Cutch has been ripping the cover off the ball. So much for the theory that Cutch needs more AB’s against advanced pitching – he’s now hitting .304 in 56 AB’s at Indy.
Maybe he is ready for the show? We’ll see how he does in the AFL.
Live around Indianapolis? If so, you probably want to take in Saturday’s final home game as Zach Duke will start against Louisville and numerous giveaways are planned like autographed game-worn jerseys after the game.
Word today from Indy is that Pearce, Morgan, and Perez will be added to the Pirates roster Saturday and Bixler, Bullington, and JvB will be brought up after Monday’s final game of the year. All of that is subject to change since the initial report was that Morgan wouldn’t be coming up until Monday but is now coming up two days early. I had half-expected to see Walker at third but..
Also, I questioned the other day if Neil Walker has been hurt as he was being used a lot in the DH role since his promotion to Indy and a second source outside the Pirates today said no – he’s healthy.
Courtesy of Joe Gisondi’s On Sport’s blog, MLB.com has an internship opening in Pittsburgh covering the Pirates and may have openings for photographers, copy editors/producers and designers. They are taking applications starting September 10th so get your resumes ready college juniors, seniors, and graduate students.
A few of my readers sent me a link to Pat Lackey’s recent post in his blog where he questioned John Perrotto’s recent article wanting Robert Nutting to interview Tony LaCava for the president position.
Lackey stated in his post:
"I don’t understand why a guy that hasn’t been more than a scouting director or a front office guy should become the CEO of the team."
First of all, Lackey might have misunderstood Nutting’s announcement where he said he would be hiring a president, not a CEO.
Traditional CEO roles in baseball contain three sides of the job, financial, operations, and business.
But it was clear from Nutting’s statement that he plans to embrace a Devil Rays model where the old school CEO role is filled by two men – one a financial wizard who most likely will be front and center with MLB (known as the President in the Rays model), and the second a baseball operations man who will assume the tradional GM role.
While Nutting could indeed hire an administrative front and center man to be the president, Nutting has already said he plans to hire a baseball operations person with a business capabilities for the position because his financial side of the house is in order.
Thus Bucco Blog and Perrotto’s desire to see LaCava hired.
Lackey also said:
"If you think he’s beyond hiring Tony La Cava, who will take the job no matter what because he’s local, and telling him, "This was a good team in the second half and accordingly, your front office is already in place. This is your budget. Good luck," then you’re sorely mistaken."
It’s true Nutting could require any person hired to have Littlefield finish his contract, but it’s very doubtful that will happen.
General Managers aren’t typically fired late in the year right before a new cycle begins – they are let go early in the year to mid-year. All signs point to Dave Littlefield being relieved of his duties in 2008.. when in 2008 is anyone’s guess.
But no matter who takes over the role of president, they will have to evaluate the organization from Bradenton on up and that’s going to take time. With the GM meetings quickly upon us in November and winter deals setting up the club for 2008 play, it’s seriously doubtful anyone hired will make a rash move with Littlefield.
And Lackey’s comment that LaCava would take the job no matter what implies LaCava isn’t qualified in Lackey’s mind, but in two detailed posts on Lackey’s site regarding the search, he fails to mention one candidate he feels would be acceptable.
Perhaps Lackey missed the press about LaCava turning down the large-market Red Sox for their GM position? I mean, it’s not like they hire YES men in Boston or anything, or should Bill James get out the KY too Mr. Lackey? And perhaps Lackey missed that Baltimore wanted LaCava for their GM role as well?
And Lackey absolutely must have missed the Devil Rays hunt for LaCava who planned to hire him before they eventually settled on Jerry Hunsicker as the baseball operations part of their old CEO role.
LaCava isn’t just simply "a local" as Lackey suggests, he’s been the most sought out GM candidates in the game the last two years for numerous reasons, the biggest of which is because he is, in fact, known as one of the game’s brightest minds.
That isn’t a "random claim" Perrotto made, that’s a fact that has been shared numerous times by the likes of Schuerholz, Ricciardi, and Shapiro, which is not bad company to be in. Oh, and Branch Rickey III himself oversaw LaCava when Rickey was in player development and has spoken nothing but kind words about him.
Further, Lackey’s statement assumes LaCava would be a YES man under Nutting, but obviously Lackey doesn’t know LaCava’s past too well. Simply put, nobody believes LaCava will take Nutting’s job if he isn’t given 100% total control under the Board’s budget.
Lastly, Lackey stated:
"What I do know is that Perrotto’s article reads like a fluffy piece of Paul Meyer ****."
My suggestion to Mr. Lackey is to do some serious research on the subject before dumping on a recommendation.
There might indeed be more qualified people to Lackey for the position, but as Perrotto and I see in LaCava, among others like the Red Sox and Rays, there isn’t a better man available, especially in player development and scouting poor Pittsburgh where LaCava is the strongest in.
And no, Mr. Lackey, LaCava is not another 2001 Dave Littlefield clone – not even close.
I hope my fellow Pirates bloggers make a serious attempt to try and understand how critical Nutting’s hire is to the future of Pirates baseball and to put a bit more emphasis on research before talking through their noses because we are impacting the hire just as much as any newspaper in Pittsburgh is, in our own way.
But that’s my take –
It was the type of game you expect to see under a full moon, not two days after one.
The Reds had two runs taken off the scorecard with a Pirates appeal play, Jose Bautista hit his 13th home run (yeah, notice the number – 13) breaking the franchise’s all-time one month home run record after hitting just .219 in his last 26 games at PNC, and Matt Capps took his first loss since August 4th against – yep, the Reds, coincidentally a couple of days after the last full moon.
Oh – and my man Jeff Cox sent two men to their deaths (Bautista by 10′ in the 1st and Phelps in the 9th).
It was a good game against two dysfunctional teams and one umpire crew: from Adam Dunn’s inability to field anything even remotely near him on the bounce, to Paulino allowing a wild pitch to squirt between his legs with a man at third who scored, to lazy baserunning by the Reds, and Wally Bell falling flat on his face and bouncing up and down on his chest protector like a superball after tripping on the Pirates last dugout step.
Weird stuff, man.
Morris pitched an acceptable game against one of MLB’s hottest offensive teams by working himself out of jams, and the Pirates were able to muster a couple of runs against Matt Belisle who has historically handcuffed us, but the game came down to the bullpens and in the end, the Reds pen, with the worst ERA in the NL, won.
As I said, just plain weird.
In the 9th inning of a tied game with two outs, Gonzalez singled and then Griffey hit a little flair into left that Bay, Bautista, and Izturis converged on. At the last minute Izturis stuck his glove out to try and grab the ball and it glanced off the end of his glove and away from Bautista who was attempting an over the shoulder basket catch.
It was a play Jack Wilson has made numerous times and considering the flair was high enough for both Bay and Bautista to get to it, the fact Izturis didn’t unconditionally proved to me what I had been questioning about Izturis – he has little range. Nice glove for what he can get to, but little else. Pure utility.
The wild play in the 4th that ended up costing the Reds two runs occurred when Encarnacion hit a ground ball through the left side with two outs and the bases loaded. Griffey and Dunn both scored. After the play the Pirates appealed that Dunn missed touching third base and third base umpire Chris Guccione agreed.
Since Dunn was therefore out on the force ending the inning, and since no runs can score on a play when the third out is a force, neither run counted.
The result is better known around the game as the fourth out.
The fans keep emailing me wonder what’s wrong with Daniel Moskos who had another rough outing Wednesday night and I keep telling them – nothing is wrong.
The fact he is under the microscope as the Pirates first round pick – and an overpick in many fans mind to boot – he’s probably mentally challenged right now trying to do too much. It’s expected.
Just chill out and instead, go watch my desired first rounder pitch – Michael Main. He’s now 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA in nine games and 28 innings of work and has 34 strikeouts and 13 walks. Not too shabby for an 18 year-old high school product pitching in hitter’s parks out West.
Moskos will be back next year and we’ll pick him up then.
I’ve mentioned the Pirates woes scouting the West Coast since Scott Littlefield left and today a blogger by the name of "Steve" had a nice post about the Pirates 44th round pick in the 2007 draft – Dustin Emmons.
Steve said he is intimately familiar with Emmons and goes on to mention how the Pirates sent a scout to talk to him who was "wet behind the ears" and "didn’t seem to know exactly what he was doing", according to Emmons grandmother.
If I understand Steve’s story, the Pirates evidently wanted Emmons to sign, fly to the East Coast to play on his own nickle, and then they would allow him in his contract to enroll and continue his college education.
The problem with all that is, if Emmons ate even one free meal provided by the Pirates it could be considered compensation and his playing ball while in college days could be over.
Emmons countered the Pirates offer with a package that included a signing bonus if he was going to risk losing his amateur status and the Pirates declined him.
Now all that isn’t necessarily unusual for a 44th rounder. But what Steve said later grabbed my attention – Emmons had been struck in his throwing hand and is still recovering so evidently the Pirates either weren’t even aware this kid was injured, or they were making plans for him after signing he couldn’t fulfill.
Nice post Steve.
Here is the pamphlet distributed to anyone interested in applying for the Pirates CEO/President position:
Well, it might as well be.
Tip your hat to Aaron Harang – he got to the ballpark, looked at Jim Tracy’s lineup card, laughed, and took the mound with so much confidence he was able to throw a nine-inning complete game shutout in 94 pitches despite dragging in a 4.98 career ERA at PNC Park.
With power mashers Duffy, Wilson, Doumit, Kata, and Castillo not starting, the Pirates were able to manage just one solid hit against Harang – a Bay line drive into the 410 centerfield notch in the 5th, plus a seeing eye pop up by Kata all night.
The Reds, though, had their way with Ian Snell. Unable to find the plate out of the bullpen, Snell walked the game’s leadoff hitter on six pitches, grooved two strikes to the next batter who crushed the second one into center for a single, fell behind 1-0 to Griffey, and then tried to groove another that Griffey mashed over the right field wall.
Ten pitches and the game was effectively over.
And don’t think for one second the Pirates didn’t know it – 28% of the Pirates at bats ended with two or fewer pitches, and batters were lazy like Freddy Sanchez who swung at strike three in the 4th, watched the ball not be caught and bounce toward the Pirates dugout, and then failed to run to first as the Reds catcher ran past and in front of him to scoop the ball up and tag him for the out as he walked slowly and defiantly back to the dugout.
Jim Tracy even bought into it all by substituting Sanchez in the 7th, LaRoche in the 8th, and forcing Youman to take the mound and throw his 252cd pitch over his last five appearances in 15 days while having started in just one of those five (he’s toast, BTW).
It was just one of those nights.
Oh – and welcome back to reality Pirates fans as we are close to reclaiming the NLCD cellar.
Snell now has:
– 10.98 ERA (10.2 IP, 13 ER) last two starts against the Reds at PNC; and
– 6.01 ERA (79.1 IP, 53 ER) last 13 games (since his June 23 start) while allowing one home run every 5.7 innings and saw 37% of his hits go for extra bases.
Snell’s ERA in the 281 innings prior to his June 23 start? — 4.03 in 46 games with a 3.63 ERA in his last 181 innings of work and 28 games.
If you are the GM, do you deal him thinking the league has caught up to him or do you keep him thinking Mr. Snell might be holding a little in his reserve tank this year, lacking focus, or a combination of both?
Those that know me over the years know I have never been an Ian Snell fan but there’s no disputing the egg he’s left on my face over the last year or two.
Man, Nate McLouth simply can not cover the ball. Between him and Bay, I wonder which one has run up the most frequent flier miles on their bad routes? We’ll never compete with those two in the outfield unless we mash 6 runs per game all year. It’s a miracle he hasn’t been exposed more than he has.
Speaking of egg on the face, Oliver Perez pitched against the Phillies Wednesday night striking out 10 in six innings, allowed just five hits and three earned runs, but still lost the game as Moyer and the Phillies pen was just a tick better.
Perez now has a 3.39 ERA this season, a 12-9 record, and 147 strikeouts vs 64 walks.
Nady? He has just 83 at bats in the second half.
Got a little extra coin laying around? You might be interested in bidding on Barry Bonds 755 and 756 home run balls.
As I reported last week might happen, the Pirates decided to shut down Shelby Ford with back problems.
There are some rumors floating around that Robert Nutting interviewed yet another MLB executive from the Commissioner’s Office today with little to no baseball operations experience.
UPDATE: 9/7/07 12:00 PM Eastern
David Littlefield was fired today and Robert Nutting finally revealed that he will, in fact, hire both a President and General Manager, and not a President/GM combination like the Devil Rays model.
Therefore, Bucco Blog’s receommendation that Robert Nutting hire Tony LaCava as the new General Manager because there is no question LaCava is the best qualified person for the job.
I’m not typically a John Perrotto fan but I was surprised by his article today where he said:
"If Nutting really wants to make the Pirates competitive again, though, one man he should consider calling is Toronto Blue Jays player personnel director Tony LaCava."
Over the last sixteen days I have polled scouts, executives and others around the game, and baseball writers asking them two questions — name the top three CEO and GM candidates for Pittsburgh.
Tony LaCava’s name was in 57% of the 38 responses, more than any other person. That surprised me so I started asking more questions.
One highly respected upper echelon executive in the game today who was a member of the Pirates front office in 1979 recently told me:
"I would hope that the new Nutting ownership will be a step in the right direction. From my background, especially at the club level, leadership is the single most important element in the longer-term success of any business..
[LaCava] is a quality person and hard working. I have to suspect that he has grown considerably in his overall management capabilities in the roles that he’s worked in player development.. My further impression is that he’s a loyal guy in his business relationships and very trustworthy, which can have a salubrious impact in an organization."
I knew LaCava to be a Pirates man at heart but I didn’t have a clue about LaCava the baseball man other than what I have read, so I asked a few around the game. One response I received echoed most of the others which went like this:
"If anyone is built to be the "prototype" of what Pittsburgh requires to return the Pirates to winning baseball, it’s Tony LaCava. He not only is one of the most respected "baseball minds" in today’s game, but also, he understands and respects the Pittsburgh market and its fans."
I think this is important because Robert Nutting has already stressed that his financial side of the house is in order and he’s looking for an operations man.
Enter stage right, Tony LaCava with his obvious micro-marketing capability for Nutting: he has the ability to go one-on-one with the fans and business community as a local product with personal business interests in the area, the media since he’s a take-charge leader, those in the industry since he’s one of the game’s most respected baseball minds, the players in the dugout because they can relate to him, and still be able to evaluate talent as good as anyone in the game at the end of the day while sipping coffee with Bud Selig if he had to.
Oh – and he wants the position so bad he can taste it for a reason all the other candidates don’t – he’s a loyal Pittsburgh Pirates fan at heart.
Now that’s impressive.
And I suppose LaCava could also be a blue-collar marketing boon for Nutting to boot.
Pirate fans may not remember when another die-hard Pirates man by the name of Hardy Peterson, 47 at the time, was given the Pirates General Manager/President reigns after spending eight years in scouting only to see his club win the "We Are Family" World Series in 1979. Like LaCava, he was a hard working man with extensive credibility in, and out, of the game.
The way I see it, Nutting has two choices – to bring in someone outside of Pittsburgh circles who may carry a name but not the complete package (the type we have seen fail for many moons in Pittsburgh) or has had the wind knocked out of them a bit over the years, or an honest-to-God, pure-bred Pirates Stallion who wants nothing more than to lead the way proving to the world that the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise is not only proud, but a winner.
For once I agree with Perrotto – Tony LaCava is a superior candidate for the Pittsburgh Pirates GM position. It’s time we get back to our roots.
I heard today that General Mills is going to place a call to Freddy Sanchez and ask him to be on the box of Wheaties next year. No wonder..
In Sanchez’s last 192 games, he has mashed 29% of his 251 hits for extra bases, has a .318 batting average, and brought home 102 pieces of bacon (rbi).
And get this – every team in baseball continues to pitch to him.
Ask Elizardo Ramirez who had no choice in game one Tuesday when he walked Bautista to load the bases with two outs and Sanchez took him yard for his first career grand slam that put the game out of reach.
Or ask Reds reliever Bill Bray who Sanchez tripled off in the 8th inning a tied game two and then scored the winning run on a LaRoche line drive single back thru the box.
Maholm threw batting practice the first two innings and then settled down allowing just 4 hits to the next twenty batters. His problem didn’t look mechanical – it looked more to me like a game management issue because he came out throwing a lot of fastballs early and was getting crushed. The first time through the lineup the Reds went 6 for 9. After he started going to his offspeed stuff, he was nearly unhittable.
Gorzelanny actually looked a tad better on the mound this time out than he had his last three, although that still isn’t saying much, but you could see his legs were toast after the 5th, he labored hard in the 6th, and he couldn’t even record an out, much less find the plate, in the 7th.
By the looks of things, the Pirates are setting up Zach Duke’s return to take Gorzelanny’s spot in the rotation after one or two more starts and will then probably shut him down be my guess. Thank goodness.
Ronny Paulino looked like incurred an injury in the 9th inning of game two. He reached his glove hand across his body to snag a Capps heater 20" from his glove and it looked like he pulled something in his left shoulder area. We’ll have to see if he sits Wednesday or not.
The Pirates are the hottest team in baseball last ten games and have now won 10 of their last 13, 14 of their last 20, and have outscored their opponents 266-264 since the end of May but are still running -2 pythagorean wins during the period since they have only won 24 of 51.
The Pirates are 8.5 games out and Vegas says they have a 0.25 chance to win the division. Yep – one-quarter of one-percent chance.
So much for Jim Tracy’s recent revelation that "anything can happen" when your team is 9 games out with a month to go. Well, maybe someone believes the spin. It’s not impossible but..
The Pirates are going with Armas and then Youman in the first two games against the Brewers starting Friday. Man.. maybe Gorzy can hold his arm in his socket in Sunday’s game for us.
I sure hope we keep mashing.
ERA last three for Matt Morris: 3.38
Looks like a Biblical quote, doesn’t it?
Pirates hosted Philly and boxed their ears off leaving them 6 games behind the Mets.
Pirates rode into Denver and took the Mile High grin off the Rockies playoff chances.
Pirates rode into Houston and promptly dumped them into the cellar causing McLane to fire their GM and manager.
Pirates are hosting the Reds, swept a double-header from them and now eye sending them into 5th place with a win Wednesday night.
Pirates head off to play the Brewers this weekend for three and could conceivably leave being one game from removing them from their third place hold in the division.
Then the Pirates head off to St. Louis and. . .
The Cubs owe us.
Ole Scrap-Iron, Phil Garner, fired at the end of the year – how bizarre. I guess that goes to show us all the real problem in Houston right now – Drayton McLane. What a bonehead.
By 4 PM I had thirty readers wanting to know if Purpura would be on Nutting’s agenda and my answer to them was – no. I doubt it seriously. While Purpura did a great job stocking the Astros farm system in the late 90′s, he lost a lot of his better help over the years and subsequently took it on the chin in his deals.
And what’s the chance Pirate fans will see a Phil Garner curtain call in Pittsburgh? Who knows. He excels at motivating men, although you would never know it looking at the 2007 Houston Astros. But don’t blame Garner for the lack of results this year because that problem has McLane and Purpura’s hand prints all over it – not Garners.
Word out of St. Louis is that the Cardinals have not authorized Nutting to speak with Walt Jocketty up to this point. I should make it clear here that when I state "have not authorized" I mean that, other than the CEO or owner of the teams involved (so far the Cardinals with Jocketty and the Rays with Hunsicker), nobody else is aware permission has been granted.
One executive I spoke with today told me that it’s pretty doubtful any organization is going to allow their GM to up and leave this late in the season with the new cycle beginning shortly unless they have an internal replacement, which very few organizations have.
I will mention that sometimes it isn’t what people say, it’s what they don’t say that matters. After a couple of responses from the San Francisco Bay Area, and a few I never received, I’m beginning to believe Brian Sabean might be right in Nutting’s focus.
I realize there are many who believe Sabean wants to remain in that area because of his kids, plus he has a new two-year deal, but there have been some recent coincidences that tend to suggest Sabean and Nutting could be talking. For now it’s only gossip because I can’t get it confirmed under or over the table, but that’s my point exactly.
seemingly all but eliminated as a candidate — Hunsicker and Rickey;
probably out — Garagiola and Jocketty;
still a possibility from names that have been mentioned in media circles — Sabean, Gillick, Solomon, LaCava, Greenberg, and Ryan.
John Van Benschoten has made six starts since being pushed back to AAA and has dominated the league with a 4-2 record, a 2.19 ERA, and .222 batting average allowed despite a continuation of his nibbling practices.
If I’ve stated it here once, I’ve stated it twenty times, JvB should have been put in the Pirates pen and forced to pitch in higher leverage situations while having a chance to work with Jim Colborn for the rest of the year.
Sending him to Indy working with Andrews isn’t going to get him past his Kip Wells impressions – he needs pro advice and he needs to be with the big club. Dave Littlefield and Brian Graham missed the boat with JvB in my opinion and I believe it’s going to come around and bite them in the butt with either an injury or having to open 2008 with JvB still an uncertainty.
Zach Duke made his second rehab start at Bradenton Monday and he tossed a few typical Duke innings. But after pitching his first career complete game May 2, 2006, while throwing a career high 119 pitches, Zach Duke just hasn’t been the same pitcher.
I’ve documented in the blog numerous reasons why Duke might be failing including ending the 2005 season having thrown +44 innings over 2004, to having Jim Colborn make him toss an unbelievable 39 pitch 4th inning against the Yankees March 18th in spring training this year.
But for now, let’s look Duke’s stats before and after his 119 pitch complete game:
7/2/05 – 5/2/06 5/7/06 – 6/28/07 number starts 20 45 record 10-4 11-20 innings pitched 123.2 269.2 earned runs allowed 32 152 ERA 2.33 5.07 hits per 9 innings 7.9 12.0 walks per 9 innings 2.8 2.5 strikeouts per 9 innings 5.7 4.3 pitches thrown 1880 4157 pitches for strikes 1177 2631 strike percentage 62.6% 63.3%
Two totally different animals – more than double the ERA despite about the same walk rate, fewer strikeouts, and 35% more hits per inning. Let’s face it, his arm was toast out of spring training this year and that probably led to his injury.
The Pirates might propose that better league scouting led to Duke’s demise, but I propose it was incompetent handling of Duke. More incompetency led to Duke throwing a 34 pitch 4th inning June 17th this year, having to toss two more innings after that, and then ultimately shutting him down 12 days later and put on the DL with elbow problems where he remains today.
The Pirates might as well call Dr. Andrews and get Duke’s surgery over with.. it’s just a matter of time history has shown us. See Mike Gonzalez and his health demise after he was asked by the Pirates to throw +29 in 2004 over 2003 – and he was a reliever throwing few innings which is way it probably took a while to come to light.
Considering there are seven starts remaining for the Pirate starters, and assuming each starter goes six innings, that’s another 42 innings of work from now to the end of the year. That means Maholm will be +26 innings or more which is a problem, and Gorzelanny will be +41 or more which is just plain wrong. Plus, JvB is already +108 and Bullington is +143, both of which are questionable at best coming off surgery rehab.
I keep stressing that monitoring pitch counts has become extremely important in the game today and I’m going to state here again that minimally JvB, Bullington, Duke, and Gorzelanny all be shut down immediately, and Maholm be put on at least a six-day, before any more damage is done to the organization’s future value.
Hello Mr. Nutting – are you there? Take control and protect your assets.
Longtime Pittsburgh Pirates fan Wilbur Miller recently posted a plea to Robert Nutting entitled "Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid, Bob" wherein Miller’s 10,285 characters outlined many of the reasons he is an understandably frustrated fan.
The bottom line theme to Miller’s essay was for Nutting to remove any blinders he may have on to see past what Miller describes as Littlefield’s continual spin on the value in the Pirates farm system.
It’s an intriguing read but left me wondering why Miller would waste his time composing such an essay when the Nuttings have been at the root of the problem at least the last four years.
For instance, in early 2003 Nutting was installed as the Chairman of the Board as the Nuttings were spending their capital buying limited partner shares left and right instead of infusing one-million into operations to keep someone called Aramis Ramirez for the balance of the year. No matter how we spin that wheel, the Nuttings allowed a significant hole to be blown open in the Pirates future by forcing one of their top prospects out.
And don’t ever forget that the Ramirez dump was two days after Littlefield took $3MM off the books trading Mike Williams, another $1MM plus was added to the Pirates bottom line when Jeff Suppan and Scott Sauerbeck were dealt to the Red Sox eight days later, and yet another $13.3MM in revenue sharing hit their accounts just after the first of the year – a figure they were certainly aware of before dumping Ramirez.
It’s no wonder McClatchy stated in May 2004: "We’re in great shape (financially) right now.”
Further, in the years preceding the Ramirez dump at least one Nutting was an owner when Kevin McClatchy begged the City of Pittsburgh to rewrite the terms of a 1985 twenty-million dollar URA loan he inherited in the initial purchase of the franchise in 1996. It wasn’t until after the City agreed to rework that loan, as well as hand the Pirates an additional $11.5MM in cash plus agreeing to the franchise holders they wouldn’t have to repay either loan unless the team was relocated before 2030, did the Nutting clan make their move for control.
After all, the debt due under those notes was quickly approaching one-third to one-half the value of the franchise and few of the limited partners were willing to stick their savings into a potential bankruptcy funnel.
So Robert Nutting himself was in a position to make a difference starting no later than July 2003 but refused to take any financial action to minimally avoid the dumping of Ramirez – a hole we have yet to be able to fill. Instead, the Nutting clan focused on increasing their personal portfolio and net worth.
From 2003 to 2006, when the initial ten-year partnership agreement ended, the Nuttings bought every partner out they could knowing the franchise would become a cash cow with little to no long-term debt. The question begging to be answered is, what exactly were the consequences within the organization from those Nuttings moves?
Why was Kris Benson and his $3MM contract dealt in July 2004? Why did Littlefield announce in November 2004 that the Pirates had to loosen their purse strings by dealing Jason Kendall saving the franchise another $15MM over three years when they received yet another $18MM in revenue sharing?
And what about the many rumors over the years, including:
– why the Pirates paid below league average rates for their scouts;
– why was the position of pitching rehab coordinator eliminated after the 2002 season;
– why there was there never a push for deeper Latin American player scouting and development; and
– who created the model Littlefield drafts under and what constraints has he truly had imposed on him by the ownership group?
Miller didn’t mention any of this in his essay but I feel it’s important because the average fan couldn’t possibly know how much Littlefield has been stung by the demands of McClatchy and the Nuttings over the years.
And for Miller to even assume Nutting has blinders on seems a bit unrealistic to me. I happen to believe nobody knows the intrinsic value of the franchise any better than Ogden and Robert Nutting do, nor do I believe for one second Robert Nutting is blind to the limited value and depth in his farm system.
By not knowing the constraints imposed on Littlefield, Miller assumes the GM’s paper record is a hit on Littlefield’s competency. I’m not so sure. I agree Littlefield hasn’t gotten the job done overall, but nobody can blame him specifically for the franchises current woes until someone comes out and acknowledges he has had total control.
Instead, Robert Nutting has been the man in control.
As Miller suggests, Littlefield would make an excellent clothes dryer with his spin cycle on steroids. But is he spinning for Nutting and McClatchy or does he honestly believe himself? That’s what we don’t know.
I believe Nutting allowed McClatchy to extend Littlefield’s contract through 2008 and Tracy and his group was hired to work through the same time period because Nutting appreciates the fact Littlefield has been the perfect corporate good ole boy – a YES man at heart. I don’t think Littlefield believes his own yarn but is willing to go front and center with it for the franchise.
Finally, Miller suggests that the only window of opportunity for the Pirates is 2009 because players like Bay, LaRoche, Sanchez, and Nady will be eligible for free agency after that year. I disagree with him on this point.
Miller seems to be buying into ‘we are poor’ mentality driven into the fan’s minds the last few years by the Pirates wonderfully potent PR department. While I won’t argue here whether or not it would be worth keeping any of these players, Nutting most certainly can afford to sign any player long term he wishes using the hordes of cash sitting in his bank vault since he has said it’s never been distributed.
Plus, while I do agree with Miller that the Pirates don’t have any impact players in the system beyond AAA at this point, what I don’t agree with him on is the carte blanche statement he made that:
"There isn’t a single prospect at Altoona, Lynchburg or Hickory who’s established himself as more than a possible backup at the major league level."
While I respect Miller’s deeply rooted knowledge of the Pirates farm system, I believe he has put his own blinders on because there are some possibilities like Shelby Ford, Brad Corley, Jason Delaney, Todd Redmond, and Jamie Romak, to mention just a few. I agree that we are lacking tools beyond AAA which is always a good barometer, but nobody can possibly predict the future.
Now Miller could easily argue none of these players project in any meaningful way because of a lack of tools, but even he can’t argue with the fact not every decent MLB player has a significant number of tools. Case in point is a 26th rounder by the name of Ian Snell who was developed.
I realize my position here comes across in support of David Littlefield in some ways, so let me make it perfectly clear – I want a die-hard Black-and-Gold GM with a proven scouting and development background to replace Littlefield just bad as Miller does, but I can’t condemn the man for all the failures without knowing more. The position has failed – the man might not have.
After all, Miller needs to realize the possibility exists that the next GM might become Nutting’s second generation YES man under a new YES man CEO because the only interest the Nuttings have shown so far is in their own personal financial gains.
Entering Sunday’s game, the Pirates bullpen over their last 22 personal appearances had a combined ERA of 0.69, had struckout one in four batters that came to the plate, and had allowed just 22 total bases, with half of them charged to Youman.
Now that’s filthy.
So when they finally imploded Sunday it wasn’t too much of a shock – they were long overdue considering six of the seven Pirates relievers entered Sunday’s game with a 0.00 ERA over the last seven days.
And as if to send Dave Littlefield a silent message, the Astros hero was none other than Ty Wigginton when he hammered Chacon’s first pitch into the left field bleachers in the 8th.
The Pirates had a couple of opportunities to put more runs on the board but choked under the two-out pressure.
Armas pitched a typical Armas game – all over the place, but his defense bailed him out several times like in the first when Bautista threw out Berkman at the plate for the third out. Later Castillo would see a Carlos Lee rocket go off his glove for a double that maybe Brooks Robinson would have gloved, but few other third baseman.
Phelps caught the game and I have to say did a decent job of framing and blocking for a guy who hasn’t had the mitt on too much. I wouldn’t exactly call him a backup catcher candidate, but he didn’t embarrass himself either. Think Craig Wilson behind the plate with a little more agility and a little less game management skill.
Making farm rounds, Dave Littlefield was in Indy Sunday watching Nyjer Morgan and Andrew McCutchen put on a show in the outfield. Morgan is 4 for 9 since coming back by the way.
One thing Littlefield didn’t get to see is Neil Walker’s glove at third since he was the designated hitter for the second time in ten days after arriving in AAA. I inquired with Indy if Walker was ok and I was told he was, so why Walker has sat on the pine 20% of the games after being promoted is beyond me. I suppose Littlefield needed to get a good look at Jose Hernandez for next year. Ughh..
A Pittsburgh Pirates blogger reported a rumor Sunday that the Pirates first round pick Daniel Moskos might need TJ surgery, but after I contacted the Pirates I found the rumor to be false.
I was BBQ’ing with a retired crosschecker today talking baseball and he pointed out to me something I didn’t realize.
Did you know the Pirates either drafted or controlled 20% of the top 20 qualified ERA leaders in the game today?
Yep — Chris Young who is #1 at 2.12, Oliver Perez who is #16 at 3.34, Tom Gorzelanny who is #19 at 3.40, and Jeremy Gutherie at #20 with a 3.46 ERA (drafted in the 3rd round in 2001 but the Pirates didn’t come up with enough money to persuade him to play).
Throw in Ian Snell at #40 in ERA, and the Pirates rotation this year could have been:
Young, Gorzelanny, Snell, Perez, and Guthrie.
Considering the Pirates General Manager gave away 2/5th’s of that rotation, if that doesn’t upset Robert Nutting knowing how much money he has lost because of it, I don’t know what possibly could. That is, if Nutting didn’t order the moves himself.
Word out of St. Petersburg is that the Devil Rays have not allowed Robert Nutting to speak to Collegeville, PA, resident Jerry Hunsicker yet so I assume he either isn’t in Nutting’s plans or the Rays aren’t about to let him go.
all but eliminated as a candidate — Hunsicker and Rickey;
probably out — Garagiola;
still a possibility from names that have been mentioned in media circles — Sabean, Gillick, Solomon, LaCava, Greenberg, and Ryan.