How often can you say that?
Saturday, March 12, 2005
For the PG, Paul Meyer reports on the difference between two bad performances. Ollie was not so effective last spring. He can screw around all he wants this month. Don't downgrade him or worry unless he talks about feeling somewhat injured. Vogelsong had his velocity but no command. I sure hope we don't have to use him before he's ready--if that time ever comes.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Enjoyed Ed Eagle's focus on Spin Williams this morning.
True or false: the Bucs should have more coaches. On the one hand, all the players are young and need instruction. Some of the praise lavished on Jose Mesa amounted to thanking him for reminding them to tie their shoelaces. It made me wonder (as did some of the recent reports on Santiago) if it really made sense to pay so much money for player-coaches if a large part of the rationale for their hiring comes from the fact that they coach. Why not hire more coaches?
On the other hand, too many cooks spoil the broth. And perhaps the last thing some of the players want is more coaching. Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.
Paul Meyer has the news on Kip. Hopefully there's no undue soreness or pain today and/or tomorrow.
I still wonder if he's throwing all his pitches. Spin says all Kip's stuff was plus but what exactly is all his stuff right now? Fastball - slider - change? We hear detailed information about a pitcher's arsenal, for example, when he's using some "new pitch" in an attempt to revive a sagging career. Sometimes we learn that so-and-so's fastball is 86-88 when it used to be 91-92 five years ago.
But fastballs and velocity are not the whole of the story. I'd like to know more about how our different starters are progressing this spring with each pitch in their repetoire. Who is throwing the best curveball? Who is throwing with sick command? I would appreciate more detail like that.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
For the TR Joe Rutter reports that McLouth could get an extra look with Bay out:
Nate McLouth, who is ticketed for Class AAA Indianapolis, could get a longer look in camp. Ben Grieve, who hasn't exactly displayed Gold Glove defense this spring, but is 5 for 9 with two doubles at the plate, also could see more action in left.
"I'd be hard-pressed to say I'm impressed with what (Grieve) has been doing in the outfield," McClendon said. "He's got to play better there, obviously. We're going to take a look at him. He's gotten some big hits so far."
Defense was my first concern with this guy. With Lawton having a weaker arm, Craig Wilson still learning the position, and the possibility of Jason Bay getting on-the-job training in center, defense should make a difference. With Bay out and time opening up for McLouth, now I wonder if losing Bay for some period of time wouldn't also hurt Daryle Ward's chances. He's no great fielder and he only pushes Wilson into full-time outfield duty. Maybe the team has to carry at least one corner outfielder who is above-average in the field--especially for left-field in PNC.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
The AP recaps the running for the fifth starter spot. No Zach Duke? No Albie Lopez? According to that report, it's Williams, Vogelsong, or Ritchie.
Craig Wilson gave a "Happy 140th Birthday" cake to Benito Santiago. Details at the end of that report and here in a report for MLB.com by Ed Eagle.
Dejan Kovacevic devotes more than half the Q & A to going over the contract hullabaloo and coaching us on how to respond to it. I'm more and more of the opinion that this was none of our business. Players and owners poison the well when they go to the fans with their problems. Don't ask us to help you accomplish your business goals. This isn't politics, and neither the players nor the owners serve themselves by going to the fans like we have some responsibility to write to our Congressman and get so-and-so a raise or so-and-so a new CBA.
Baseball is an escape for the fans. We go to the park or tune into the game to get away, mometarily, from the duties and responsibilities and circumstances of our lives. We may be perfectly happy people with full lives; everyone needs that downtime in the stadium. Ask the fans to shoulder some responsibility for the labor problems or the payroll disparity and you accomplish nothing. It's like asking families to pick up garbage at the State Park before they enjoy their own picnic. It won't happen and it drives the fans away.
This has to be fun or it doesn't work.
The final paragraph of Kovacevic's column shows the letters are wearing on him. Send the man some jokes. His patience has worn thin. If he didn't have such high expectations of us, perhaps he wouldn't be so disappointed.
Not everyone has the time or the inclination to revise their rants so they are not so hyperbolic or bitter. And besides, if you watch much television or listen to much talk radio - even sports talk radio - then you can understand why most people would think that hyperbolic and bitter sounds smart and impressive.
My guess is that the problem he's experiencing with the fans is not one that has much of anything to do with the Pirates. Rather he's seeing how the average person writes about a subject he cherishes but never has enough time to enjoy properly. I bet if DK talked to other beat writers doing regular Q & A assignments, he'd find that fans everywhere are pretty much the same.
I'm not buying his line of argument, which he often repeats, that Pirate fans are especially bitter or angry, in part because he seems to mention that like it's a shot across the bow of management. It's true they are on thin ice. It's true that all the enthusiasm the team appeared to be building a month or two ago could disappear overnight. But I don't think there's anything unusual in the fact that most letters from fans adopt an exaggerated sarcasm or striking bitterness. That's the level of public discourse these days, on almost all matters.
From yesterday, Brian O'Neill's Stats Geek. Who is this DeBlank?
There's always a chance one of the C-grade pitching prospects will emerge as an ace. Remember what John Sickels wrote about Ollie about a week ago. It's nothing to take to the bank, but the Bucs are loaded with C-grade pitching prospects.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
AP report here. Sounds like no big deal. People are going to get hurt. It's part of the game.
One thought about the release of J.R. House. Set aside the question of whether or not the big-leaguers "earn" their dough. I think they do, but that's not the question. The big-league minimum is still a lot of dough. For what they were going to pay House, the Bucs could hire eight secretaries to sit on their ass and do nothing but throw pencils at the ceiling. Or they could hire two pediatricians. Or they could hire three lawyers. Or they could hire a University president and two professors of statistics. Or they could skip the president and hire like twenty-five graduate students in statistics and have them model projection systems. Or they could make a movie starring the GM of a team that hasn't had a winning season in a decade, and put it on HBO. It's a lot of dough. Just because some teams spend $100M on their payrolls, that doesn't make 300K funny money. 300K goes a long way if spent wisely.
Given that Littlefield was, shall we say, pretty skeptical that House could make the team before the surgery, it's no surprise the team cut House after the surgery showed more damage than they expected to find.
Paul Meyer reports that Kip, Ollie, and Jack are better today than they were yesterday. Joe Rutter focusses on Kip.
Meyer also notes that Sanchez appears scheduled for Abe Nunez's job and not for AAA. He's 27.
Monday, March 07, 2005
This is a Phillies item, but a good one. Donald Bostrom of the Morning Call asked the Phillies about the jobs they've had before baseball. I was under the impression that more of the American players were like Mike Lieberthal and never had another job. A bunch of them worked as umpires in Little League. The South American players, on the other hand, have some real stories.
I'd be interested to see a similar feature on the Pirates. Pittsburgh fans get pretty surly when the players behave like prima donnas. I guess the players have dug some share of ditches in their past, too.
Clay sends this link to Ken Rosenthal's rumor rag:
The A's and Pirates scouted each other last week, preparing for a trade that could send OF Eric Byrnes to Pittsburgh, possibly for RHP Ian Snell. The A's, however, still would prefer to trade Byrnes to the Mets in a three-way deal that would land them Astros 2B Chris Burke, with the Astros acquiring the Mets' Mike Cameron to play center field. The A's already have Mark Ellis, Keith Ginter and Marco Scutaro at second, but GM Billy Beane has been fixated on Burke ever since the infielder was at the University of Tennessee.
Burke is 25, older than our own Jose Castillo, but widely regarded as a good prospect still. My guess is that John Perrotto's inside dope is more fresh. See the link a little down the page.
John Perrotto's notebook catches up with J.R. House.
Perrotto also has some trade dope:
Rumors and rumblings
The Pirates' chances of trading for Oakland outfielder Eric Brynes appear all but dead since the Athletics are holding out for left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez. Oakland is said to have more interest in dealing for New York Mets outfielder Mike Cameron, a player the Pirates have also inquired about.
Word from Arizona is that the Chicago Cubs have at least some interest in possibly trading rookie outfielder Jason Dubois for Pirates closer Jose Mesa. However, that deal doesn't seem likely to happen.
We can't trade Coach Mesa! Torres and Gonzalez won't do their long-toss every day.
John Perrotto reports the stiffness is in Kip's elbow, not his forearm. Either way, odds are the two problems - the earlier elbow trouble and whatever aims him now - are related.
Guy Junker has some for the Tribune-Review.
Jack Wilson got off to a hot start in 2004, but remember how he was slowed by a sore shoulder in March? The strength loss sounds like a more serious problem, sure, but there's time still for him to do some more recovery.
"Art Ditmar [sic] throws," he said. "There's a swing and a high fly ball going deep to left. This may do it! Back to the wall goes [Yogi] Berra! It is . . . over the fence, home run, the Pirates win! Ladies and gentlemen, Mazeroski has hit a one-nothing pitch over the left field fence at Forbes Field to win the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates!"
Ed Eagle reports McClendon may hit Castillo seventh this year. Lineups don't matter a whole lot when it comes to run-scoring. As long as your better hitters are in the top six spots, I don't think it makes a huge difference who bats where. Obviously leadoff and number-two hitters have to have special skills or confidence hitting in those spots, so you go with who does it well. The eight spot, however, is a place where hitters generally rot. Having the pitcher on deck does not give the eight hitter much chance to drive a ball in the early innings. Since a lot depends on Castillo improving this year, I like the idea of moving him up a spot. It's time to see if he can hit as we hope and somewhat expect.
Ed Eagle has the battle raging here.
This is one of the old, tried-and-true Spring Training stories: who will be the fifth starter?
Both Williams and Vogelsong will probably start for us in 2005. I recommend not focussing on who is winning the horse race but on how many of these fifth-starter candidates are pitching well. In the end it doesn't matter if one pitches better than the other so much as it matters if both can pitch well enough to keep the Pirates in a ballgame.
Here's a version of the Ben-got-booed for lacking "competitive fire" story from Ed Eagle. Ben Grieve is an interesting character. Former rookie of the year, never really learned to hit left-handers, wouldn't take steroids, won't argue called third strikes, checks his fly before every at-bat.
A little stiff, Paul Meyer reports.
That's not good news, of course.
Sometimes the dread "forearm stiffness" anticipates a season-ending injury. Reds "closer-in-waiting" Ryan Wagner was shut down last year with stiffness in his forearm which turned out to be tendinitis. Kevin Appier was shut down last year after having trouble with his forearm. Bobby Howry's 2004 season ended after a DL stint with the stiffness de forearm.
Sometimes it characterizes the ever-injured, such as Wilson Alvarez, who has had his shutdowns with tight forearms.
So which is it ... maimed, brittle, or no big deal? Tune in next week. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel ...
Get well, Kip. We need you big guy.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
One thing that bothered me the most about the Jack Wilson/Josh Fogg media event was the fact that it was a media event. The PG ran a photo of Jack standing at a podium with mikes and so forth. They weren't off-the-cuff remarks. It was an attempt by these players - two captains of the team, formally or informally - to do a little stump-speaking. I'm not sure what they expecting to accomplish. Or who they addressing. Fogg is the team's union rep so it's more or less his job to be like that on demand, but even still it's hard to see what he hoped to accomplish.
Who were they talking to? The fans? Should a 23-year-old player with one good year on his resume make as much as ... I don't even want to get into how much teachers, firefighters, and heart surgeons make. As should be clear, that was not a good debate to seed among your fans, Jack. Win a championship - heck, win 81 games - and maybe we can try that one again with better luck. Or maybe not.
Were they talking to the reporters? If it's important for the beat writers to know that the players think management is stingy, why go on the record?
Were they talking to their fellow players, around the league, or to the players in the Pirates' minor-league system? Again you wonder why they would go to the media to communicate this information.
Maybe they weren't thinking. That appears to be Jack Wilson's defense in this essay for the Tribune-Review.
We all win some and lose some. Jack lost that one, I think. It's no big deal--unless he loses the next one. It's behind us as soon as there's some better story to dwell on. How about Jack Wilson posts .375 OBP in April?
If they players want to get rich, more power to them. But let them not forget that winning is surest path to a big payday. If Ollie wants to hire Brink's Cash in Transit services to toodle around with the mega-bones, he better pitch well in some playoff games. You need that to get the mad money.