Friday, May 13, 2005

Game 35: Brewers at Pirates

The Bucs might have an extra day to think about Friday's loss, if the rain comes and stays. It would be ironic to have Umbrella Day rained out.

Game 34: Brewers at Pirates

7:05pm. Chris Capuano and Kip Wells. Hopefully Kip avoids the fastball when pitching to Russell Branyan.

This is a big series with the Pirates looking up at the Brewers. We also have the two hottest teams in the NL Central. The weather for the weekend bears watching, too.

Expected to dangle Mesa

Today the Chicago Sun-Times, reviewing the sadness that is the Cubs' bullpen, informs us:

Getting a quality closer in a trade won't happen before late June. And by then, there will be long lines in front of the few teams willing to deal. The Pittsburgh Pirates are expected to dangle closer Jose Mesa, but they won't get serious until right before the July 31 trade deadline.
Why are the Bucs expected to dangle Mesa? My guess is this: every year, in recent memory, the Bucs have dangled someone and thus turned July into the end of the season. Pirate fans have been somewhat cool with that since the Steelers start play in August. We will cooperate, more or less, with end-it-in-July gambits.

But not this year, I hope. We're stuffed to the gills with prospects. If anything, I'd like to see the Bucs trade not for prospects but for one of the arb-eligible guys teams often want to deal to make room for some hotshot minor-leaguer.

We know the team is about $5M under budget for the 2005 payroll. The GM swore he wasn't going to use that money on anything but the 2005 team. Bucco bloggers and off-season internet-talking fans were generally pleased when he failed to "blow" that money on what we regarded as bottom-of-the-barrel free agents like Jeromy Burnitz, Juan Encarnacion, and Charles Johnson. The Bucs should target a guy like Lyle Overbay. Not Overbay - we don't want to help out an NL Central rival - but someone like that, who has proven he can play at a high level, who stands to be dumped by his team because he'll make fairly large raises in arbitration.

Who should we deal to acquire players at the deadline? Prospects. Pitching prospects. We don't need all those young guys. If we deal one or two to get a legitimate starter for the rest of '05 and '06 - someone with a much more impressive resume than Ty Wigginton had when we acquired him - we will still have a lot of pitching prospects. And since they are lousy percentage plays, it would help to diversify the teams' holdings. Young pitchers are high-risk, high-reward holdings; we need a low-risk, high-reward player. He will be relatively well paid, but we can afford it.

One other thing about dealing Mesa: has he not sworn up and down that he would retire if the Pirates trade him? I expect we will continue to see beat reporters for other clubs proceeding with the assumption that the Bucs will be eager to deal anyone who is good and making more than minimum. If Littlefield plays his cards right, he could pull off a national PR coup with a dramatic appearance on the trading market as a buyer. I root for such things because I think the Bucs will sell out more home games when they have another team that makes the playoffs two or three years in a row. As the Cubs will tell you, there are bargains to be had in late July, and the Bucs are poised to take advantage.


Throwing well, according to this big report from Paul Meyer.

Coach Perry

Dejan Kovacevic dissertates on Gerald Perry, the Bucs' hitting coach.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

21 home runs in May

Bucs lead the league in homers this month (didn't stop the Sacramento Bee from calling them "the toothpick factory.") That and other causes for rational and/or irrational exuberance in Dejan Kovacevic's recap of last night's game.

FWIW, last year the Bucs also started 15-18. And were in last place for the effort. I said it before, I'll say it again. If the team is under .500, it doesn't matter what "place" they are in, unless it is first place. Under .500 sucks.

And I may be wrong about this, but it remains my conviction or superstition that it's harder to win games when you are above .500 than it is when you are below .500. The Bucs tore through three opponents on one of those west-coast road trips that, historically, have been tough on them. If you wake this morning in San Francisco and read the paper, you don't read about how great those Bucs are playing. You read about how your team is in a terrible funk and lost to the Pirates. At some point your reputation precedes you and teams get up for their series with you. The Brewers know better. Otherwise the Bucs remain well below the radar for the rest of the league. Until they pull up over the .500 mark, no one will and no one should pay them much respect.

Craig Stansberry

Paul Meyer writes up his promotion to Altoona.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bucs add Restovich

Story here. (Thanks, Wilbur.)

Welcome to the land of opportunity, Michael.

Game 33: Pirates at Giants

Hooraw hooray, a game today. First pitch in thirty minutes. Josh Fogg and Noah Lowry. Sadler in left. Here's hoping he gets his first hit today.

The season is 20% over. The Bucs have rebounded somewhat from a miserable start. A few more wins and they'll be in position to make the next sixteen games of real significance. What looked like a somewhat-easy homestand, months ago, now looks tough. The Cardinals remain the cream of the NL Central but the Brewers will be a big challenge.

Anyway, the focus is now, as always. I'd like to see them knock around the Giants this afternoon.

On the Nuttings

John Perrotto summarizes the anti-Nuttings movement. I'm surprised to learn that Richard Mathews has come out against the Nuttings because I've long associated him with this editorial he wrote last year. If he's joined the movement, I wonder if the Nuttings have any supporters among the fan base.

I'm all for whatever works. I don't care who owns the team. I just want the team to win when I go to the ballpark, watch on TV, or listen on the radio. Hell, right now, I just want them to win half their games, which strikes me as an eminently reasonable desire.

But I can't get too wrapped up in chasing shadows. As I've written before, I think the onus of losing has to rest mainly on the players we've had. Talent is not some god-given magic power. The best players are the ones who work to be the best. And work harder to stay the best. Maybe the odds are longer for some of our guys than they are for others, but I doubt it. The players own the fate of the team. You guys can hate on G. Ogden Nutting, I'll hate on Derek Bell when the urge to hate grabs hold of me.

...oops, link changed. I can't find Mathews' pro-Ogden editorial.

Tony Pena resigns

Story here. I wonder if he has talked to Lloyd McClendon this season.

Perez hurt

Let's hope his labrum is OK. I don't know what else to say there.

Who's next for the fifth starter job? With Ollie out, a promotion must be in order.

Q & A time

Dejan Kovacevic has some good stuff today.

The 2006 lineup poll results surprise me. Folks put way too much stock in unproven players, I think. I'm not a fan of "proven veterans," but there's a big difference between a promising 25-year-old just off a promising 350-at-bat season in the big leagues and a promising 25-year-old just off a promising full-season at AA. Duffy, Eldred, McLouth, Koonce: I'll believe it when I see it. Let's not count chickens before they hatch.

Game 32: Bucs won

Missed it. What happened?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Game 31: Pirates at Giants

Game starts 10:15pm. Mark Redman and Brett Tomko. Jose Mesa and Omar Vizquel.

Construction worker

Dejan Kovacevic notes the appearance of Sadler yesterday. Willie Randolph got some mindless love for instituting a dress code for the Mets when they travel. Has McClendon done the same thing? I'm just curious.

My fashion tip for McClendon: wear the glasses in the dugout. With those close-set eyes, he can look quite pop-eyed when he glares at the field. I'd do more to cultivate that cool Joe Liggins look. Umpires might show less of a hair trigger on the disrespectful comment retaliation.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Sixteen runs

This was a nice thing to do for the mothers everywhere.

The Bucs gallop up to 114 runs, stepping past the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland Athletics. And they are tied for third place for another day.

The third place does not impress me. When you're under .500, it doesn't matter where you are in the standings, you still have nothing to crow about.

What does impress, though, is seeing the Bucs round into form and looking kinda tough. If the season (162 games) can be compared to a ten-round boxing match, the Bucs (played 30 games) are still standing at the end of the second round. And they are getting in a few good licks as they ready the bell.

Only six teams in the National League are over .500 on the road this year. The Bucs are one of those teams. Off to San Francisco to finish round two with a quick three-game set.

Game 30: Pirates at Diamondbacks

The loss of Craig Wilson, just as he was beginning to hit, is not good. You hate to miss the good part of the streakiness. The Bucs call up Ray Sadler, a guy they got for Kenny Lofton Sausage Boy in the summer of the Aramis trade. He once had good PECOTA comps. Now they include George Foster, Joe Rudi, Larry Herndon, Felipe Alou, and Ruben Mateo. Sadler was hitting .291 with 31 doubles, 6 homers and 42 RBI at Class AA West Tennessee when we got him two years ago. Not sure what he's done since. Maybe he'll do something with this opportunity. Or maybe not. Whatever.

Any news on Santiago? Nothing on the wire. Adios Benito, we barely knew you.

Happy Mother's Day

Enjoy the day, ladies and gentlemen, and don't forget to call your mommies.