Saturday, May 06, 2006

Game 32: Pirates at Nats

The Bucs have won 8 games, and they have lost 23 games.

...update (Bones): Ramon Ortiz vs. Victor Santos. Doumit playing 1B. Bucs down 2-0 after one.


All hail the undefeated horse! Start the Triple Crown talk.

the Derby

Not so much hype this year for the Kentucky Derby. The Derby may be the best excuse - as if you'd need one - to start your day with a mint julep. Or middle your day. Or end your day.

I'm on Sweetnorthernsaint, the Kent Desormeaux horse, and Cause to Believe, the dog with the pink colors. I don't know shit about the horses this year, but I have been betting on Kent Desormeaux since the late 80s.

... just heard "My Old Kentucky Home" from the University of Louisville band. Derby on!

We don't need Oliver Perez

Jim Tracy tells Dejan Kovacevic in this morning's paper:

"We need Oliver Perez. We need him to be a good pitcher for us. I'm not going to sit here and suggest he has his head in a guillotine. We need to get him straightened out."

When Littlefield took over the job, he used to talk about "flexibility" and the need for the team to adapt as plans fail. Now it's all about, "We can only win if our #1 starter is left-handed and throws 95. We can only win if our clean-up hitter is a left-handed power hitter who can get the ball into PNC's short porch. We can only win if our leadoff hitter is Omar Moreno Jr. We can only win if Mike Gonzalez develops into Eric Gagne. We can only win with good infield defense."

They have been too wedded to a plan with too many details. Enough with the ultimatums, and go back, I say, to the emphasis on flexibility. Maybe the Pirates can only win the 2006 World Series if Oliver Perez becomes Randy Johnson. I can understand looking at the team this way in January or February. You place your bets, you go for broke, whatever. But guess what: it's May. The team has yet to win its tenth game. And Oliver Perez did not become Randy Johnson. Time to scrap the inflexible thinking and more freely shuffle the deck. Why does Oliver Perez deserve such special treatment? It's demoralizing and dysfunctional to keep talking like he's the future of the team.

Right now, the Bucs must find five or six starters worth building around. Oliver Perez looks like he couldn't get outs at AAA. Time to demote him and move on. Don't make a big deal about it; just do it. The train has to leave the station at some point. Hasta luego, Ollie.

Cosmetic changes

"What's happened is just unacceptable ... (the signings of veteran free agents) hasn't been working," Glass said. "Cosmetic changes don't help. We're going to have to figure out how to change the direction the team has gone this year. We've got to do something more significant than cosmetic changes."

Ouch. Although I wonder why he cares so much about the Bucs, I appreciate Glass taking the time to lambaste DL and the Pirates. I'd just hate to hear him rant about his sorry Royals.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Game 31: Pirates at Nationals

Zachary Day and Ollie doesn't bumaye.

... nice lineup tonight, at least. I wonder if Freddy can get on base in the first and third for us.

What next for Oliver Perez? Another dozen starts? Demotion? Bullpen?

Doumit at first

I still say the Pirates' top priority has to be sorting the starters into guys we keep and build around, guys we keep for now, guys we trade, and guys we move to the bullpen. So all hail Ronny Paulino as the starting catcher. If Doumit's lousy game-calling has anything to do with some struggles, the Bucs need to eliminate that variable from the equation. Play him at first, sure. Even if Burnitz starts having a great season, he still needs regular rest.

The Duffy in leadoff experiment continues to be a counterproductive failure. If our rotation was full of known quantities - veterans of predictable performance - then I could see how this would be a priority. Right now, it's counterproductive. You can't begin the game with an automatic out. It reduces your chance of scoring in the first, and it reduces your chance of getting an early lead. And we always want an early lead if we are bent on evaluating young starters.

Duffy is an out machine. In his last 50 PAs, he has 12 Ks and a .291 OBP. Stop the madness. Bat him eighth. Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez should bat one and two, or two and one.

If Tracy tries to do too much, he risks doing nothing.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Game 29: Pirates at Mets

The Bucs remain mind-numbingly, improbably bad, with an 8-20 record. If they can go 22-10 in the next 32, they match last year's accomplishment of 30-30 after 60.

I like seeing the Pirates play the Mets because historically, I think, we always whup up on the Mets, even when we are bad and they are good. That's how I remember it at least. We have Ian Snell; they have Pedro Martinez. Seven o'clock eastern. If the Pirates trail after one inning, I turn the game off.

This is a good defense mechanism for Pirates fans to have. 75% or more of the games in which they trail after one go badly in the next eight innings. Discretion is the better part of valor. The fan who runs, lives to cheer another day. The fan who punishes himself, soon finds a new hobby.

Honus and Me

So why does a play about Wagner have to be family fare?

It is 1917. The team's record is 9-19, and they are in New York to face the Giants. 43-year-old Honus now mans first base. He no longer threatens pitchers, and he's surrounded with a cast of inept kids. The team's top slugger, Will Fischer, finishes the year with 3 home runs and a .376 SLG. The Pirates are headed toward a 51-103 season.

The curtain rises to reveal a group of angry fans gathered in a saloon. One fan reads aloud the astoundingly bad news about the Pirates from the newspaper. The others swear a lot. The bartender is very, very busy.

I don't know where we go with it, but it's ugly.


In light of details such as those leading the Q & A, is it possible that our players are throwing these games as part of a league-wide conspiracy to force the owners to sell?

Contrary to the opinion of Bones, I don't believe our players are that much less talented than those on most of the other teams around the league. Yet they have an abysmally low winning percentage. Bad luck alone cannot explain this. It's as if they are shaving points.

Anyone else suspect some player anger with our owners has more than a little to do with their embarrassing performance on the field?

I'm not saying I am convinced this is the case. Far from it. But I do wonder if there wasn't something funny going on in the locker room during the first few weeks of April.

...forgot to mention the other data points that made me suspect the players were out to embarrass the owners: Ty Wigginton and Chris Shelton.

Maybe I just have to come over to the side that says our players are that much worse and ungifted genetically.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Game 28: Pirates at Cubs

The Bucs posted a lead for Zach Duke, and he's rode that thing into the seventh. Pirates 8, Cubs 0, in the bottom of the seventh.

... Holy cow, Zach Duke: 77 pitches in seven innings. He . . . could . . . go . . . all . . . the . . . way.

Get these young pitchers a lead, and good things happen. Duke has only one K, so we know he's putting the ball where they can hit it -- a little bit. Freddy Sanchez looks like a pro hitting third. Chris Duffy has gone 1-for-4 but, most important, he got on and scored in the first inning. He can go 1-for-6 as the leadoff guy, for all I care, provided he gets that first hit in the first inning. Right now we need early leads more than anything.

Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero

On Sunday, I picked up a copy of David Maraniss's new book. I have not read a word of it yet. But I will say, it is a beautiful book. They even got the color of the cloth right.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Game 27: Pirates at Cubs

You are sitting in Wrigley field, listening to Victor Santos and Sean Marshall warming up. Thanks to your new second eyepatch, you can't see a damn thing. It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

NFL draft, Day 2

All hail more new Steelers:

Rd. 4:
Willie Colon, G, Hofstra, "top sleeper"
Orien Harris, DT, Miami (FL), "quick and powerful", looks real mean
Rd. 5:
Omar Jacobs, QB, Bowling Green, "cannon for an arm"
Charles Davis, TE, Purdue, "natural athlete" and "huge target"
Rd. 6:
Marvin Philip, C, Cal, "agile...powerful drive blocker"
Rd. 7:
Cedric Humes, TB, Virginia Tech, "honest runner", "big upside as a power back. Has a powerful frame to run over tacklers while taking no prisoners once he squares his shoulders. He runs with a crouched style, getting full use of his fine lower-body strength to move the pile and gain the tough yardage."

Great draft. Cowher and Colbert were grinning ear-to-ear yesterday, and are likely even more proud of themselves now. Do you think Colbert and DL have ever had a conversation? If so, what would they say to each other?

Game 26: Phillies at Pirates

Gavin Floyd vs. Ollie. Bucs are down 4-0 after 2 1/2. Ollie is getting hit hard.

NFL Draft, Day 1

All hail the new Steelers:

Rd. 1: Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio St.
Rd. 3: Anthony Smith, S, Syracuse
Rd. 3: Willie Reid, WR, Florida St.

Hats off to Kevin Colbert and Cowher for pulling off the unlikely. Starting with the 32nd pick, they somehow managed to trade up to get the top WR in the draft who was projected by most to go in the top 15 picks. Brilliant as usual.

At first, I was a little confused over Smith and Reid. The Steelers had Smith as the fourth-best S, in front of Ko Simpson and Darnell Bing. Knocks on these other guys include Bing being a poor tackler and Ko being old. I trust Colbert and Cowher's judgement for whatever reason. Reid looks fast and skilled, with the only knock I've seen against him so far is that he's smallish. I'm guessing that usually Reid will return punts and Holmes will return kickoffs.

Six picks left in rounds 4-7. What do we need? RB, C, DE, more OL and DBs? A third string QB? Maybe not, as Tim Couch worked out Thursday in Pittsburgh (via Ryan).