Friday, May 19, 2006

Game 42: Pirates at Indians

Down by three after one. Duke and Sabathia.

... wow, that was a 102-pitch, 77-strike complete game for Sabathia.


Arroyo may be guilty of violating the "professional" code of conduct most ballplayers honor. But you know what, I don't care.

When did baseball players become "professional" in the sense that part of their job is maintaining the code of honor that distinguishes the nobility from the rabble? Jack Wilson sounds like he would challenge Bronson Arroyo to a duel, if that was still legal.

Ballplayers are not "professionals" in the old-fashioned sense of lawyers and clergymen. There is no long history of this. Baseball players are "pros" because they do something that other people do for fun. And get paid. Guys that get paid a little are "semi-pro" players.

I couldn't give a rat's ass about "professionalism" in a baseball context. I want the baseball team to win games.

I applaud Jack Wilson's outstanding dedication this off-season. I've always been a fan of Jack Wilson, and I've never said a bad word about his play. And of course I applaud the gentlemanly off-field behavior of players like Jack Wilson.

But that's not why I'm a fan. I do not follow the team because I hope the players will put on a tuxedo and give money to charity. Does anyone?

So I wonder: did Jack bust his ass this offseason because he wants to be a better player and win games? Or did he bust his ass this offesason because he is a "professional"? There's a huge difference, I think.

If Jack Wilson thinks of himself as a "professional" in the same sense that, say, a journalist might, then of course it's laudable that he's a student and a steward of the history and standards of his discipline. All hail respect for the game. But this only gets you into SABR. Get the journal, Jack. Go on eBay and collect memorabilia to donate to the Honus Wagner Museum.

We're not all into this way of appreciating the game. Thank god. Without some irrational, unprofessional passion, baseball would lose about 98% of its fan base.

So I'm not impressed with the professionalism angle on the Arroyo-Wilson war of words. Not at all. Arroyo may be a punk and a jackass, but he's a winner. And Jack Wilson may be a man of principle and integrity, but he's a loser. Duh -- look at the standings. And losers don't bitch to the fans about the way the winners part their hair, starch their shirts, or phrase their correspondence.

That's how I see it.

The season has gotten incredibly tiresome. I'm sure that, were players to read blogs, their attitude would probably be, "You're not having a good time, so why don't you find another hobby." Maybe I'll take that advice.

The Pirates are just not worth the attention these days.


Joe Rutter goes long with the continuing Arroyo quotes:

"I felt like I was embarrassed to get behind 4-1 early in a game like that," said Arroyo, who joined the Reds in a spring training trade with the Boston Red Sox. "It's not a secret. They don't have a bunch of All-Stars in that lineup. They had seven righties up there, which is tailor-made for me. I was embarrassed to be beaten by those guys.

"That's not to say you can't be beat on any given day, but I thought it was a horse (crap) outing, especially against a team like that. I mean, they are one of the weakest teams in baseball. That's just the way it is. If I gave up four runs in six innings to the Yankees, I probably wouldn't be embarrassed, but I was."

Arroyo played for the Pirates from 2000-02. He said Wednesday he felt no pressure pitching in Pittsburgh for the first time since his departure.

"If I can't stand on the mound and feel comfortable against that lineup, then something's wrong with me," he said.

Jack Wilson:

"What he said was very disrespectful," shortstop Jack Wilson said. "When you're out on the field, you respect everything. You respect the game, you respect your players and you respect the other team's players. To come out and say that, especially against your former teammates, guys who've played with you, it's more disrespectful."

Shut up, Jack. Your team is 13-28. You don't open your mouth and talk like you deserve respect when you are 13-28.

People often accuse the Pirates' front office of acting like they can make a respectable living with 75-win teams. Now we see the players getting in on that act.

Pitches to hit

Kovacevic got to the bottom of the mysterious Jose-for-Craig switcheroo. Jose is "getting pitches to hit, but he's fouling them off," Tracy said.

. . . So, is Craig Wilson a drunk? Was he, like, not able to play today?

Did the Reds ever bench Wily Mo Pena against a lefty?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

On Duffy

Rotoworld reports the Duffy story this way:

Duffy thinks the Pirates set him up for failure by changing his approach at the plate during spring training and then having him share time with Nate McLouth right from the start.

I feel for the kid; if that's how he sees the situation, he must have all kinds of problems.

I saw it the other way. He never looked qualified in spring, yet they kept giving him chances, and for whatever reason certain members of the broadcast crew were determined to report a glass that was a one-quarter full as one-quarter full of "a guy who plays the game right" - as if that would be enough to make him an eventual All-Star.

Duffy looked like the second coming of Tike Redman. Could he hit a hollow .300 and steal a bunch of bases over half a season? Sure. The odds of much better never looked great.

I don't know what all went on between Tracy and Duffy, but I never had any problem with Tracy adjusting Duffy's approach. It's not like Duffy was ever a great hitting prospect. I saw it more as, "Kid, if you want to be a big-leaguer, you can't totally suck."

What stunned me was not that it didn't work, but that they gave Duffy so many chances. And stacked the deck in his favor by starting his main competition, Nate McLouth, against all the pitchers most brutal for hitters like Duffy.

All this "I got your back," "You don't got my back," "I stand up for my guys," "You don't stand up for me" stuff is dysfunctional macho bullshit. Duffy is not justified calling out his coaches the same way that Tracy is not justified with his undying support statements for Jeromy Burnitz.

The team is fifteen games under .500 in mid-May. No one has any right to complain about playing time, and no one has any right to act like they know better. Every single one of those guys bears some responsibility for this disaster, and any one with a shred of honor will shut up and not complain if his ass is fired tomorrow.

They all deserve to have their major-league careers ended, tomorrow, the way I see it. Duffy shouldn't act like he deserves better. Tracy shouldn't act like he knows what he's doing.

Some humility is in order here, yes?

Fifteen games under

So they found a way to lose after that big lead.

I thought that lineup looked suspicious . . . .

Game 40: Reds at Pirates

Dave Williams and Victor Santos. Bautista in center, Jack Wilson at short, Sanchez at third, hitting one through three. Jose Hernandez at first base. He's been anemic against righties for years. And mediocre against lefties. But to sit Craig Wilson, a veritable lefty-masher, suggests that someone is shaving points. Who's making a fortune betting against the Pirates, and why does he have so much influence over Jim Tracy? Inquiring minds want to know.

...oh, maybe you start Jose Hernandez, let him do his good D in the first inning to help Santos escape and give the mates a chance to give him a lead. Then you pinch-hit for him, subbing in Craiggers, on Jose's first at-bat? That would be brilliant!

...Tracy is smarter than I thought! After Jason Bay's first-inning grand slam, we surely can afford a day of rest for Craig Wilson and a day of defense for Jose Hernandez. I didn't see it coming, so I apologize and retract my earlier remarks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Game 39: Reds at Pirates

Ollie looks to keep his rotation spot vs. Bronson Arroyo. Bucs down 1-0 in the middle of the first. Ollie loaded the bases to start the game but escaped only giving up a run. The red-hot Jeromy Burnitz is hitting fifth again.

Joe Randa - what to do

Activate him and bench him. No more no less. Tracy should play the hot hand. Let Joe put on a pinch-hitting clinic. Bautista should get plenty of time at third, since he is the third baseman for next year. If/when he scuffles a bit, put Joe in there. If Joe breaks out of the gate like Barbaro, leave him in there.

The key to getting the most out of a roster like this is flexibility.

go all Huizenga

Good Q & A this week.

Pirates thump Reds

Nice box. Burnitz comes to life. Jose Bautista looks like a leadoff hitter - six walks to five strikeouts in 27 at-bats.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Game 38: Reds at Pirates

Aaron Harang and Paul Maholm. Seven o'clock.

All hail Craig Wilson

Apparently our Stats Geek has gotten some funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to apply the new math. This was a good idea. The result is something like the adjust-stats-for-scoreboard fantasy that haunts my uh, moments of clarity. Read the whole thing and do not rely on my summary here.

Lately I've suspected that some of the players have done better than others in mop-up time. Just as you don't take seriously a running back's 100-yard second half when his team trailed by four touchdowns all the way, so I think we should not take seriously the whole bunch of basehits this guy or that guy collects when the team is down 8-0. Scuffy Moehler is throwing the ball right over the plate, aiming for bats.

Because I still remember Wilson's start to the 2005 season, I still have something of a grudge against him, and I would have guessed he's the one who has most padded his stats in garbage time. O contrair. He is in fact our most clutch guy. Sorry I doubted you, Craig. All hail Craig!

So who's been living high on the hit-this fastball? Freddy Sanchez. As Brian O'Neill writes:

The only WPA that shocked me was a negative 60 for Freddy Sanchez. He's hitting .319 with a .356 on-base average and .511 slugging average and he has done a good job cashing in limited RBI opportunities. But a scan of his games shows he has done most of his best work in early innings or blowouts such as Sunday's loss, when hits hardly move the odds needle. If Sanchez keeps hitting, his WPA should improve.

This WPA looks like an excellent stat. I will pay more attention to it.

The only thing that concerns me is that WPA appears to belittle the value of the early innings. Note how O'Neill writes "in early innings" like they don't "move the needle." Pshaw! No innings are more important. Teams that get a lead tend to keep the lead. Early scoring is the surest way to often winning.

Maybe the WPA can fund some more studies to clear up this flaw. I recommend they give the money to Brian O'Neill.

And all hail Freddy Sanchez for moving the needle in the early innings.

The higher you go up

Andrew McCutcheon in Pete Iorizzo's special to the PG:

"The pitching is more accurate than in the Gulf Coast League. Really, the higher you go up, I believe the easier it is to hit."

All hail the next hitter to blame his slump on the opposing pitchers. "I'm fine. If those pitchers will get the ball over the plate, I'll have three hits tomorrow."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ryan Shealy

If the Rockies are ready to trade Ryan Shealy, the Pirates should get in on the bidding. Sean Casey, though great, has never had the health to suggest he's a long-term option for us at first base.

Exhibition games

Rather than a hall-of-fame game, I'd rather see the Pirates take on a lady's softball team, as they did in the old days.

The highlight of the [1899] camp for some was the exhibition played against the "Bloomer Girls," a barnstorming, all-female baseball club which had just arrived from a West Coast tour. In what was reportedly the first game between a National League ballclub and a team of women, the latter fared poorly, dropping the game by an estimated score of 47-14. The male fans were unusually well-prepared for the spectacle. According to one account, the "the bald heads in the audience used opera glasses to a man with deadly effect." (64)

That's Arthur D. Hittner again. Here Hittner describes another exhibition played in 1900:

With a five-day break in the schedule, the club prepared for a constumed "field day" exhibition on October 5. The program was modeled after the players' benefit staged in Louisville two years earlier. Like its predecessor, the show was "a howling success." Wagner appeared in traditional German garb puffing a long pipe. Fred Ely "played the ballet girl to perfection" and Rube Waddell was "in his element" as Uncle Sam. (82)
In the baseball game played in the middle of this field day, Wagner played shortstop for the first time in his career. Afterwards, he caught the greased pig and won the long-distance baseball throw contest by heaving one 388 feet.

If there's no greased pig at the Hall of Fame game, I'm not interested.

Too coachable

Chris Duffy chalks up his demotion to his being "too coachable." That's a good one.

Kevin McClatchy

McClatchy's comments to the Tribune-Review, especially the one about tuning out the criticism of not local people, got me thinking. The notion that the owner can ignore the wishes of non-local fans to better serve local fans - who are often the parents, friends, grandparents or siblings of non-local fans - is too absurd for analysis. He must regret that remark today.

Kevin McClatchy clearly feels the heat of criticism, but he probably does not experience it much first-hand. The rich live in a world of smiling servants and fawning employees. That's just a fact. Remember this story from the USA Today. No doubt McClatchy lives in one of those "Lake Wobegon worlds" where "every dinner or lunch partner," and all the various servants, are "above average in their deference."

Locally, I doubt he gets much else than sympathy. The valet parking boy, returning his keys, does not say, "On my blog, I predicted this Burnitz signing would be a disaster. Who's the moron who suggested it?" And no doubt most employees reassure him, daily, that it's mainly bad luck the Pirates have experienced.

So that would be the "local" world for him. And he concentrates on it now. His immediate circle tells him it's OK, it's not his fault. Maybe he cannot take the heat that he senses outside his bubble. That's lame. Complaints about civility and courtesy are always superficial and self-deluding, especially from men of high station. They fail to address the circumstances which have provoked otherwise good and reasonable people to intemperate language.

Note I'm just speculating. I have no idea what goes on in the world of Kevin McClatchy. Maybe the waitress in his favorite IHOP calls him, daily, a two-faced liar who embezzles the funds of season-ticket holders. I just don't know. But this is one way to make sense of otherwise unreasonable comments from him.

Drunk Monkeys

Rough day for Pirates fans. The Trib sniffs McClatchy's ass, the Bucs go down 8-0 after two en route to loss #27, Tracy-fave Mike Edwards is called up (not before Duffy complains about Tracy), and Charlie delivers a disturbing interview with a Dodgers blogger on Jim Tracy. Meanwhile, Burnitz snubs Breast Cancer awareness by shunning enjoyed his new pink bat. Happy freaking Mother's Day.

The only consolation I can suggest is ... Drunk Monkeys! "It was not unusual to see some of the monkeys stumble and fall, sway, and vomit."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

McClatchy lies again

My two cents on today's stinkbomb from McClatchy:

First off, I'm pissed, as it sounds like that %#$* @!&% hasn't been reading my mail. Then there's this quote:

"My only thing with Mark is ... since I've been in sports, it doesn't matter if it's baseball or basketball, there's always been sort of a professional courtesy given to other owners. You all know that what you do is difficult, so you don't criticize each other."
That's funny. KM has forgotten about his rant to DK last winter:
"I think, as we go toward a new agreement, there's going to have to be some form of constraint because these guys can't control themselves," he said. "I know it sounds a little harsh, and I'm criticizing my other owners, but that's the way it is. I'm tired of other people affecting the marketplace and making it more challenging for small-market teams."
Or maybe he's just a bold-faced liar. Which would dampen any enthusiasm we should have over him saying "I don't think I'll own the team in 15 or 20 years".

Anyone know if there's any truth behind Smizik's rumor from last week that "Kevin McClatchy has hinted he might want to sell after the All-Star Game"?

Show me the courtesy

Kevin McClatchy speaks.

If you live out of town, you are not allowed to comment on this article. I don't care if drive up from DC three times a year to attend a game, purchase hats from, or shell out several hundred a year to watch the team on satellite TV. You aren't part of the Pirate community, as far as McClatchy's concerned. So no comments, you hear?

The next time you want to complain about the team, you carpetbagging complainers, take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself: what kind of loser am I?

I swear, writing letters from Kansas City! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Game 37: Fish at Pirates

Ian Snell and game on.