Steelers trail 7-0 early in the first quarter as Batch drives down downfield.
A number of interesting bits in Dejan Kovacevic's notebook. Half-angry Pirate guy is making fewer appearances in the team literature.
Nate McLouth made the most of his 2007 playing time.
I'm up now watching Game 1 of the 1979 World Series. The Bucs are down 5-1. Ballplayers were all about tight pants, spectacles, and mustaches in 1979. They had some adorable wives. And Dave Parker was the highest-paid player in all baseball.
Honus the Alpaca was sold this year to Ozark Mountain Alpacas, who know him and boast that he's ready and willing, for a $2500 stud fee. The camelid offers "the complete package," his new owners remind us. He demonstrates "what everyone is looking for in a breeding male . . . density, fineness, consistency in crimp, good bone density and strength, and the presence that calls attention to him." And there's more. He's also won another prize since our last update.
Way to go, Honus!
There has not been much new reading material featuring a fresh angle on the longstanding problem that's been the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's been this way for a while, actually. The question of whether or not the new management can accomplish much under the same-old ownership group is going to take a year or more to sift.
It does look, however, like they are once again making the choice to not spend money this off-season. Given the available talent, it may or may not be a wise decision. I find it hard to get excited about the possible return of Shawn Chacon. I suppose it would be good for one set of running jokes. But like a lot of Pirate fans, I could use some new running jokes. The old ones, born of frustration and humiliation, are losing the bright, shiny, amusing luster they once had.
Both Bob Smizik's chat and Dejan Kovacevic's Q & A repeat what appears to be the developing consensus: the change in management means little as ownership continues to take what must be substantial profits. And it may be 2009 before we have enough data to firmly believe these.
In other news, Jose Castillo is a worthless bum. Good riddance I say. Whether or not he ever plays well for another team reflects only on Jose Castillo. The Pirates gave him plenty of opportunity and, from what I could gather, sufficiently sound advice for self-improvement.
And no, the Steelers should not be resting people or going into the game with a half-assed plan that compromises the desire to win with some desire to curl into a fetal position and not get hurt. If players are too hurt to play, they obviously should not play. But the healthy players should all be in there. The Steelers have looked pretty mediocre in the second half, and they need to practice winning games before the playoffs begin.
Dejan Kovacevic explains the Pirates will bid on Johnny Estrada.
There's a lot of talk in that article about his hitting, but I want to know if he can catch the ball. For example, if someone throws the ball from the outfield to Johnny Estrada, while guys are running around the bases, will Estrada catch the ball? Also, there are other times when the catcher needs to catch the ball. If Estrada won't catch the ball, I don't see how he could be an upgrade over Ronny Ballgame.
I also wonder if Estrada is adept at reading signs communicated from the dugout. Because while I'd prefer to see him start (if he will catch the ball), there's no sense abandoning the advantage of Ronny's Paul Lo Duca-like feel for things that instantaneously pop up during an at-bat and his definitive understanding of how to carry out an at-bat. So if Estrada is good with Paulino calling the game from the dugout, things could work out--so long, of course, as Ronny could keep that feel for the at-bat while not behind the plate trying to catch the ball.
On one hand, I could see how it would be hard to focus and get a feel for things popping up if you are in the dugout. On the other hand, I could see how it might free the mind from distractions if you are not trying to catch the ball. So it would be an experiment.
Dejan Kovacevic reports not a lot of worry about the 2008 bullpen.
I'm of the opinion that you line up five or seven guys who could start right away. Put four on the big-league club. The rest go to Indy, take turns, and wait. Then you get six to eight guys who may not have the repertoire or health to start. You put a few of these guys on the club as long relievers, and you put a few guys on the club as set-up men or late-inning people. The one-to-three out specialists become your closers. The manager more or less rides the hot hand until some performance-determined hierarchy emerges. Some schmucks have all the luck; some studs have all the pain. There's no predicting that the Pirates cannot get good late-inning performance from some one to three of Burnett, JVB, Bullington, Osoria, Bayliss, Romulo!, Perez, Taubenheim, Barthmaier, and Dumatrait.
So if I ran the circus, I'd trade Grabow and Marte for position-player prospects. The young starters might whine about there being "no one" to preserve their Ws. To that kind of whining, I would scowl. I would remind them that they could get more outs from their 110 pitches. They have to become more efficient if they want to get better anyway.
The distinguished closer and set-up ranks are full of one-pitch bulldogs and failed or fragile starters. The current roster of no-name pitchers may not inspire confident bullpen construction, but if you give these guys the opportunity, I would trust that a few of them will turn in solid work.
The Steelers should take Brady out back and really jump him. That's what it's about. This guy needs to know what it is to play the game wrong and how important it is to get sacked a lot. It's not going to be a slack deal. It won't be tolerated. But it will be handled in a way to try to get the best possible results out of Najeh because he's a good player. (post inspired by John Russell via Dejan).
Dejan Kovacevic has a bunch of them.
It sounds like the Indians came to question Ronny Ballgame's health, which I find incredible. I wonder if the Pirates sufficiently emphasized his ability to call games.
My favorite part of today's Kovacevic is the correction issued by Salomon Torres. It's buried, scroll to the bottom to find it.
Dejan Kovacevic reports this morning that late last night, the Indians and the Pirates resumed talks, perhaps in response to the Cabrera trade, centering on Ronny Ballgame.
The Indians want him, it appears, and for outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, catcher Kelly Shoppach, and perhaps Cliff Lee, the Indians will get Ronny Paulino. The deal also hinges on the Pirates including Jason Bay.
Nate McLouth may or may not be the "it" boy of the offseason trade conversations.
I wouldn't want Jason Bay if I was the Cleveland Indians. His knees are all crickety and he has that nasty Canadian attitude. No, I'd leave him in the Burgh. Nothing to see here ...
Dejan Kovacevic reports that Neal Huntington is high on Jose Bautista.
I'd have the same attitude. There are more urgent problems for sure.
The same report describes Ronny Paulino as insufficiently hungry. I'm not sure that's a good message to send. What is it--is he out of shape, physically and mentally, or does he need to be more hungry?
There are better metaphors to improve a work ethic. I wouldn't tell the slow-moving, apathetic catcher to work on his "hunger."
The St. Louis Dispatch reports that it is Izturis who will bat ninth for La Russa. This makes it more doubtful that the Pirates will trade Jack Wilson.
The Kuwata signing must have forced St. Louis's hand. With the Japanese master coming to Altoona or Indy, Izturis was the only Dandy House veteran on the market.
Dejan Kovacevic reports:
Reliever Masumi Kuwata, who made 19 appearances for the Pirates last year and considered retirement after posting a 9.43 ERA, has informed general manager Neal Huntington he would like to return to the team next season. Kuwata is flying from Japan to the United States for a medical exam early next week. He is willing to take a one-year, minor-league contract, as he did last season.Is there a Dandy House in Indy?
Dejan Kovacevic is back and he writes about potentially "outrageous" prices for Bay or Wilson in trade.
He also remarks that a Bay or a Wilson trade would not be popular with the fans. He knows better than me. Still, I doubt it. There aren't too many fans left, so I guess he could ask for a show of hands. That would answer the question pretty decisively--assuming he can get the attention of all five fans.
Whatever happens, too, cannot be called a "rebuilding." When is the last time the team was "built"? I would say they are not rebuilding but starting from scratch.
Kovacevic also notes that the Pirates might send Castillo after Phelps.
Ken Davidoff writes that the Mets would trade youth for a catcher and pitcher. He must have written this before he had his morning cup of coffee, for Ronny Paulino is nowhere mentioned as someone the Mets surely covet.
It had me wondering, though, if the new bosses might trade one of Snell or Gorzelanny. Either player should fetch a great deal in minor-league talent. The wisdom of such a decision depends on whether or not one thinks the Pirates will contend soon. It also depends on one's opinion of young starting pitchers as building blocks. The example of Oakland's once-famed trio still comes to mind. Are they the best thing to collect, or is their inherent volatility - the greater risk of performance-impairing injury - something that would make you eager, as a GM, to trade them high?
We all know how Littlefield would answer this question, but what will Huntington do? Any idea how he'd define a "solid core" about which to build?
The Pirates have to improve their offense to get anywhere. I don't know how that happens quickly if they will not sign expensive free agents. If they intend to grow the talent, that could take many years. Who on this roster would still be here when they finally harvest enough home-grown hitting talent?
Dom Cosentino profiles Philly guy Frank Coonelly for one of the Philadelphia newspapers contributing to the phillyburbs website.
Besides the fact that Coonelly has eyes that mainly stay open, and not closed, the article contains other interesting news such as:
Coonelly said he had been approached with other opportunities by other teams in the past, eventually taking himself out of consideration. He decided to join the Pirates now, he said, because Nutting has been working to get the organization's financial house in order in recent years — the key element to begin re-building the Pirates in the model of the Cleveland Indians, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, three playoff teams whose payrolls are similar to a small market like Pittsburgh's.
“It can be done,” Coonelly said. “We can't afford the most expensive free-agent pitcher on the market, but we can succeed by taking that money and putting it into scouting and development.”
How will the Pirates spend "that money" on scouting and development? It appears to me that they are starting from scratch, so I am interested to see how this will happen.
The AP reports that Huntington has hired Larry Corrigan away from the Twins. His strengths are talent evaluation and player development.
I'm scratching my head over this one. Why would the Pirates need help in these departments? I guess Bob Nutting is made of money these days.
Last week, Dan Szymborski posted ZiPS projections for the 2008 Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates have five players poised to hit better than a league-average
catcher (~720 OPS) centerfielder (~785 OPS): Bay, Doumit, and the three first basemen. Ian Snell eats more innings than Matt Morris, and Romulo! lives large with a 5.92 ERA.
The Steelers' game does not start until tonight, so we can all go back to bed and sleep late.
Elsewhere in the AFC North, the Ravens play in Buffalo, and the Bungles host the Jets. The Browns are on bye. All of Cleveland can focus on the team's third and last chance to win a game and go to the World Series.
NH- Huzzah for all the pink slips. Keep 'em coming. A few friendly unsolicited suggestions on talking to reporters and keeping it honest:
1. Avoid using the word "struggle" in the first person for four consecutive sentences, like you did to Paul Meyer:
"I think ethically I struggle with that," Huntington said. "An individual's involved in a playoff run, it's probably one of the most exciting times of their lives, and I struggle with trying to distract them. I struggle with pulling them out of that environment. I struggle with that step in the process."This just makes it sound like you're, uh, struggling. A lot. There will be more worthy struggles than the ethics of when to pester other teams.
2. Avoid describing 28 year olds as "young kids", as Jenifer Langosch quotes:
"I think Kevin is a young kid with a lot of pop in his bat who will bring great depth to our Minor League system"Kevin Thompson is a man. Maybe a young man. Definitely not a young kid. Also, avoid suggesting that one man could possibly bring "great depth" to the wasteland of Creechlings. Or, if the quote is inaccurate, sternly reprimand whoever's responsible and/or work more pink slip magic.
So when we are not sleeping here at HW HQ, we are drinking beer and wine and listening to the blues.
Is there a better blues album than Junior Wells' Hoodoo Man Blues? This is a serious question. The answer I think is no. Some may be as good, but none are better.
So what else is there to do, besides watch the Indians beat up on the hapless Red Sox?
Information executive Neal Huntington incrementally rebuilds the Pirates, reports Tom King for the Nashua Telegraph. One pink slip at a time, we'll get through this. All hail the new GM!
Meanwhile, John Perrotto suggests that Boston pitching coach John Farrell, ex-Florida pitching coach Rick Kranitz, and Colorado scout Dave Holliday are candidates for the manager, pitching coach, and scouting director jobs, respectively.
Cleveland AAA manager Torey Lovullo is a top candidate for new manager, reports John Perrotto.
If he gets the Pirates' job, Lovullo should have some pull to bring some top classic country-western acts to PNC Park. His father, Sam, was the executive producer of the television variety show Hee Haw for 25 years.The Hee Haw acts could run between innings to break up the Benny Hill music.
(Scene: the unemployment line. A content Jim Tracy and his staff stand in place.)
T-bone (holding Post-Gazette): Trace, Dejan wrote a long piece about you today.
Tracy: Is the manager of the 2004 NL West Champions intrigued? Yes.
T-bone (skimming aloud):
Before Tracy had donned a Pirates uniform, in the winter of 2006, he met with center fielder Chris Duffy and told Duffy he should play like Dave Roberts, the Dodgers' leadoff man ... Tracy told shortstop Jack Wilson, a three-time runner-up for the Gold Glove, that he did not like his approach to ground balls, that it should be more like Cesar Izturis of the 2004 Dodgers ... Jose Castillo was told to be like Adrian Beltre. Bench players were told to be versatile like Jose Hernandez, who also was acquired.Manto: That's pretty messed up. Your obsession with the '04 Dodgers seems hurtful and kind of pathological. Is this why you always tell me to look and act like Tim Wallach?
Tracy: Look, Tim, is it wrong for a man to project the greatness of a division champion onto a group of lesser men in hopes that the latter would in essence realize that projection? No.
Cox (laughing): And then Ronny says to me "Coach, I don't practice catching throws from the outfield?" And I say "Ronny, I need to know these things."
T-bone (reading aloud): Paulino never was seen addressing that play in an on-field workout all summer.
Colborn: Damn, Ronny dropped a lot of balls.
Tracy: Lo Duca had only three errors all year.
Cuellar: Look, DL is way the hell up there in line! Man, he looks tired, like he's been standing for awhile.
Tracy (smiling): Our general manager was terrific. (Cranes his neck and spots DL far off in the distance) They should get him a chair. If our GM stands too long, you take the legs away from him, and in essence you've lost the GM.
Decision today "doubtful", by Dejan Kovacevic. Tracy and his staff continue to wait and talk.
Manto: Any word yet, boss?
Tracy: Has our manager received any communication from our new general manager regarding our employment status? I'm not saying that.
Cox (laughing): What the #*@! is taking so long?
Tracy: Does the commissioner of major league baseball want an announcement made during the series of October games once played by myself and Cesar in 2004? No. Does our new general manager need more time? Yes.
Cuellar: Sounds like there's gonna be a big shake-up. (reading from the Post-Gazette): Huntington confirmed that his announcement could involve more than just the manager and coaching staff. "There is a series of decisions to be made," he said. "Is there a possibility that other personnel could be involved there? Yes." (laughs out loud) Trace, he's interviewing himself, just like you!
T-bone (whispering to Manto): Uh oh, maybe Neal is infected.
Tracy: If the manager is intrigued by "a series of decisions", which in this particular case, it would appear that the answer to that question is yes, than the "series of decisions" intrigues the manager.
Colborn: Tell 'em, Trace.
Manto: Go on, skipper.
Tracy: Of course our new GM needs more time. Is this man going to come in and rashly decide all of our fates, or by his action bring about the events indicative of how that action might come to be with regard to the coaching staff? No.
No decision still, Dejan Kovacevic reports. No discussions between upper management and Tracy and his staff since Monday, leaving them to sit around and talk amongst themselves:
Tracy: We have some people who, resume-wise, wouldn't be suggesting that we have some guys in that lineup that are doing what they're doing right now offensively.
Manto: Like Ronny Ballgame.
Tracy: I've used the words 'consummate professional' about this guy. I've used the term 'warrior.' We've seen all of that here. For two years he was basically the guy. Maybe not on paper, but as the year unfolded and you went out there between the lines and played your 162, he in essence was the guy for two years.
Tracy: He can really catch. He can really throw. And he really cares.
Cuellar: Uh huh.
Tracy: I think we realize exactly what it is we have to do. I also think redundancy time after time gets to the point where you've heard it before and don't want to continue to hear it. You just want to go out there and do it.
Manto: Damn straight.
Cox: Nady's hammy is barking.
Tracy: Hamstrings are a very tricky thing. This one is very tricky due to the individual because if you push the envelope too quickly and you take his legs away from him, you've in essence lost a player.
Colborn: C'mon, Trace, we're done. We failed.
Tracy: We didn't fail. We just didn't succeed as much as we'd have liked. (long pause) If we get beat, it's because the opposition went out and beat us.
Cox (laughing): Maybe you should've gotten thrown out a few more times.
Tracy: For what reason? For being ejected for what you don't feel, due to the action that took place, is indicative of the fact of action that's solely the player? I saw things out of the ordinary out there.
Manto: So will we still get paid?
Tracy: Why should this year be any different? Because it's the last year of the contract? So what? If I had two years, would there be any more job security? What difference does it make?
Colborn: Neal and Frank didn't ask about our philosophies. We will be canned.
Tracy: You always try to create the best scenario, but if that's not completely available, we won't use it as an excuse. The uneasy part is that decision-making on the other side is fairly simple.
Decision by Friday, Dejan Kovacevic reports. So far, Frank and Neal have mostly only asked Tracy and his staff questions about player evaluations. I imagine this wrapping up something like:
Huntington: Jose Castillo.
Tracy: Big, powerful-looking, big man.
Huntington: Anything else?
Tracy: Real big. Not as nimble as Cesar. Now there's a player for you, Cesar Izturis. Even before I coached Cesar to win the division in 2004 - this isn't my first rodeo, you know? - I knew I'd found my #2 hitter. Offensively, he does a lot of hitting. Soft hands too, that Cesar. Does the man carry himself in every way like a big league baseball player? Yes. Does the man truly understand every facet of how this game is played? Yes. Is he versatile enough to play every infield position? Yes. Could he pitch in middle relief? I don't know.
Huntington: Please let me ask you the questions, Jim. (turning to staff): Anything else?
Colborn: I don't really pay attention to velocity with anyone. You just gotta stand up straight. Like Shawn.
Manto (with marker, at white board): So you see, [(R+RBI)-HR]/games played = "runs produced". It's as important as on-base percentage or any of your "nu skool" numbers.
Cox (laughing while raspily wheezing): Armas never told me he didn't slide!
Coonelly (stands up and stretches): OK, guys, let's call it a night.
Ed Creech will likely be relieved of his duties, Dejan Kovacevic reports:
Two team sources said that, although general manager Neal Huntington has just begun his new job, the evaluations of Creech's work from upper management -- including ownership -- are negative enough that he is a virtual lock to be replaced.
Somehow or other, the 49ers are 2-0 as they step into Heinz Field this afternoon. They are led by Akili Smith (??), who I thought would be playing in the CFL this year. And - here is the craziest part - former Vice President Al Gore (?!) starts at running back. He'll try to be the first player to rush for 100 yards against the Steelers since the early days of the Cowher era. Call me overconfident--I think the Steelers can stuff this guy, no problem.
Fire up the Jimmy Psihoulis and Bill Yeager.
We'll know soon enough. I'd have more energy to focus on this GM search if I could get over the suspense involved with the Pirates attaining their 67th win. You could call this excitement, my way of maintaining the integrity of the game.
The Post-Gazette's Paul Meyer relates some speculation:
There was some speculation yesterday that the Pirates could have a short interview list and could make the announcement about a new general manager Monday, an off-day for the team before it begins its final homestand of the season Tuesday.Meyer throws Logan White's name into the mix. Any short list would seem to include at least LaCava, Zduriencik, and Bernazard (but not Amaro, who Meyer suggests will be named Astros GM shortly). Another candidate for Bucs GM could be Mike Rizzo, who Meyer reported has interest in the job (read Vlad's bio of Rizzo at Bucs Dugout here).
Tim Marchman of the New York Sun likes the Coonelly hire:
One doesn't have to like the idea of quasi-collusion to admit that the most likely explanation here is simply that Coonelly, a powerful and effective baseball man, has agreed to try and turn around perhaps the game's least effective franchise.
Morris and Wandy Rodriguez starting soon.
Frank Coonelly in uniform. He'll stand in as the first-base coach. He'll help Ronny call the game, he'll steal the signs, he'll high-five all the players rounding first, and he'll try not to mix it up with the umpire calling the balls and the strikes.
New CEO Frank Coonelly boarded the team bus and introduced himself, mlb.com's Jenifer Langosch reports:
"He came on the bus and said hi before he left and wanted to show his face and meet everybody," outfielder Jason Bay said. "He said that he was going to be around more early on, to feel his way around."How could the CEO in charge of day-to-day operations of the franchise never meet the franchise player?
Contrastingly, Bay said he has never met outgoing team CEO Kevin McClatchy.
UPDATE: sludgeworm found this nice picture of Bay and McClatchy chatting from an earlier story (by Jenifer Langosch).
So says Paul Meyer.
After the general manager is hired, that person and Coonelly will take a hard look at people employed by the Pirates.My gut feeling is that Frank will find more not good people than good people.
"I have a lot of contacts within the game who know who's good and who's not good and I've already begun that process," Coonelly said. "... We will figure out who the people are who are going to help us move forward and who the people are who have been holding this organization back."
Today the Pirates will officially announce Frank Coonelly (pronounced COON-lee) as their new CEO, the P-G's Paul Meyer reports.
The Trib's Rob Biertempfel has a nice pro-Coonelly piece with quotes from Keith Law and an agent:
One prominent agent who has sat across the table from Coonelly during hearings described him as intense, shrewd and well organized.I'm willing to give Coonelly a chance, at least until he announces his new GM. All hail the new CEO!
"He's a barracuda," the agent said. "Very aggressive. He's not just throwing stuff at the wall to see if it sticks. He does his homework. In that regard, he's a great choice for the Pirates."
Perrotto's list. Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News claims that Ruben Amaro Jr. might be the frontrunner. Paul Meyer suggests that the 30-year-old D'backs Assistant GM and former director of baseball operations for the Red Sox Peter Woodfork is also a candidate. From the Arizona Republic:
"Woodfork has carved out an expertise in all matters financial and technical, including arbitration, contracts and the fine print in roster shuffling. But he says he still has a lot to learn, including honing his player-evaluation skills.Doesn't sound like the proven talent evaluator that Cory wants to see.
"It's definitely something I'm going to need to improve on in my game," he said.
On Coonelly, don't miss Pat.
I'm fine with a Bean Counter CEO. Expert Bean Counter who loudly and nastily argues? Better yet. If, and only if, there's a Baseball Guy who can evaluate talent as new GM.
In what might be -- as sludge suggests -- a Grimm Tribune moment, Ken Rosenthal proclaims that Nutting will make the "phenomenal" choice of Frank Coonelly for CEO. Link here.
Paul Meyer hedges for the Post-Gazette.
Vlad jumps the gun -- the fat ladies have not sung in the Pirates' front office. (They are not fat, I'm sure, but very beautiful ... I mean this rhetorically.) Do read his post, however, and click on those crazy links he dug up on
Zip "he's a larned skoller" Frank Coonelly.
Get in the pool:
FREE PigPool at Pigskin.com.
poolname: Honest Wagner Pick 'em Pool
If you did this in years past, you're still in the pool and you can simply login and make your picks. For more info, see Rowdy's post from last year.
The Trib's Rob Biertempfel reports on Pirates prospects, with a few zingers added by BP's Kevin Goldstein.
Under "mixed results", the summary at the end lists: Yoslan Herrera, Jonah Bayliss ("The skinny: Spring training success might have been a mirage"), Brad Lincoln, and Pedro Powell. Although Powell hit only .241/.320/.304 in his second full year at Lynchburg, this profile by mlb.com's Lisa Winston reports:
Powell was slowly but surely starting to learn how to play the "little man's game."
Don't expect all of the Indy call-ups to start regularly. Jim Tracy (via mlb.com):
"You don't foresee a lot of days where you are going to have the liberty to run four or five guys out there -- who were playing baseball in Triple-A or Double-A -- in a big league game," Tracy said. "You need to protect the integrity of the game and your situation in relation to the other competitors that you're playing against."I'd hate to see what Pirates baseball without integrity would look like.
After more than six years with Littlefield at the helm, there isn’t a single position player on the major league roster who was originally signed under Littlefield.Don't drink it, Bob. Please. (Links via Bucs Dugout.)
Romulo! Sanchez recalled from Altoona to take Sully's place, Dejan Kovacevic reports. Not joining him on the DL is Nady, despite having a torn hammy. Nady will fight for DL's job in PH situations. Torres will have company around the buzzsaw in the trainer's room:
Duffy has had rotator cuff damage for two years and is considering surgery.
Second round pick Duke Welker was shut down due to arm pain, Dejan reported last week.
Paul Meyer on Bob Nutting's top-secret CEO hunt, this time with no huge picture.
Didn't like this part:
And one National League front-office person thinks that, at the end of the day, Littlefield -- whose contract runs through 2008 -- could remain the team's general manager.Dejan mentioned that Nutting approved of the Morris trade in part because Nutting liked Matt Morris as a pitcher. As for Cesar, although he's not a good baseball player, he brings other things to the table.
"Why else do you allow him to take on $15 million for next season at the trading deadline [July 31] if he isn't coming back?" that person said, referring to the $9.5 million owed to pitcher Matt Morris and the $5.45 million club option for shortstop Cesar Izturis in 2008.
Nutting says new CEO will be Baseball Guy, Paul Meyer reports. (Warning: superhuge picture of Bob Nutting precedes story in above link). Crossing off Bill Nutting and Bean Counter, today's new CEO Odds are:
Dan Duquette: 3:1
Walt Jocketty: 5:1
Joe Garagiola, Jr.: 20:1
Chuck Greenberg: 20:1
Other Baseball Guy: 3:1
Dave Littlefield: zero
Pirates CEO candidate Dan Duquette has met with Bob Nutting, the BCT's John Perrotto reports. For no other reason, Dan becomes the early favorite in today's HW CEO Odds:
Dan Duquette: 3:1
Bill Nutting: 4:1
Chuck Greenberg: 4:1
Joe Garagiola, Jr.: 10:1
Walt Jocketty: 50:1
Bean Counter: even
Baseball Guy: 3:2
George W. Bush: 1,000,000:1
Mark Cuban: 10,000,000:1
Dave Littlefield: zero
Is Dan Duquette evil, stupid, or neither? Who's missing from the list?
Durbin and Gorzelanny at seven.
Durbin has been in the bullpen, and he's not expected to go too many innings tonight.
Coming off a shutout, Gorzelanny is due to get bombed. I'm hoping he's better than that, but I've developed that expectation over the years. It seems to me that a lot of starters get blown out in starts after the All-Star game and starts after complete-game shutouts.
Dejan Kovacevic's P-G notebook has something to say about Littlefield's contract extension, Jack Wilson clearing waivers, and that prospect guy who wanted "$10 million and a major-league contract." (The nerve of that guy ... thinking the Pirates have $10M in payroll to throw away.)
Ronny did a good job catching the ball last night. From Dejan Kovacevic's Post-Gazette recap:
Ortmeier was between Bautista and Paulino at home plate, and the throw would have to go inside the runner.
"I was expecting it to come to the other side," Paulino said.
Because of that, Paulino had to dramatically change his glove position to backhand the ball and, as he did, Ortmeier was beginning a hook-slide to elude him.
But Paulino, as he had earlier in the game on a similar play at the plate, swept his tag and banged Ortmeier in the back of the helmet.
"All I tried to do was to find a way to get the ball to Ronny," Bautista said. "He made the better half of the play."
The view from the other dugout was half-and-half in that record.
"That was a heck of a play, and it ended up being the ballgame," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "Their third baseman did a heck of a job to get to the ball and make the throw, and the catcher made a really good tag."
. . .
For Paulino, that tag and the previous one- on Ryan Doumit's excellent throw from right field that gunned down Pedro Feliz in the second -- might have represented vindication for a catcher who has struggled all season with plays at the plate.
"Give credit to our catcher," Tracy said. "He had a terrific game."
Unlike Paulino, Matt Morris did not play well, except, in my opinion, for the part when his veteranosity induced a double play after beguiling the Giant hitters with seven consecutive balls. "That's not how I pitch," he said.
This does not start for about four hours, but I am already drinking beer and tailgating somewhat around the old radio.
Matt Morris and Russ Ortiz tonight.
Tonight it's part two in the ongoing series, "Is Matt Morris a better bet, going forward, than freely available low-cost pitching?"
Morris was tagged for four earned runs in his last start, so he's still looking for his first quality start as a Pirate.
Paul Maholm and Byung-Hyun Kim in fifteen minutes.
Kim has made 14 starts this year. He's averaged 5.64 innings per start. He's gotten 8.05 strikeouts per 9 innings to 6.39 walks, 7.69 hits, and 1.30 home runs. He's earning $2.5M this year as the option year after a one-year, $1.5M contract signed with the Rockies before the 2006 season.
For those of you who read the previous comment thread, Matt Morris has made 22 starts this year. He's averaging 6.5 innings per start. He's gotten 4.84 strikeouts per 9 innings for 2.52 walks, 10.76 hits, and 0.75 home runs. He's making $10M this year as part of a three-year, $27M contract signed with the Giants before the 2006 season.
Paul Maholm has made 22 starts for the Pirates this year. He's averaging 6.27 innings per start. He's gotten 5.28 strikeouts per nine innings to show for his nine-innings averages of 2.54 walks, 9.52 hits, and 1.11 home runs. He's making 403K in this, his third year of major-league ball.
John Perrotto is still scratching his head over the Morris deal.
On one hand, I suppose there is a lot of head to scratch.
On the other hand, the rationale behind the trade looks clear enough to me. The same kind of bad things we might predict about Morris's future performance could also be said about the future of Jeff Suppan.
It is crazy that reliable starters command so much money. It is crazy, too, that pre-arb players make so little. But that is the way it is these days.
A starter was, I think, a need and not a want. And when you need something, you cannot complain persuasively about the price. This is especially true if you get what you need for less than the going rate. And I think that, in the Morris deal, the Pirates acquired a veteran starter for much less than they would have paid in the off-season free agent market. After all, they were able to acquire his expensive skills for only 1 1/2 or (if they pick up his option) 2 1/2 years. No starter like Matt Morris would settle for a one- or two-year deal.
Littlefield may negotiate like a fantasy-league jerk--as Dejan Kovacevic's report might suggest--but he has made some good trades.
P.S. I'm not suggesting that a number of good trades should be enough to save his job. We can give credit where it is due and still be disappointed in his performance as GM.
Early in the year the Arizona Diamondbacks (63-50, first place in the NL West) ranked as the youngest team in the NL. So I've considered them proof that age was not the problem with the 2007 Pirates (44-64, last place in the NL Central).
These days, the Pirates are a bit younger overall (27.8 to 27.9), but the Diamondbacks have an impressive list of players who are 24 or younger: Edgar Gonzalez, Micah Owings, Miguel Montero, Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, Carlos Quentin, Justin Upton, Chris B. Young.
The kids of Pittsburgh are Matt Capps and Zach Duke.
There must be a lesson in there somewhere.
As usual, I woke up and read the Post-Gazette Pirates coverage. There are two things about it today that bothered me.
First, we are skeptical of David Littlefield and the stories we hear from him and his employees. So why do we regard the Brian Sabean crew as a collection of spin-free truthtellers? The story about the Pirates riding in like moronic knights to lift the spirits of a depressed San Francisco conference room strikes me, at first glance, as Sabean et al posturing before the San Francisco public. It's not that they traded away Matt Morris in a brazen salary dump: they got a great deal! Well above market price! And look -- we're not dumb like other guys!
Why else would Sabean tell these stories to reporters? If he's not out to save face, then he's guilty of pretty unprofessional conduct.
The story could be true. It does fit the narrative we're usually told about Littlefield. And maybe no one lies or spins the truth in San Francisco. A lot of nice people live out there.
Second, there is a common misconception that the rest of the season is "meaningless." The 2008 Pirates, no matter who is the GM, will mainly consist of the 2007 Pirates. When I talk about wanting to see a winning team on the field, I am talking about tonight, tomorrow, and next year. No amount of money spent on building a school for 16-year-old Dominican children will help the Pirates win games now or next year. It's true the Pirates need to do such things, but such things can not be confused with the things they need to do win more games now and next year.
Dejan Kovacevic rants that Morris will now get paid for "meaningless starts for an utterly meaningless final two months." As fans, we may not care to watch these starts. Here we go Steelers and so on. But if the 2008 Pirates are going to win games, the 2007 Pirates better improve. They need to study, practice, concentrate, develop patience, and figure out what it is they need to know to win more games. So the rest of the season has a lot of meaning for the players. I may not watch these games, but I sure hope the team uses them well to better grow whatever bit of talent these 2007 Pirates might have.
There are no meaningless games.
For a bunch of reasons, I like the Matt Morris acquisition.
1. Morris has been very good. The main reason the Pirates continue to lose is talent. They do not have much talent. A player that has been very good has a better chance of performing at that level than a player who has never been very good. So there is hope for him.
2. Morris is not old.
3. Morris has been dependable and durable, even when not very good.
4. Morris has already had Tommy John surgery.
5. I have not witnessed the recent struggles of Matt Morris. Ignorance is bliss. He comes to me with a clean slate.
6. In the short term, this is good theater. To some extent, that's all the game is: theater. This sort of thing sells tickets.
7. The team has not thrived with cautious and predictable leadership. A more creative and aggressive style of leadership can only help.
8. The acquisition suggests that the front office has money to spend. (blinks, as though stunned) Have the recent and excessive profits been saved for future payroll? Such arguments sound a little less bogus.
9. The Pirates need talent to win, and they have little talent on the roster and little talent in the minor leagues. They will have to buy some talent to put a winner on the field. Talent is expensive. And when I look at recent free agent signings, the expensive thing is not the annual rate but the number of years. Two years for twenty million dollars is much wiser, I think, than six for seventy-five or eight for one hundred.
First-tier free agents are not going to sign for two years. If a lower-payroll team shops for a promising free agent who will sign for two years, they can only explore the scratch-and-dent bin. Since these higher-risk, higher-upside second-tier free agents aim to complete a short-term deal only for leverage on a later, long-term deal, they are not inclined, if they have any talent and choice, to sign a short deal with a perennial loser. They want to showcase their talent. Players like Randy Wolf sign with the Dodgers; players like Tony Armas sign with the Pirates.
I've long argued this point. Somewhere in the archives, for example, I argued that the Pirates should trade for Manny Ramirez near the end of his contract.
I would have preferred that the Pirates acquire a slugger. Why not Adam Dunn? The Reds asked for a lot for the privilege of assuming the tail end of his contract. The Giants wanted next to nothing for Matt Morris and his remaining contract. There's no doubt this team also needs starting pitching, so the fact that Morris is not a slugger is not much of a strike against the deal for me.
10. I'm a huge fan of Dogfish Head beer. If Dave Littlefield is extended by the new "baseball man" CEO, Bones owes me a six-pack of Dogfish Head beer. I believe my chance of acquiring this free beer has improved. I can't say why, for sure, this is evidence that Nutting's new man will retain Littlefield, but I can say that I sense that the beer is out there, wanting me and drifting my way.
All that said, Morris must be effective. Nutting and Littlefield are not off the hook for this. If Morris bombs, I will not shrug and say it was still a good idea to get him. So I like the acquisition, but it's not my job to know for sure if Matt Morris will be an effective pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That is Littlefield's job. If Morris is just another loser, this was an expensive mistake and another line in the incompetence book.
Wainwright and Maholm at seven.
Let's see. Overwhelmed by the opposition, demoralized and apathetic, the Pirates appear to be fighting a hopeless and ineptly-managed battle to escape 2007 with 82 wins. General Littlefield, stubborn and contrary, recommends a surge. President Nutting approves it.
. . .
Is that a terrible comparison or what?
Regardless, when will The Surge first start for us?
The Bucs and Tigers have been talking, the P-G's Dejan Kovacevic reports:
Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield's return will be negligible if Detroit assumes most or all of Wilson's contract, which pays a $5.25 million salary this season and $14.5 million for the next two. Industry observers say it is enormously unlikely the Pirates would find any team to take all of it.OK, so lower the bar for expectations here. Looking over the Tigers' roster and pretending I'm DL, and thus hell-bent for versatile infielders who can't hit worth a damn, I see Omar Infante has played seven positions and Neifi Perez's suspension will be over soon. Maybe Jack could fetch both?
Rob Biertempfel summarizes and follows up on Jim Heyman's SI.com ranking of Bob Nutting as the fifth-worst owner in MLB.
"They're not trying their hardest," Heyman said. "They're being cheap. It's a cheaper route to begin with, when you go with a long-range plan based on the farm system. But they're taking an even cheaper route on the cheap route.
"When you're that cheap, you've got to make it up by being brilliant -- and they don't have Billy Beane running the team. I don't blame (general manager Dave) Littlefield; they don't give him money to work with. They can't expect to win with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. The owner is very cheap. Cheap owner, cheap team."
S.Zielinksi posted this at Primer. Jim Furtado is gathering information to better persuade high-payin' advertisers; if you are a fan of Primer, today would be a good day to visit and take the survey, which involves ranking all of your favorite beers and wines and spirits.
"Odds are the Pirates won't do anything else before the deadline," wagers Jim Molony for mlb.com.
Makes sense, I guess. The NL-worst Bucs have at least three relievers to trade and virtually no offense, while most of the other teams want relief help. Better to hold now and wait for the new GM.
We'll remember Robinson in part for his single in the top of the sixth in Game 7 of the 1979 World Series. Down 1-0, Robinson started the rally that put the Bucs up for good, by singling before Stargell's jack. All hail Bill Robinson!
The Centre Daily Times Midday Report has DL's visit to the Spikes as less newsworthy than "dangerous drinking", which in part involves a man with a BAC (.426) higher than DL's winning percentage this year. I wonder if this .426 guy had been watching the Bucs earlier that night. Anyway, this falls far short of the BAC record. As far as I can tell, the BAC record for a conscious person is .914, for a driver is .545, and for a comatose person is 1.5 (also in last link). Don't try this at home.
Maine vs. Snell, starting now.
"... this team is like an open sewer, it's full of filth and scum. Sometimes I can hardly take it. Whoever becomes the new CEO should just ... really clean it up, know what I mean? Sometimes I go out and I Snell it. I get headaches, it's so bad."
Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi denied the recent rumors about interest in Jack Wilson, the CP reports:
"We have absolutely no interest in Jack Wilson," said Ricciardi. "None."Maybe J.P. is bluffing here, trying to lower Wilson's value, but it's hard to have any confidence in DL at this point. Will Carroll noted:
Dave Littlefield has set himself up poorly on this one. Teams are treating Wilson as if he's been DFA'd, and are offering little if anything.
Dejan Kovacevic reports the Pirates could trade them both one of these days.
In other news, Jim Tracy tries to blame the losing streak on Ian Snell:
"It's been Snell. You know that?" Tracy said in a stark tone seldom heard. "That's what it's been, this frustration, for all of us. With the progress we had made leading up to the All-Star break, and we come out and, with one exception, completely sputter offensively."
I did not know that, Jim.
After considering Littlefield's comment that the Izturis acquisition "has nothing to do with Jack Wilson," Dejan Kovacevic predicts Jack Wilson will be traded at the deadline.
John Perrotto wonders how this might happen.
The Pirates may have a hard time trading Wilson. The only contender that could use an upgrade at shortstop is Toronto, which starts veteran Royce Clayton at the position. But the Blue Jays are only on the periphery of the American League East and wild-card races.
Boston shortstop Julio Lugo is struggling, but it would be highly doubtful the American East-leading Red Sox would bench a player in the first year of a four-year, $36-million contract to take on Wilson. Wilson is due to make a combined $13.75 million in 2008 and 2009 in the final two years of a three-year, $20.2-million contract.
The Red Sox are much more interested in some Pirates relievers, particularly left-hander Damaso Marte, and, to a lesser extent, right-handers Salomon Torres and Shawn Chacon.
Jack Wilson will also be compared to this winter's shortstop-playing free agent class. It is possible that a non-contending team might want to acquire him for 2008.
Dejan Kovacevic writes that this might portend the trading of Jack Wilson. Certainly that was the first thing through my mind.
The second thing was: how much of Jack Wilson's salary will the Pirates pay in 2008 and 2009?
The third thing is: what kind of beer should I have to celebrate the acquisition of Cesar "82, Baby!" Izturis?
... 3:20pm ... no Jack Wilson trade forthcoming, Dejan Kovacevic reports in his update.
So this really is about doing whatever it takes to field a .618 team the rest of the season.
Rob Biertempfel wrote this amusing interview for the Trib.
[Bob Nutting:] ... We have a very solid core of people. I have faith in the team we have in place.
Q: Does that include the team management staff -- general manager Dave Littlefield, manager Jim Tracy and his coaches?
A: Long pause.
A good follow-up question might have been: "Mr. Nutting, among your important papers, do you keep a 'shit list'?"