Saturday, July 14, 2007

Game 90: Pirates at Braves

Gorzelanny and James at seven.

Kip Wells for Ryan Howard

Dan Dunkin writing for

Despite all the bone-headed, short-sighted things the Phillies have done en route to the brink of 10,000 defeats, give them credit for one thing: At least they didn’t trade Howard for Kip Wells.

Actually give credit to Pittsburgh Pirates GM David Littlefield. That discussed deal in the summer of 2005, near the end of the disastrous Ed Wade administration, didn’t happen because Littlefield wasn’t enamored enough of Howard. Friday night the Phillies’ potent young lineup shelled Wells — previously 5-0 against them, but 3-11 this season.

It's been denied that Ed Wade offered Howard for Wells (or Benson, the year before), though it was rumored (scroll down, 7-18-2005) that Wade "dangled" Howard before Littlefield's eyes. Also, I never saw a report suggesting that Littlefield asked for Howard or otherwise expressed any interest in him.

This story won't die because, in July 2005, both the Phillies and the Pirates were at the center of trade speculation, and their needs appeared to match well. Howard demanded a trade in early 2005 because he was blocked by Jim Thome. The Pirates needed a left-handed power bat, and Howard's profile reminded some of Willie Stargell. But, like Brad Eldred, Howard struck out "too much." And his success in the minors was discounted for him being a bit old for his level.

Howard had vocal doubters until he proved himself at the big-league level. For example, Ken Mandel reported (for that no one wanted Howard, though his future lay "with another organization," in July 2004. That same month, Chuck Hixson wrote that the Phillies would be "lucky" to get someone like Kris Benson for Howard. In mid-2005, the Pirates had Brad Eldred looking about as good as Howard.

So, to be honest, I can't remember anyone being unreservedly enthusiastic about Howard's future -- this was more the tone of Howard speculations. He was regarded not as a slam-dunk sure-thing but as a chance the Pirates would do well to take.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Game 89: Pirates at Braves

"Unhappy men, what is it that ails you? There is a shroud of darkness drawn over you from head to foot, your cheeks are wet with tears; the air is alive with wailing voices; the walls and roof-beams drip blood; the gate of the cloisters and the court beyond them are full of ghosts trooping down into the night of Snell; the sun is blotted out of heaven, and a blighting gloom is over all the land."

Hudson and Snell at seven-thirty.

Some midseason grades

John Perrotto offers his. They look fair to me.

Also, it is impressive how he justifies the grades without the use of profanity.

Xavier Nady

Nady is on pace for a pretty good season, as Dejan Kovacevic notes here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Enjoying the 40

Alan Robinson, AP man, wrote this piece on the state of the Pirates. He notes what should be obvious: the comparison of this team (40-48) to last year's team (30-60) makes for a cringe-worthy assessment of "progress."

The 30-60 first half of 2006 challenged records for baseball futility. That record was truly horrible. But it does not make the current record look good. If anything, it makes it look worse than it is.

Say that a man goes out and commits ten felonies. The next year, he commits eight misdemeanors. Would you be persuaded if he cited those numbers as evidence he is reforming?

Say another man lives far beyond his means. He charges $30K to various credit cards in the first half of 2006. With no increase in income, he charges $9K to various credit cards in the first half of 2007. Is this "progress"?

I doubt too many fans are persuaded the team is "better" when they are reminded of how mind-numbingly bad the team was just one year ago.

The team won some games in the week or two before the break. Eight games under still stinks, however. They remain a bunch of Losers.

If they want to say otherwise, let them say it in the win column.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All-Star Honus the Alpaca

We take advantage of this lull in Pirates baseball to raise our cups to honorary HW mascot, Honus Wagner the Alpaca, for his recent flurry of ribbons. All hail Honus!

This male in first place is the complete package. He has overall balance and presence, fine soft fleece with excellent brilliance. You could see when he walked in the ring that he has a good attitude. He was saying “Look at me.”

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Game 88: Cubs at Pirates

Zambrano and Youman at one-thirty.

Figureheads and baseball men

The P-G's Bob Smizik on Bob Nutting's upcoming hiring decision:

"The only way Nutting is going to get a respected baseball man to take charge of this franchise is to give him a large measure of control. Someone the stature of MacPhail, Alderson or Lucchino is not going to come aboard as a figurehead. Such a man will only come if he can make all the baseball calls. And that means having the power to fire the general manager, the manager or both.

Dave Littlefield and Jim Tracy have contracts that run through the 2008 season and their combined value is about $1.7 million. Unless Nutting is willing to buy out those contracts, and such a move does not fit the limited profile we have of his business practices, he's not going to get his man."

Littlefield could work in long relief.