Friday, August 03, 2007

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Game 106: Cardinals at Pirates

Youman vs. Reyes, scoreless in the second.

Morris and meanings

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.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Game 105: Cardinals at Pirates

Armas vs. Looper, starting soon.

10 reasons I like the Matt Morris trade

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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Game 104: Cardinals at Pirates

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?

Matt Morris

Bucs trade Rajai Davis and PTBNL to SF for Matt Morris, mlb.com is reporting. Why?

Non-waiver trade deadline

I'm up early, waiting for the magic of Dave.

Jack Wilson to Tigers?

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?

Monday, July 30, 2007

On the super cheap

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.

No trades for Bucs?

"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.

R.I.P. Bill Robinson

We are saddened by the news that Bill Robinson, Pirate from 1975-1982, died Sunday at the age of 64.

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!