The Pirates are at it again, and that isn’t a good thing. For a proud franchise, one that has won nine pennants and five world championships in it’s illustrious history, there is no end in sight to the continual failures of the organization.
That’s the refrain the fans are fed year after year by the front office.
And year after year the refrain is repeated yet again.
For a group of fans that haven’t witnessed their team post a .500 record since Barry Bonds left the club after the 1992 season, their frustration must be at an all-time high. Why do I say that? Well beyond their unbelievable run of futility, the Pirates made a couple of moves in past day or so that has the team, once again, looking to the future. This time the players are voicing their displeasure at the moves.
“It’s not our job to understand the big plan, I guess,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said.
Here is what shortstop Jack Wilson had to say. “We know that they’re looking to the future, which doesn’t say much about 2009. We’re five games out, and we lost two or three of our everyday players…I’ve been here nine years. I’ve seen two or three of these trades every year and still haven’t had a winning season.”
Management, of course, has a different take.
“The upside that we’re gaining is something we can’t pass up,” manager John Russell said.
What moves are we talking about?
The Pirates sent OF Nyjer Morgan, RP Sean Burnett and jack of all trades Eric Hinske out of town in a couple of moves, and in return they netted the talented but enigmatic Lastings Milledge and the talented but unproductive Joel Hanrahan. It really can’t be argued that the club received the more talented players in these deals, but the questions are a plenty.
(1) Can a guy who was banished to the minors a year after hitting 14 home runs while stealing 24 bases be a difference maker? What if that guy was terribly ineffective at the dish this season (.167 in 24 at-bats) prior to his demotion? What if that guy continues to live his life as if no one else matters but himself? Milledge has 20/20 talent, but he has proven thus far to have a .20 cent head.
(2) Does the club really need a 95 mph throwing reliever who failed miserably as a closer this season for the Nationals (five saves, five blown saves)? You can’t teach 95, and Hanrahan does have 128 Ks in his last 117 innings so he certainly has talent, but he is far from a finished product with a career walk rate of 5.04 per nine innings
Beyond these two moves, which again seemed to net the club the more talented options, the question becomes one that the organization must answer to the fans – do they intend to make money or produce a winning squad? Remember, this is a team that let its best player, Jason Bay, go last year in a late season deal and then followed that move up by trading their new “best” player to the Braves when they moved Nate McLouth this season. What kind of message does a club send to it’s fan base when it trades away its number three and four hitters for a couple of prospects, a decidedly average starting pitcher (Charlie Morton), a pitcher no one has heard of in Bryan Morris, a failed reliever in Craig Hansen and a failed outfielder in Brandon Moss? Oh yeah, the club also got third baseman Andy LaRoche but I almost forgot him because he is hitting a whopping .278 with a massive three home runs and a staggeringly mediocre .750 OPS this season.
Look, I’m not a Pirates fan at all, but I can sympathize with the fans of a club that have to pay money to watch an ownership group that continues to say “wait til next year.” My question is, will they ever reach the point of “next year” or is this a conundrum in the same vein as the fact that we think we can never travel the speed of light as Albert Einstein posited many years ago (why is light speed travel not possible you ask? For those of you that care click on the link to Speed of Light and scroll down to “The Ultimate Speed of Light” for a brief description). For the Pirates sake I truly hope next year really is next year, though I still wonder if the Pirates have assembled enough talent to even return to the level of respectability and a .500 record. One can hope, and the eternal optimist in us all surely hasn’t given up on that.
By Ray Flowers