Friday, March 31, 2006

Lotsa news

And the Tribune-Review has it first.

As predicted yesterday, Matt Capps has made the team instead of Terry Adams (wasn't he on The Munsters or something?). Santos beat out Duckworth for the fifth spot. Hernandez made the team. And most importantly and surprisingly, McLouth is in and Gerut will go to AAA.

I just discussed the McLouth development with Zeke on the phone, and he is still angry. He expects the Bucs to play Duffy too much and McLouth not enough and thinks they should have sent Duffy down instead of Gerut. So he's getting himself worked up preemptively.

This is what happens to baseball fans who come of age during the reign of a bad manager and general manager such as McClendon and Littlefield. They've been too traumatized to even imagine something better. They're like dogs who are beaten frequently when they are pups. Everytime someone walks in the room, they flinch. They're like kids who grow up in abusive alcoholic homes--scarred for life.

Hey--the Pirates kept a 22-year-old fireballer based on his spring performance, and they gave a guy who was previously undervalued in the organization a chance to make the team based on spring performance, and he did. Enjoy it! Don't be like the lifer in prison who gets out on parole and doesn't know how to eat lunch without reaching for a tray and standing in line. You're free!

Mike & Mad Dog: 76 wins for Pirates in '06

My brother called from Connecticut--he's a Red Sox fan, naturally--to tell me that he heard Mike & Mad Dog* on the radio predict 76 wins for the Pirates this year. They attributed the improvement, such as it is, to (1) the additions of Casey, Burnitz, and Randa, (2) the good young pitching, and (3) "a manager with a brain."

I'm okay with reasons (2) and (3), but not with (1). It's also odd to root for a team for which a prediction of 76 wins seems like good news.

* a tip of the hat to anonymous commenter for correcting me on this

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pirates reassign Carrera to minor leagues

This seems to open up a spot for Terry Adams, who pitched a scoreless inning today, but my money is on Matt Capps. Tracy seems to like him.

Is it just me, or do the Pirates seem this year to be not quite as maddeningly predictable (and foolish) with player moves as they have been in past years? And is that Tracy's influence? And am I now starting to think and write the way Tracy talks?

This must end.

Another strong day for McLouth, but Bucs lose 7-5

Victor Santos faced off against the Minnesota Twins and staff ace Johan Santana. He did not impress. 7 runs on 12 hits in 4 1/3 innings.

But more importantly, Nate McLouth had 2 hits, a BB, 2 RBI, a stolen base, and a run scored in four plate appearances. Nate's average this spring is .352, with 10 RBI and somewhere near a .580 slugging pct. (I had trouble finding updated stats.)

It infuriates me that this kid is not starting the season in center field and batting in the leadoff spot. It makes absolutely no sense. Chris Duffy is another name in a long line of Pirates players who entertain the fans with defense while "hustling" on offense, without much production at all in that department.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Revisionist history from former skipper

Don't miss this interview with our former skipper, in which he refers to Aramis Ramirez as a "franchise player" who was given away for nothing. A lot better than Joe Randa, Ty Wigginton, and Jose Hernandez, yes. Franchise player? No. That would be Jason Bay.

Having said that, though, that trade was one of the low points of the past 13 years for the Bucs. I remember coming back to Pittsburgh from a trip to Belgium in 2003, pulling up ESPN on my cell phone to get the news I had missed, and staring at the thing in disbelief. Ramirez and Lofton for Hernandez, Bruback, and a player to be named later? That can't possibly be right.

The way it was handled, from ownership on down, was simply a disgrace. Ownership put Littlefield in the position of Elliot Richardson when he was told to fire Archibald Cox, but unlike Richardson, Littlefield didn't resign. His last shred of integrity hinged on the slim chance that Jose Hernandez would hit a bunch of home runs and not strike out with historic frequency; and that Ramirez would continue to gain weight and never improve at the hot corner.

Lloyd was a dreadful manager, now matriculating for his master's in baseball under the tutelage of Jim Leyland, going directly from the GED; but his bitterness is understandable. I also feel kind of bad that Lloyd had to read those comments from Duke and Snell about how much they prefer the new regime's encouragement to the negative reinforcement they got from Lloyd and Spin. Young guys would be wise to keep their mouths shut.

Perez found his mojo today

Via Where have you gone Andy Van Slyke and Bucs Dugout.

There seems to be some disagreement about how fast he was throwing, but there is no disputing 7 Ks in 5 2/3 innings. I'd have been able to watch it myself and report first hand if I didn't have a damned job.

Update: The velocity is coming back (via Honest Wagner)

This outing today and Maholm's yesterday have me experiencing that old irrational optimism again. It felt like spring in Oakland today too. Remember when we were 30 and 30 last year, before Mesa started coughing them up to the American leaguers?

DL: Duffman will start over Nate Dogg

Littlefield announced today that Duffy, rather than McLouth, will be the Bucs' starting CF (for now, at least).

Littlefield said Wednesday that Chris Duffy is still in line to be the Opening Day starter in center field, despite the emergence of Nate McLouth this spring. "Right now, Chris Duffy is the starting center fielder and we're going to go in that direction," said Littlefield. "I don't think either guy has a solid position on a job. Both of them have got to continue to work hard to establish themselves as big leaguers. Neither one is an established big leaguer, but we have very high hopes for both of them."

This disappoints me. I think the defensive difference between Duffy and McLouth is wildly overrated, while the offensive edge is unquestionably Nate's. On a team whose offensive futility last season was largely a result of not having a productive everyday center fielder, this is just a stupid move. Duffy will hit .275/.300/.400 and torture us in the leadoff spot.

Because of this news, I hope the brain trust sends McLouth to AAA. The man clearly should be playing every day, even if in the minors. I'd much rather him get consistent ABs there than pass out gatorade in the big leagues.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Today's highlights

Bay went 4 for 4 with a double and an RBI. He's batting .464 this spring.

Two more hits for Craig Wilson. He is now clearly having another one of his hot springs. Sure, he dropped a routine fly in left last night, but that's Craig--he giveth and sometimes he taketh away. His spring hot streak may be just increasing Littlefield's leverage for a trade, but it does provide some evidence that he will hit again in real games as he did in the first half of 2004. There are rumblings every now and then that some in the Pirates organization believe he has lost bat speed and fear that he may never find it again. His dropoff in the second half in 2004 followed by his lost season last year have induced widespread skepticism. Those who think this way forget that he was also red hot in 2005 after his first hand injury and right before his second. Anyhow, it's great to see him hitting again.

Maholm pitched well for 5 innings before losing it in the sixth. That's progress.

Gonzo got his first save of the spring. I like a closer with flair, and Gonzo has it. So did Julian Taverez, whom I wish we had kept.

Toronto covets Craig Wilson

according to this article in the Toronto Star.

I think that he will be traded, before the end of spring training, for a pretty good pitcher.

Update: Dejan Kovacevic expects him to be traded by the trading deadline.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bad day for Duke today

Duke got tattooed today, but it wasn't as bad as it looks. The Jays loaded the bases in the first with one out when Castillo muffed an easy double-play ball to prolong the inning, which resulted in three runs for the Jays.

Also notable is that Bay and Craig Wilson went back to back twice, in the first and fifth. Craig has always been a great spring training player.

Update: Tracy was impressed with how Duke handled adversity today. I am too. To the extent that you can conclude anything about a guy from the quotes you read in newspaper articles, Duke seems to be unusually focused for a guy his age.


I'll admit it, I'm rooting for Jim Leyland to have a great year in Detroit. After what we've put up with in managers since he left, "his famous acerbic wit, his constant interaction with his players, his delight in verbal parrying with the media and old baseball pals" sounds pretty good to me.

My favorite Jim Leyland tactic was when he started Ted Power and let him pitch for two innings in Game 6 of the 1990 NLCS to gain the platoon advantage over Cincinnati. That was also a series in which Bonds hit .167, Bonilla hit .190, and Van Slyke hit .208. Leyland will always be tainted by the legacy of that team's post-season failure and the failures of the next two years, which of course had a lot more to do with Bonds, Bonilla, and Van Slyke's inability to hit Atlanta's great pitching than with anything Leyland did or didn't do. But we sure did have a manager back then, and I think that Detroit has one now.

Do the Pirates now have a real baseball manager? Maybe. Will we know at the end of the season? Yes.

Santos and Duckworth battle to a draw

Listened to the game in the car yesterday, and both Santos and Duckworth pitched decently in their battle for the fifth rotation spot. Either would be adequate as a rotation replacement for Josh Fogg or Mark Redman and a temporary placeholder for Burnett or Gorzelanny. Sifting through the scrap heap to find these kinds of league-average guys at a low cost is a skill that teams like the Pirates have to develop to survive, and that they now have two competing for this role is not a bad thing.

According to Paul Meyer, though, the Pirates may be interested in filling this role with the Braves' John Thomson, who could come in a deal for Craig Wilson. A cursory look at Thomson's numbers doesn't induce enthusiasm, but Baseball Prospectus points out that his career ERA is inflated by stints at Coors Field and The Ballpark at Arlington, as well as what may have been a premature return from a finger injury last year in Atlanta. Thomson, with a $4.5M contract, would be something more than a scrap-heap acquisition, and would apparently cost the Pirates their second-best offensive player. I'd prefer that the Pirates have courage and go with either Santos or Duckworth. Since, as a Rule 5 player, Santos would have to be returned to Kansas City if he doesn't make the team, the most likely scenario is that Duckworth will go to AAA.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Versatility is one of Bautista's valuabilities

So says new Bucs third base coach/infield instructor Jeff Cox:

"One of his valuabilities in future years is going to be his versatility, so if there's ever a time to move around the diamond it's during spring training and then go from there."

Bautista's emergence is one of the positivities of this spring. Another is Jim Tracy who, most importantly, is not Lloyd McClendon. However,
"Does he have a home at third base?" Tracy mused. "He sure does. He has a chance to be a regular player at the major-league level.

Is Tracy's tendency in interviews to pose a question and then answer it beginning to annoy me nearly as much McClendon's tendency to refer to his players as "young men" and "kids"?

Yes, it is.

"Is this guy having a terrific spring?" Tracy asked rhetorically. "You'd better believe he is. He should be very, very proud of the spring training he's had."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ty Wigginton

Monday, March 20, 2006

Great reading tonight

Mike Emeigh has a great pre-season article up at Baseball Primer, and Charlie Wilmoth has one too over at Hardball Times.

Charlie gets bonus points for successfully writing about the 2006 Pirates without using the phrase "laundry cart" once.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tracy is upbeat about his new team

He tells Bill Madden of the N.Y. Daily News all about it.

During today's broadcast, Lanny described Tracy as a combination of Chuck Tanner and Jim Leyland. I guess this is meant to suggest some combination of optimism and intensity. Well, we'll see...

Meanwhile, this article is another example of an old warhorse newspaper writer using admiration for Tracy as an opportunity to pile on against Paul DePodesta. Baseball orthodoxy has a hard time denying the success of Billy Beane other than the silly attempt to diminish the A's successes by citing their failures in the post-season. Instead, writers like Madden and others seize the opportunity to gloat about the failures of Beane's former lieutenants, DePodesta and Ricciardi, with LA and Toronto respectively.

Here in Pittsburgh, we would love to have an opportunity to see our team fail in the post-season. As painful as it was, 1990-1992 now seems like the Golden Age.

Ollie still hasn't made the sale

He's back with us, and pitched two innings today. The results again were tentative--two runs, one hit, two walks, a strikeout, and nothing above 89 or 90 on the radar gun.

Before spring training, everyone was saying that the keys to the season for us were Wells and Perez. Wells is out for at least two months, and Perez is questionable at best.

Fortunately, Duke, Maholm, Snell, Gorzellany, and Burnett have all been looking good. However, there's a guy on our staff named Vogelsong, recently returned to exile in long relief, who looked great as a starter a few springs ago too. I'm not among those who believe our offense is improved this year by the additions of the Three Musketeers, so to me, any improvement will have to come from the pitching staff and the development of younger players such as Castillo, Duffy or McLouth, Gerut, Sanchez, and Doumit. Improvement also requires that Bay continue to produce at close to the level he has for the past two years and also avoid serious injury.

As with most marginal and bad teams, a lot of things have to happen right for us to have a good season. Wells' injury and Ollie's continuing struggles make the other improvements even more critical.

More Craig talk

Most of the buzz I'm reading in blogland continues to be about whether or not we are shopping Craig Wilson, and whether or not we should be. What would concern me most if we did trade him is how we would replace the role that many of us agree he shouldn't be playing in the first place--number one righthanded hitter off the bench (as opposed to starting right fielder or starting first baseman).

Suppose that we do trade Craig for a starting pitcher--and Pat is correct in his comment to a previous post that it will take more than Craig to pry Clement loose from the Red Sox--who becomes the righthanded power hitter who spells Burnitz and/or Casey against tough lefties, replaces one of the two when they get injured, and faces the other team's LOOGY in the late innings? I can't think of anyone else in the organization who is ready to do that. Trading Wilson would open a spot on the roster for McLouth, but we'd then be seriously deficient in righties on the bench. Or, instead of McLouth, do you take a pass on the Eldred-at-AAA idea and add him to the roster, with all his blemishes?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Kovacevic: Wilson for Clement won't happen

Just heard Dejan on Nightly Sports Call/UPN say with certainty that there is nothing to the Craig Wilson for Matt Clement rumors. The Pirates are not shopping Wilson, he says.

Update: Hmmm, the Tribune-Review seems to disagree.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bad Day for Vogelsong today

3 innings, 4 runs, 7 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, 1 homer.

Duke fared better: 1 run, 2 hits in 3 innings.

Doumit hit his third of the spring.

Meanwhile, in the WBC, Ollie has an easy 1-2-3 third inning. Maybe the rumors of his demise were premature.

Ollie in WBC tonight

Mexico vs. U.S., Ollie vs. The Rocket.

So far, so good. Two innings, no runs, one hit. I missed the first inning. He struggled with location in the second, starting off by walking A-Rod, but got out of it okay. I didn't hear the announcers say anything about his velocity.

Go Ollie.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Be of stout heart, young Pirates fans

Read Joe Posnanski's open letter to young Royals fans and substitute "Pirates" for "Royals."

Smizik the Contrarian

Bob Smizik presents some contrarian argumentation this morning and does his best to tamp down the local lovefest with Jim Tracy and his mostly sensible talk about good hitter's counts. Smizik considers it a personal challenge whenever he perceives that other people are having fun.

It's always possible to cite exceptions to a general rule, but it's a fallacy to assert that in doing so, you've disproven the general rule. Yes, Clemente was great. Yes, I'd like to have Vladmir Guererro or Ichiro Suzuki on the Pirates and in fact, would accept either in a one-for-one deal for Craig Wilson. But a larger body of evidence than Smizik presents here suggests that the Earl Weaver style of managing, cited at Bucs Dugout, tends to produce more wins, all other things being equal. I expect that in a day or two, much of this evidence will be online at Baseball Primer in response to Smizik's column.

(Update: Yep, here it is.)

Here are the stats that Smizik presents to support his assertions:

But look what happened to the Pirates when they get two strikes.

With an 0-2 count, the Pirates batted .168.

With a 1-2 count, they batted. 159.

With a 2-2 count, they batted .172.

With a 3-2 count, when the pitcher has to come in with a strike, they batted .229.
The point, of course, is not what happens when the pitcher has two strikes on you, but what happens when you get deep in the count and he has one strike or no strikes on you. A balanced analysis would have to present those stats as well.

Patience and selectivity at the plate also seem to have a team effect. When you watch the Yankees or the Red Sox, you notice that almost all of them are patient and selective at the plate, and this has the cumulative effect of wearing down the opposing pitching staff, one pitcher at a time.

I mostly like what I am hearing from Tracy, but I'm not convinced that a patient approach to hitting is a skill that can be taught. I hope I'm wrong.

When I used to play APBA in the 80s, I always tried to draft Orioles bench players like John Lowenstein and Benny Ayala. They walked a lot and hit a lot of home runs, and my teams were usually successful.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Power of the Geek

The Geek speaks and lineup discussions erupt throughout the baseball blogosphere, like aftershocks following an earthquake. (Item for to-do list: add link to Geek on sidebar of blog.)

Here we are almost a year to the day from the Great Tike Redman in the Three Slot controversy of 2005, talking about batting order again.

Somewhere in one of the Bill James Baseball Abstracts on my shelf in the other room is a lengthy discussion by James of an experiment he ran with the 1927 Yankees in which he did a computer simulation of that team's expected runs scored using what would intuitively be the worst possible lineup that could be constructed from that team--Ruth batting ninth; Gehrig batting sixth, away from Ruth; the pitcher spot batting first; that kind of thing. The result that James reported was that the order in which the team members batted made surprisingly little difference. As I recall--and it's been a long time since I've read it (if only these things were digitized and searchable)--his conclusion was that the team might have lost one or two more games using this lineup instead of the lineup that they did use, and the ultimate conclusion was that batting order matters a lot less than a lot of us think it does. (Caveat: This was written in the 80s, and may well have been debunked by subsequent sabermetric research, about which I am not an expert.)

I think we all have a sense of who should bat where in the lineup programmed into us from an early age--probably pre-Little League. The little speedy guy bats first. The other speedy guy who's a little bigger and not quite as speedy bats second. The best guy on the team bats third. The slow guy with the big arms bats fourth. The catcher bats sixth or seventh. Or eighth if he can't hit. Despite all the evidence presented to the contrary, we all still believe, somewhere in our DNA, that this is the way things should be.

I think it was Gene Mauch when he was managing the Angels who stirred things up by batting his great OBP guy, Brian Downing, in the leadoff spot despite the fact that he was big and slow. It worked for him, and enlightened organizations seem to understand that, if you're going to bother tinkering with the lineup at all, you should stack your high OBP guys up toward the top. But the Little League imprinting is strong and, in some organizations, it never dies. A lot of people will get upset with you if you try to argue that Vince Coleman was a terrible leadoff hitter and that Willie McGee wasn't much better. Or around here, you could try the argument with Omar Moreno and see how far you get.

The search for the prototypical leadoff hitter is a search for Fool's Gold, and the Pirates, like many teams, have wound up broke and hungry out on the frontier more than once. Jacob Brumfield. Jermaine Allensworth. Tike Redman. Adrian Brown. Marvell Wynne. Pokey Reese. Brant Brown. Lee Mazilli. J0hn Cangelosi. (Help me out here, readers, I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch of other speedy little guys who looked like they should be leadoff hitters.)

I will close this post with two words, then duck and run:

Chris Duffy.

Dejan, Phone Home

Dejan Kovacevic is on some sort of sabbatical or temporary assignment shuffle from the Post-Gazette, so today we get Paul Meyer. I guess Paul Meyer is to Dejan Kovacevic as Roberto Hernandez is to Mike Gonzalez: the more experienced guy whose role is now to back up the less experienced guy. The wily old vet churned out this piece of fluff in the morning paper, in which the tone is set neatly right in the opening paragraph:
Joe Randa is proof that perhaps Thomas Wolfe was incorrect. A person can, too, go home again.
Has anyone in the world actually ever read this book? How many bad newspaper writers have begun stories using the template "[$subject] is proof that perhaps Thomas Wolfe was incorrect. A person can, too, go home again."? Can't anyone just return somewhere without someone invoking poor old Thomas Wolfe?

The following quotes from Randa, elicited by Meyers' incisive, hard-hitting interview questions, are then sprinkled liberally in the remainder of the story:
  • "Every guy I've seen in this clubhouse [is] not like starry-eyed, you know what I mean? They feel like they belong here, which is half the battle."
  • "I think this team the last couple years has done a good job of really stacking their minor-league system," he said, "and you can see it in spring training. These kids are competing at a high level."
  • "We have expectations in this clubhouse of winning, and everyone's accountable...we feel like we can compete in this division. I think we have the talent to compete with anybody."
  • "We have to stay healthy."
And can we please stop all the dewey-eyed nostalgia for 1997? Yes, there were some magical moments that year, but there are moments every year--that's why we keep watching. (There's always a chance, on any given night, that something spectacular will happen. Zeke and I saw Snell outpitch Clemens last year. We saw Wells pitch like Cy Young against the Phillies. You never know.)

Let's not forget: In 1997, we contended not because we had a good team, but because no one else in the division that year had a good team. It was the context that made us look a lot better than we actually were. It was just another in a string of losing seasons.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Rumor - speculation by Greg Brown about Wilson

Listening to the Bucs game on Gameday while going through email at work. (9-3 Bucs over the Yankees in the 8th. Snell looks like he's finally making the sale.)

Greg Brown cites vague rumblings that Craig Wilson is being shopped and speculates that with Wells out and Ollie apparently now not going to be ready for the start of the season, the Bucs may be shopping Craig for a starter.

I'd hate to see it happen, but it wouldn't at all surprise me.

The High Art of the Non-Answer

This article at OnlyBucs has been widely praised for the author's rare success in eliciting straight answers from Mr. Littlefield.

Greg Brown, on the other hand, was on the radio again yesterday playing the Washington Generals to Littlefield's Harlem Globetrotters.

What did Littlefield think of Vogelsong's last outing (which was awful).

Well, Greg, we saw some good things. We saw some downward movement of the fastball in the zone. Ryan also got behind some hitters, and major league hitters aren't going to let you get away with that, but whether it's as a starter or in relief, the kind of movement we saw on the fastball will pay dividends for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I used to do PR. This is known as the "sandwich technique." You put the bad news in the middle of the sandwich between good news bread, to try to hide it and make it more palatable. Particularly if what you are serving is a shit sandwich.

Then there was a question about Schilling beaning Duffy. Dave wanted no part of that one, so he used another classic PR technique--instead of answering the interviewer's question, you answer your own question, on the assumption that the audience won't remember what question the interviewer asked by the time you get finished spinning. Brownie was looking for something like "Yeah, Schilling hit our guy, and his post-game comment was appalling." Instead, he got a lengthy treatise from Littlefield about the "process"--Dave's favorite word--that the Pirates medical staff goes through for concussions.

It would be nice if we had a baseball general manager in Pittsburgh instead of Ron Ziegler.

Bay Back from WBC

He talks here about the emotion of playing for your country.

I admit that I didn't pay much attention to this, other than wanting Mexico to lose so Perez could get back to camp. Then I was channel surfing before bed last night and watched a few minutes of Korea playing against Mexico. There was something unusual and compelling about two enthnically uniform teams, with their fans waving their respective flags in the stands, competing against each other. It was fundamentally different from baseball as we know it, and it struck me that it could really ignite peoples' passions as the competition improves over the years. Not just the fans, the players too. I'd imagine that, after what he went through in L.A. last year, Hee Sop Choi might feel greater passion and loyalty toward the Korean national team than toward the L.A. Dodgers, despite the salary they are paying him.

I've always been bemused by the rioting that soccer instigates in Europe. I could actually imagine something similar happening someday with the WBC. An ump blows a critical call in the bottom of the ninth and touches off an international incident. Stranger things have happened.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Craiggers, McLouth

In my first post below, I mistakenly attributed to Charlie a thread I had actually seen on Baseball Primer (thanks to the esteemed Mr. Miller for spotting this). The widespread perception of Wilson as something less than what many of us know him to be is a phenomenon in itself. I think it has something to do with the way he looks. He is one of the least intense-looking ballplayers I have ever seen, the anti-Pete-Rose, the anti-Larry-Bowa, the anti-Lloyd-McClendon. We know that the Felipe Alou/Dusty Baker/Lloyd McClendon aggressive style of hitting has been ascendent in Pittsburgh during the current Dark Night of the Soul, so it makes sense that Craig has been something of an outcast. I honestly believe that at least 40% of the baseball fans in Pittsburgh would argue that Turner Ward is a better ballplayer than Craig Wilson. They've been brainwashed to believe that crashing into walls helps teams win more than leaning shoulders into slow curves.

Speaking of guys who have a clue at the plate, I had the opportunity to interview Nate McLouth on the air today. He is a terrific guy, and now I am rooting for him. In my first question, I confessed that I was fuzzy on the math of the last time the Tigers had contended, and wondered how old he was during the last Tigers World Series and what that had meant to him as a lad growing up in Detroit. It was 1984, and he was 2.

Next question, Mr. Price.

It's Still a Ballgame

Ever since I've followed baseball closely, contention has been a fleeting thing. No, it's been beyond fleeting -- it's been foreign. My hometown Pittsburgh Pirates have always just sucked. Even before I paid attention to stats sheets and scouting reports, I would go to games with my dad for the food, and for the fireworks, and for the Baseball Bloopers, and for every other form of entertainment designed by Kevin McClatchy to divert my and the rest of the unsuspecting audience's attention from the unacceptable standard of play taking place on the field. It was around my twelfth year of existence (2001 season) that I began to take notice and take offense.

When I started taking notice and taking offense, I started shouting.

"Meares, you stink!"
"Young, you stink!"
"Simon, you stink!"
"Tike, you stink!"
"Ward, you stink!"
"Wigginton, you stink!"
"Redman, you stink!"
"Mesa, you stink!"

And upon the announcement of Lloyd McClendon's name in the starting lineup:

But regardless of how much I hollered, the situation never got any better. 75% of the games we attended went sour by the 6th inning or so, and my dad would say something along the lines of, "These damn Pirates... but hey, it's still a ballgame." I think we're a classic example of how and why this city has put up with losing baseball for so long: as much as it kills us, we're Pirate fans, and we feel like this is our team, and we'll damn well watch 'em no matter how bad it gets. I suppose it shows our devotion, though others might call it our foolishness.

In the same way that I hollered and my team got no better, Lloyd hollered and his team got no better. Maybe Tracy's approach of positivity will be more successful. But no amount of managerial expertise can win a pennant, and as much as I hope for the contrary, no team with only one offensive threat can win a pennant either.

But hey, it's still a ballgame.

Here we go

When I talk to people who don't get most of their Pirates news on the internet (see the links at the right of the page), I realize how the expectations of casual fans diverge from those of the true fanatics. I was on the radio today with Rob Pratte of KDKA on Pirates Sunday, and it seemed as if I was the first person he had talked to all year who was not pumped up about the Pirates' acquisitions of Casey, Randa, and Burnitz.

I opined that although Casey's skills, such as they are, are probably well suited to the contours of PNC Park, he is slow, injury prone, and extraordinarily expensive for a first baseman who hit nine homers last year in a hitter's park; that if we were looking for a short-term stopgap for Eldred, which I do think we need, we could have found a better one for a lot less money; that all this talk about a long-term contract for the guy is terrifying; and that the move is, like many of the Pirates moves, more about PR than about baseball, and that that epitomizes what is and has been wrong with the Pirates for all the years in which we've been waiting for Romo to phone home.

We didn't talk much about Randa.

We talked a little bit about Burnitz and got into the Craig Wilson vs. Jeromy Burnitz arguments that rage on the internet in various places, with one caller bringing up the tired old argument about how Wilson is streaky and his homers usually come when it doesn't matter. I remembered an analysis that I think I read at Bucs Dugout to the contrary, so I told the guy about it and recommended that he search for it in Charlie's archives while Rob dumped the call. (People who are foolish enough to call talk shows are like people who spend their welfare checks playing slots, ignoring how heavily the odds are weighted with the house.)

I talked about how every year we try to find someone to replace Craig Wilson and how this has driven me to point of madness, citing the two acquisitions of Randall Simon. One caller mistook me to mean that I was saying that Burnitz was as bad as Simon. I replied that the class I was defining was not a class of "ballplayers who are as bad as Randall Simon," it was "ballplayers who aren't as good as Craig Wilson." The second class is a lot bigger than the first class and includes, in my opinion, Jeromy Burnitz. Although the caller, a Cubs fan, didn't agree, he was not an idiot.