Thursday, June 01, 2006

Correlation and causation

I suspect that readers may be checking the blog during the past few days and concluding that the reason I haven't been posting is that, when the Pirates are winning and things are going well, I have nothing to say.

Not true: correlation and causation are not the same thing (just as it is not necessarily the return of Sean Casey that has ignited our offense--although it definitely is a factor).

The fact is that I have a big deadline at work that is cutting into my reading and blogging time. Maybe one of the reasons I often rail about the inadequacies of the likes of Bob Smizik and Paul Meyer is that I envy the freedom they have to write about the Pirates whenever they want to, and I sometimes think that they abuse that freedom.

But that's enough metablogging--on to the show.

Enter dark, ominous music creating a sense of foreboding and doom:
Third baseman Joe Randa, out with a fractured right foot, has taken batting practice the past two days and is making "very good progress," Tracy said. (From Pirates Notebook today.)
After all of the Freddy talk of the past week, I'd say that at this point, the Pirates simply can't replace him with Randa when he returns. I think that Freddy has played his way into the starting lineup, and that is a measure of just how great Freddy has been playing; playing well enough to change the team's plans is very difficult to do with a front office as taciturn and as obsessed with saving face as this one has often been.

At the same time, I have to give Tracy some credit for doing the right things lately. Jeromy Burnitz didn't play against any of the three Brewers lefthanders we just faced and, with the exception of the continued obsession with Paulino and the shunning of Doumit, I can't disagree with any of the lineups he has recently put out there. After working myself into a lather about Tracy, there is something reassuring about this statement, also from the Notebook:
Tracy, asked why he kept the same batting order for a third consecutive game: "Twenty-six runs."
Back to Sanchez for a moment: It's now clear that I deserve a public flogging for this statement from a few days ago, written moments before Jose Castillo arrived with the prodigious power that has been predicted for him for a long time but that has never quite materialized until now:
I think that the move that is being contemplated by the front office when Randa returns is for Freddy to replace not Randa as the anointed third baseman, but Castillo as the regular second baseman. Between the critical comments by the announcers during games, the visible in-game scoldings in the dugout from Tracy, and the tenor of the comments by Tracy in the Notebook, it seems to me that Tracy and Littlefield are losing patience with Castillo's inability to get his head out of his ass during games.
I will take the occasional, or even frequent, mental lapses in the field in exchange for the offense we've seen lately, and I'm sure that Tracy will too.

Speaking of announcers, the one irritant during The Streak (now up to three games) has been the aggressive triumphalism of Lanny Frattare. Unfortunately, I've had to listen to many of the games on the radio, and when he is not describing what is happening on the field, Lanny has seemed intent on declaring success prematurely (Bush on the aircraft carrier, "Mission Accomplished") and assaulting the character of those of us who have expressed skepticism and derision about the team. This is a direct quote from last night's game: "Jim Tracy is a tremendous manager, and he has a tremendous coaching staff."

As much as I love the offense we've been seeing lately, I'm not quite ready to buy that one.

Wilbur Miller, who turns up all over the place and is invariably perceptive, articulate, knowledgeable, and correct, wrote somewhere yesterday that the biggest issue for the Pirates right now is recovering gracefully from the bad moves they made in the winter. If there were a way simply to vaporize Joe Randa and Jeromy Burnitz, the season could proceed as it should, we'd learn about the young players we need to learn about, and we'd have a team that would be fun to watch and to follow.

But from McClatchy down, there is both a financial and a reputational investment in the fiction that the Pirates generously entered the free-agent market and spent money to make the team better. This was the brand story of the 2006 season, expressed in one of the "We Will" commercials that was shown only a couple of times before reality rendered it unusable. The Pirates need to find a graceful way of rewriting the brand story now that the original one has lost its usefulness. There's a better story that could now be written, but this has not typically been an organization nimble enough to change plans when things don't work out.

3 Comments:

Anonymous billscat said...

How would Freddy look as the regular shortstop? Package Jack with a pitcher and another of our veterans to snare a young, left-handed hitting corner - any corner. I'd be willing to move Bay to first base if necessary.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Billy said...

Hiya Scat.

That's the kind of high-risk move that franchises take when their goal is to win championships. Unfortunately, franchises whose goal is to turn a profit and win 75 games--just enough to stave off a fan rebellion--don't trade their most marketable players.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

I was trying to remember who the Castillo critics were -- I thought they were at Wagner and VanSlyke. Forgot you were one. So thanks for kicking yourself and saving me the trouble :-)

And the word verification function here is pretty cool. It reminds me I have to go to the eye doctor on Monday.

11:08 AM  

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