Friday, June 30, 2006

Regime change is the only hope

You would think that abject failure of the sort that earns an "F" in a midyear assessment by the top baseball sportswriter in a city might lead a general manager to reconsider strategies that have clearly not worked.

This response about Dave Littlefield in Dejan's Q&A today suggests otherwise:
Q: Hi, Dejan. I'm wondering what shape the much discussed changes that might take place. The obvious answer is that the Pirates will, as always, unload players in the last year of their contract for marginal prospects, most of whom will never smell the majors. This group would include Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, Jose Hernandez (Ha!), Roberto Hernandez, Damaso Marte, Kip Wells (if he can win a couple games before July 31) and Sean Casey (if he doesn't sign an extension).

Do you see the Pirates looking into trading anyone else? What about Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Jose Castillo or -- gasp! -- one of our young pitchers? As you've mentioned many times in this space, it takes talent to get talent. If the Pirates are serious about a personnel shake-up, it would seem they have to offer more than rent-a-players.

Ryan Duchene of Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh

KOVACEVIC: Well, this one can be cut off quickly: The Pirates apparently have no intention of a personnel shakeup of the "serious" type, as you describe it. Right or wrong, Dave Littlefield and management are of the mind that they have a core they do not want to disperse. The three players you mentioned there are very much part of that, as are others.

The other players you mention are the ones that are or will be getting offered. In fact, of all the veterans on the team 30 or over, only Casey and Salomon Torres are likely not to be placed on the block. Casey, as you mentioned, could be signed. Torres is signed long-term and considered part of the core group despite his age.

You are right on about this: Trading prime chips is the only way to acquire prime, young talent. We have seen it all over baseball, most recently with Cleveland and Florida.

But there no indication of that coming, and there is no indication, in fact, that any aspect of how the Pirates have done things is on the verge of changing. Witness Littlefield's recent comments that he hopes to acquire talent that is "major-league ready."

That, my friends, is not Hanley Ramirez. It is J.J. Furmaniak.
As long as the "major-league ready" requirement remains in place, nothing will ever get better. Littlefield is going to stubbornly cling to his failed strategies until he loses his job. Even after a 13-game losing streak, there isn't anything to indicate that that day will be here anytime soon.


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