Sunday, June 25, 2006


Of all the nonsensical articles published in newspapers about the Pirates this year, this one has to be the worst (so far): Bucs' decision on Casey a no-brainer, by Mike Prisuta of the Tribune-Review.

The first half is the usual recitation of the Pirates' annual miseries with a superficial recap of Littlefield's best and worst deadline deals. At the end of this comes the first stunner:
And Lofton reached the postseason in 2003 and '04 and is hitting well for the Dodgers this season, while the Pirates continue to grope for a center fielder.
So Mike, you are seriously saying that you'd prefer to see Kenny Lofton in center field for the Pirates over Jose Bautista (or even Nate McLouth)? Tike Redman I'll grant you.

Then it's on to the thesis: It's a no-brainer--the Pirates must sign Sean Casey.
But some of the guesswork can be eliminated this time if the Pirates heed the Opening-Day advice of Michael Keaton and write at least one check to at least one player whose contract is about to expire.
This is a perfect illustration of the fallacy that what ails the Pirates is that they are cheap. Yes, they are cheap, but they also spend the money they do spend foolishly, with no sound, unifying plan for spending it to achieve any clearly defined goal.
The Upper St. Clair product is having a disappointing season, by his standards, mostly because of a potentially devastating back injury that contributed mightily to Casey playing in just 33 of the Pirates' first 75 games.
He had a disappointing season last year too, by anyone's standards, a season in which he also was injured and also demonstrated that he has lost any power that he ever had (he has three homers in 125 at-bats this season). Potentially devastating injuries have been happening with increasing frequency to the Upper St. Clair product in recent years. A key factor has contributed mightily to these injuries. It's called "aging." With the passage of time, the importance of this factor has historically tended to increase.
But with his 32nd birthday fast approaching (July 2), Casey remains all ballplayer.
(Putting aside for a moment that it's impossible to know what the phrase "all ballplayer" actually means) Evidence please? The evidence I'm looking at, something known as "statistics*," shows a guy playing first base--a position that on most teams is occupied by one of the two or three most productive offensive players on the team--who has so far this year produced three home runs and a mediocre slugging percentage of .448.

But now, the fun really begins.
And beyond that, Casey's MVP intangibles make him much more of an asset than his career averages of .305, 18 home runs and 91 RBI suggest.
1. Please, please, please**, let me not see the words "intangible" and "character" in print in reference to the Pirates ever again. "Intangibles" are the refuge of lazy thinkers who lack the integrity, commitment, and energy to make a substantive argument. And tell me, what value has Casey's intangibles contributed to the 2005 Cincinnati Reds or the 2006 Pittsburgh Pirates? Do intangibles ever have any effect on actual wins and losses? And if the answer is "no," why are they even pertinent to this argument?

2. If the Pirates sign Casey to a three-year deal, the evidence suggests that it is a virtual certainty that those career averages will degrade considerably. They were produced by a younger, healthier ballplayer than the guy we will be signing. It happened in the past with Kevin Young (among others), and it will happen again.
Casey is such a unique and invaluable presence that a three-year, $21 million deal would constitute a bargain, especially considering what the Bucs are paying Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa and Kip Wells this season.
I see. So mistakes that were committed in the past provide license to commit more egregious mistakes in the future. And so it goes...the cycle continues.
The Pirates remembered heading into 2006 that you have to pay someone.
Uh, no. The Pirates realized heading into 2006 that they would not be able to bear the reputational damage that would have resulted from taking too excessive a profit without increasing payroll. So they directed their highly compliant GM to sign contracts with a few overpaid players in the twilights of their careers, crafted a cynical PR campaign around their purported "commitment to winning," then rewarded the GM with a contract extension.
If they've learned anything from this debacle, it should be the value of paying the right guy.
On that, Mr. Prisuta, we can all agree.

* statistics: arcane, obscure trivia that is of interest only to pasty-faced geeks who sit around in their underwear poring over books and web sites and who have never been to a baseball game or played the game themselves.

** Famous Flames: Please, please don't go.


Anonymous KPatrick said...

Billy, that was alot of ink on a guy who used to the be the sports dude on DVE. Not exactly Mike Lupica. Or even Bob Smizik for that matter.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

May I remind you, sir, that you are slagging a Professional Hitter (TM) as well as an all-around swell guy.

I ask: Whose lines are these?

190 42 9 0 12 .737
125 36 11 0 3 .736
407 106 21 1 12 .723


The first line is Brad Eldred, 2005. The second line is Sean Casey, 2006. So as we can plainly see, in the ever-crucial OPS category, Sean Casey is EVERY BIT AS GOOD as Brad Eldred, who as we all know is/was the Pirates' first baseman of the future. But Eldred is hardly a proven commodity, much less a Professional Hitter (TM) like Sean. And we were all set to hand Eldred the first base job for who knows how long if he had just made it through this season injury free and learned to make a little contact (that reminds me, Brad is an injury magnet too). Sean already knows how to make contact -- look at those GIDP totals!

So it seems clear to me that if I had to lavish a big contract on somebody, I'd lavish it on the guy who has years and years ... and years and years in the majors and is EVERY BIT AS GOOD as the guy we wanted to take the job.

That third line? Oh, that's Daryle Ward 2005, and Casey is CLEARLY better than Ward, so we've obviously improved on our production at first base.

So I don't want to hear any more disparaging of Sean Casey. I think he deserves six years and $50 million. It's time the Pirates laid out some REAL money and built a solid foundation for the future with good guys like Sean Casey.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Billy said...

What's more, bucdaddy, there are those MVP intangibles to consider.

To kpatrick: I didn't know that about Prisuta. I guess the Trib is about as serious about providing informed coverage of the Pirates as the Pirates are about winning.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

If you think Casey's such a superstar AND such a super guy, why would you ask him to sign for a super $2.5M/year pay cut?

11:16 AM  

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