Friday, August 5, 2016

Welcome Back to the Bad Old Days

Before last night’s utterly embarrassing loss to the hapless Braves, the Bravos had won an entire one (1!) singular series at home the entire 2016 season!

This is an abjectly terrible team that a supposed playoff contender just lost two out of three against. In isolation this would be bad, but when you factor in the extenuating circumstances, it is downright catastrophically bad. Remember when the mutli extra inning epic was lost in Atlanta on a terrible call by Jerry Meals and it seemed to suck the life right out of the (up untill then spunky) team and sent them into a tailspin for the rest of the season? This was worse.

First you had the trades (management throwing up its hands and giving up on the season). Then you had your star player benched for the entirety of the series because his manager just felt he didn't look right out there. Then you had John Jaso, the man brought in to give more effort than (former NL home run king)Pedro Alvarez and holding back the ultra-promising Joshua Bell at First Base, that John Jaso, the man who thinks he is somehow an actual Pirate and hits like he is wielding a fencing foil instead of a ball bat most days, that John Jaso hit into a back breaking double play and didn't even feign enough interest to leave the batter's box. Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

"Not Guilty till Proven" Kang also had a very costly error that surrendered two runs in the 8th. It is obvious that Kang’s head is not in the game right now, and he should certainly not be on the field for the obvious reasons surrounding his legal troubles and most likely him being an absolutely terrible person. But you know Billionaire Bob Nutting's philosophy is that if he is paying for something, he is darn well going squeeze every iota of value out of it, even if it offends the senses of the general public and does not lead to optimal results outside of his personal checking accounts. So Kang stays put while others are shipped out and buried.

Speaking of buried, the Pirates State Run media continues to run a campaign of dissonance against their own Star Pitcher Gerrit Cole. This has absolutely zero to do with Cole’s performance on the mound, where he has given up only three earned runs over 20 innings in his past three starts, and it has absolutely everything to do with his pending contract negotiations. And by negotiations we mean he will be low balled and ridiculed until the day he hits UFA (or is traded away) and will promptly sign an earth shattering mega deal with a real life Major League team while we here in Pittsburgh are left holding the embers of fading hope in our system, “the plan,” and those oh so valuable prospects who can only ever be traded if it is in a maneuver to dump and unload unwanted salary, and never ever, ever are to be touched for the purpose of acquiring major league talent to assist the major league team.

This team is done. They have won two of their past eight (and those two games were started by the falsely maligned Cole) and the actual results on the team’s psyche go much deeper than that. There will be no one and done wild card this year. There will be no hope. And if you really think that they are going to pour their savings on the contracts of the players they traded away into improving and putting a better team together this offseason, it is beyond my ability to describe to you how much you are not paying attention to the way this organization operates. They will stoke some interest and Just Miss(!) on some key acquisitions, but the obvious needs of the major league squad will be attempted to be filled in by bargain basement veterans and dirt cheap rookies. Why would next year be any different than this year? Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Whispers of discontent brewing?

It has been fairly quiet on these once stormy seas for the past few seasons.

The Pirates under shrewd and cunning Captaincy of Neil Huntington have built a contending roster by combining cheap young elite talent with the right mix of savvy veterans, short term mercenary rentals, and reclamation projects to make the wildcard playoff game for 3 straight years.

Yes, the last two times that did not work out so well, as potentially contending team ran into an absolute buzzsaw Cy Young level performances by both Bumgarner and Arrieta that sunk them in the wanton cruelty of the one and done format, but fate can be a fickle mistress and the ship was at least tacking onto the correct course.

Flash forward to the first of August, 2016. The Pirates have already dumped off Mark the Shark for a bucket of krill and a powerball ticket. This was the same vaunted closer of whom they had promised us over the offseason they had chosen to pay over the likes of Neil Walker (a player on pace this season for 26 round trippers and endless disparagement by his former employers) whom they then traded to the Mets for Jon Niese the terrible (who they decided to sign to save some money and term on bringing back surprising 2nd half success J.A. Happ), whom the wizardly Ray Searage could not reclaim from the scrap heap, so then they dumped Niese back to Mets for the formerly successfully salvaged Antonio Bastardo.

So they essentially traded a guy they had targeted and traded for (Niese) by dealing a proven commodity they didn’t want to pay (Walker), instead of resigning another (more successful) guy (Happ), and then ended up trading another proven commodity they did want to pay instead (Melancon), and the guy they targeted didn’t work out (Niese), so they dumped him back to the team they traded the proven guy to (the Mets), for another guy they had decided not to resign cheap in the first place (Bastardo). Got it?

All in all, it was a convoluted shell game of a situation, it wasn’t exactly encouraging, but it all seemed more like reasonable and somewhat mirthful bad luck after a few years of pulling rabbits out of hats, and I was ready to laugh about it and move on with Ivan Nova in the wings.

And then we come to the Liriano trade. This is the one that stung. This is the one that brought back terrible flashbacks. Operation Shutdown. Dave Do-Littlefield. Sleepy John Russell. This was the kind of terrible, awful, no good, lousy, rancid, soul crushingly bad trade the Pirates made countless times from 1993 thru 2010 when they were engaged in the most futile losing streak in North American Professional Sports History.

I know Frankie was not having the best year. But for me he had become a symbol of the resurgence of the Pirates as a team, a walking representation of hope that when the time came to make the right decision, this management group and ownership would step forward and do the right thing. I remember where I was the day we signed him, on a snowy December day at an in-laws Christmas party, I heard it announced over the radio that Liriano had been signed. The prior year they had brought in A.J. Burnett on the cheap, a former elite level pitcher who had fallen out of good graces with the Evil Empire Yankees. It seemed with Liriano they would actually have a 1/2 combination of potentially elite pitching for the first time since Drabek and Smiley lead the way.

As much as Burnett and his Batman persona won over and connected mightily with a renewed and engaged fanbase, Liriano was the guy I was most excited to see come up in the rotation when I was going to a game. I have a thing for watching strikeout pitchers. Groundballs are great ways to get outs. Avoiding walks and pitching to soft contact is very smart. But to me there is nothing more exciting than seeing your guy go out there and dominate on a swing and a miss or freeze a guy with a spot on slider that brushes the corner with 2 strikes.

And Liriano was the guy I wanted on the mound in the biggest games. He was pitching a gem the night that will live forever in Pirates lore as the time Cueto dropped the ball. He was on the mound when I was there watching the Pirates take a 2 games to 1 lead over the Cardinals in the 2013 NLDS. He was the guy, that although he wasn’t pitching great this year, when he was pitching great he was a dominating strikeout artist, a keg cog in a rotation even as a potential threat, if not an actual ace.

He was also the guy who had been given a legitimate top of the rotation starter contract by the Pirates. Frankie got paid, because he was an important part of a team that considered itself a true contender instead of a wait and hope for the prospects to come along pretender.

And now Frankie is gone. In a trade that can be considered by all but the most delusional of Nutting drones as nothing but an absolutely blatant salary dump. He was traded for an objectively worse (cheaper) pitcher. With two top 10 prospects going in the wrong direction! This from the team that has, in the words of Dan Hopper from Buc’s Dugout: “hoards prospects like they're delicate Faberge eggs handed down to them by Ol' Grampa Piratey after the Great War.”

Imagine if back in early June of this year, or heck, even before the season started, what the Pirates could have gotten in terms of Major League talent for 2 top 10 prospects from their widely praised farm system and a guy seen as a legitimate #2 starter for a championship contender. They certainly could have acquired alot more than a borderline back of the rotation guy like Drew Hutchinson. But the Pirates would never make that deal we are told by the Nuttingites, our valuable prospects are too valuable and important to the value of our valuable future.

Until it is time to save Billionaire Bob a few bucks. And that is the essential crux of my eternal frustration with the Pirates. It is great that they won the past few years on the cheap. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great seeing real and meaningful games playing out in the gorgeously set taxpayer funded stadium on the North Shore of the Allegheny. But if this is how the organization is still going to be run going forward, always looking to save a buck instead of acquiring the best Bucs for the bang, it may be a long time coming before we see the likes of those sort of games around here again.

Friday, August 2, 2013

And thus ended Mutiny...

Well, this blog certainly went out with a whimper and not with a bang. All things shall come to pass, and all things shall come to an end. The truth is, the driving force behind this blog was (primary) how bad the Pirates had sucked for so long; and (secondary) the lack of culpability we thought team management and ownership faced from the local mainstream media in their miserly ways leading to decades of losing well they sold us a bill of goods in a taxpayer funded cash machine of a ballpark.
And the truth is, that pattern, which had so long frustrated those of us who ran this site, began to come to an end pretty much as soon as this blog was launched. The reason we started this project was not because we hated the Pirates, but because we loved them. They had been part of our lives since childhood (the early 90s) and seeing them (we felt intentionally) being run into a ditch season, after season, after season had lead to endless frustration for us as dedicated fans. Thus the Mutiny, as an offshoot of other blogs that we felt were giving too much credit to a unending pattern of consistent failure, was launched in 2011 in an effort to cultivate our passionate anger with the team's state of affairs, bond with like minded fans, and possibly do something to display our massive disapproval of how our Bucs were being run.
The absolute last thing we thought we were witnessing during the summer of 2011 was the long awaited light at the end of the tunnel. But there it was, staring us in the face. When your raison d'etre is frustration with cheap and incompetent ownership denying your team any reasonable chance of winning, and the team starts to inexplicably win, it kind of takes the wind out of your little 'mutinys' sails. This incarnation of the Pirates is now most assuredly worth watching. And honestly, we are quite happy about that. We still discuss the Pirates over email, but like the Penguins and Steelers, it is pretty much focused on the product on the field, not a discussion of how much ownership is screwing us over. We have honestly lost the spirit of mutiny and are just regular fans in our seats again, cheering our team on. This is not a bad thing, it is a good thing. I will proudly take a failure of a blog concept and gladly watch my first place team in comfort. In retrospective, we had some fun, raised a little bit of cyber hell, and called it a day as the team got good again. Thanks to all the readers and especially the commentators who sought refuge here from the tyranny of the censored Smiz-Blog.

We have moved on, but we have not forgotten. My one personal regret is that I never got my chance to follow through on my plans to infiltrate the Pirates season ticket office for a guided tour at an attempt at some gonzo journalism. That certainly would have been interesting. If for some bizarre reason you actually miss my writing, I am relaunching my original hockey and politics blog (pucks_and_pols)
So long, thanks for all the fish, and LETS GO BUCS!!!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Suck for Luck

After 19 years of embarrassment, it's not much of a reach to imagine Pirates fans are desperate for hope. The readers and writers of this blog are certainly no exception. We all HOPE the Pirates eventually turn it around and become a respectable organization that miraculously has a winning season. A winning season is one that ends with a team having won more games than it lost. I felt the need to elaborate as it has been SO LONG since the Pirates have won more games than they lost over an entire season. I guess I really didn't need to explain that, since the other teams in town manage to have such an occurrence  on a fairly consistent basis.

With the recent injury to newly acquired AJ Burnett, many desperate fans have begun to speculate that luck is a driving force behind the Pirates misfortunes. You know, the same AJ Burnett who has had back to back seasons with a 5+ ERA, is 35 years old, and has had Tommy John Surgery. Now, nobody is attributing the entire collapse of the organization to bad luck. That would be foolish. But when a team has been down so long, it is hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

The amazing thing is, there are many people who do see that light and think it is not that far away. I have written here before about my astonishment at the number of people who think WE are crazy for thinking a team that hasn't had a winning season in 19 going on 20 seasons is not run properly. There have a been a myriad of excuses to support the current FO team and their actions. Blaming Littlfield and McClatchy is reasonable; they were certainly not making the team any better. Blaming luck because of an injury to a washed up pitcher that probably would have been relegated to the bullpen by September seems ludicrous to me.

Maybe it is my overall bitterness to the 19, going on 20, straight seasons of losing baseball. I can't imagine why.... After all, we are lucky to just have a team. The previous GM sucked. The previous "principal owner" sucked.  The current group has obviously done a much better job, judging by losing 390 games the last 4 seasons. That is improvement to some people, I guess.

Maybe I am clearly an idiot for thinking that a team who hasn't won more games than they lost for 19, going on 20, straight seasons is not worthy of praise.

This past NFL season, a handful of struggling teams were "vying" for the top spot in the 2012 draft ( sound familiar?). The coveted prospect they so desperately wanted to acquire is Andrew Luck, the outstanding Stanford quarterback who most believe will be an NFL superstar. Ultimately, the Indianapolis Colts won the "Suck For Luck" Sweepstakes by finishing with the worst record and securing the top spot in the NFL Draft, almost certain to be used on Luck. However, Luck is far from a sure thing.

For 11 straight years ( not including having the #8 pick in 2012), the Bucs have had a Top 11 pick with two #1's, two #2's, and three #4's. They have had top 20 pick every year since 1994. Despite having such high picks over the years, the Bucs have little to show for it, nothing to show if you are looking for a winning season. The Pirates haven't had one of those in 19, going on 20, seasons.

Recently, this was blamed partially on luck as in many years, the "once in a lifetime player" was JUST out of reach for the Bucs. That is impressive, considering they have had 6 top 5 picks in a row. With the #1 pick in 2002, the Bucs took Brian Bullington, who never lived up to the hype of being a #3 starter. They chose him over BJ Upton, Prince Fielder, Zach Greinke, Cole Hamels, Jeff Francoeur, and others. I don't know if you can chalk that up to bad luck.

But that was with a different "principal owner" and GM. Things have changed since then, despite not having the W/L record to prove it. After all, the Pirates haven't had more wins than losses for 19, going on 20, straight losing seasons. Why should the last 4 matter? In the end, it is all just a matter of luck.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Frank the Tank

Where to begin? Saying it has been a long time would be a gross understatement. Plenty has transpired since our last post, both in the world of Pirates baseball and in our personal lives. I found it of little use to post information of the free agent signings this offseason as they were not much of a splash nor an aberration from what we've come to expect from this ballclub. I had a good chuckle over the Bucs taking GI Jones to arbitration over $225K and have little insight on the acquisition of over the hill AJ Burnett.

But I could not ignore the latest PR debacle that has fallen upon the PBC:

Team President Frank Coonelly Arrested for DUI.

Pardon the one sentence paragraph; I swear I'm not trying to ripoff Ron Cook.

Not only was Frank Coonelly arrested for a DUI, his citations also included reckless driving, driving with a revoked or suspended license, and driving the wrong way. This account of activities actually leaves us with more questions than answers. But having ZERO journalistic ability, let alone credentials, unanswered questions is the best I can do right now.

On to the questions. First off, what is the substance behind the "driving with a suspended or revoked license" charge and why was it thrown out? DK's original story on the matter didn't even mention this charge, which I would consider to be an egregious oversight. Even if the charge was dropped, why was it submitted in the first place? Was this not FC's first DUI? Without any further information on the matter, we can only jump to conclusions. For all we know, he may have forgotten to renew his license and it was expired. On the other hand, it;'s possible this wasn't Frank the Tank's first Wrong Way Rodeo on the 279 off ramp.

My next question is another that, will also likely remained unanswered for some time: How the hell did this story go two months without seeing the light of day? I have taken into consideration the fact that the Pirates have secretly extended employees in the past  but I also know that there is thing called police blotter. There a number of local outlets that report every arrest made by PD's in the area, especially DUI's. But this story never made print. Did the Pirates PR department squash it or was the Ross PD lax in their reporting?

In my opinion, those are two questions that need answered in order for the fans and public to understand the scope of events. If this was some Joe Lawyer partner of a local law firm, most people wouldn't give a hoot. If it was Stephen Zappala, I would imagine there would be a public outcry for his resignation. I venture to say the Coonelly's status falls somewhere in the middle. While he is not the DA that we trust to put dangerous criminals behind bars to protect us from them, Coonelly is a highly visible public figure working in an office in a ballpark funded by public money. The success of his employer is highly predicated on public goodwill; not only from the players on the field but also the individuals who decide who those players will be and sign their paychecks.

In all honesty, Frank Coonelly seems like a nice guy. But I don't trust him as far I could throw him and considering I'm all of 5'11'' 185 lbs and he's got a good 3 inches and 20+ pounds on me, that wouldn't be a lengthy toss (although still better than the one  Barry Lamarr Bonds made on the Day the Franchise Died). FC has never built up any amount of goodwill among the fans of our dreaded ballclub due to his asinine proclamations and outright lies. That is how he earned his original nickname on the Mutiny, one we haven't backed down from even though it is slander to  publicly call someone a liar if they hadn't actually lied and a.) the Pirates are not above bullying an outfit like ours and b.) we cannot afford to be sued. Given those facts and circumstances, we still feel safe calling him the Lying Liar but our glossary is certainly going to be adding a new alternative nickname.

Considering those same vital statistics mentioned above, Frank the Tank was not merely driving buzzed. A .16 BAC is not merely a few cocktails or a couple beers over a couple hours. For a guy his size, that's a solid 9-10 drinks, according to this chart: http://www.lcbapps.lcb.state.pa.us/webapp/edu/0.8PercentUPDATE.ASP. He had to be bombed when they pulled him over and he is damn lucky that he did not hurt himself or anybody else.

While the suspended license and the curious delay of the story's release are the two biggest questions right now, I also wonder how DK got this information. I believe DK to be the best sportswriter in Pittsburgh by a long shot, but I do feel that since his transition to the Trib, he has been far too generous to the Pirates. I have yet to read today's column in it's entirety, but it appears that he is a times coming to Coonelly's defense and more or less making excuses for him.  In other instances, he is scathing in his criticism of FC's choices and the team's mishanlding of the situation.

But DK's initial report adds another question to the pile, along with whether FC's job should be safe. This is a question that has existed long before this DUI fiasco: Why does the local media seemingly give the Pirates a free pass?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Come Together

Since the inception of this blog, our intention has been to have a place for those openly dissatisfied with Pirates ownership to come together (see what I did there?) to voice our displeasure. As the season wore on and the Pirates began to play at their usually decrepit pace, posts became increasingly redundant and basically hard to write. How much can you write about how bad a team stinks? Sure, the PG and Trib's beat writers do it, but that is because they are getting paid for it.

But now, nearly 2 months since our last post, an earthquake is shaking up the foundation of the Buccos fan base. Many fans, even those who were decidedly in the middle, have begun to suggest an all-out boycott in order to send a message to the Nutting Regime. With the league-forced sale of the Dodgers, in some part due to fan's vociferous disdain for the ownership group, Pirates fans are starting to wonder aloud if the same results could be had in Pittsburgh. I'd be lying if I said that I truly believed a full-on boycott would hurt the Nuttings in such a fashion that they would consider selling their cash cow. But that doesn't mean I don't believe the passionate fans who want to see change in ownership should stand by idly.

There is little doubt that profit comes before winning for the Nuttings. They are the team's owners and they have a right to turn a profit. But that also doesn't mean the fans have to contribute to further lining their already deep pockets. While same may argue their pockets aren't deep enough to fund a competitive team, my rebuttal would be to simply the sell the team if you can't afford to win. Despite the fact that the Nuttings are using a Taxpayer funded stadium to churn out cash, the fans can't merely show up and force them to sell the team. Pretty much the only way this happens is if the team is no longer profitable. That is one aspects the fans do control and if people stay  away from the ballpark, there is nobody to blame but those at the top.

We need to organize. A simple passive boycott will not be enough, though. In order to convey our message, we will need to have a voice and a presence. We will need that voice to be heard, that presence to be seen. We need to be there at PirateFest, in the public eye. We need to be there at opening day, loud and proud. We need to get an organized and unified message that is concise and crystal clear: No more waiting on five year plans. No more watching other cities, with comparable population bases, have higher payrolls and win world titles (St. Louis) and NO MORE NUTTING BULLSHIT about building for the future!!!

The Nuttings have had plenty of time to get their guys in place. And yet they seem more interested in turning a profit than winning baseball games. When a player, no matter the skill level, is due for a salary increase as he reaches his free agent years, that player is dumped, regardless of what kind of replacement is ready to step in. It is a cycle that continues to repeat itself, with well heralded power hitters like Aramis Ramirez. Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, and lesser lights (but capable major league players) like Nate McLouth, Matt Capps, Paul Maholm.  If that money saved would be spent on bringing in better players, we would have no complaint. Instead, the labor cost of the major league operation are kept artificially low, and the revenue keeps streaming in as fans are sold on a circus like distraction of Fireworks, Prospects, Rock Bands, Baseball Nostalgia, Gimmicks, and hope for a future that is always dawning on the horizon, but never seems to get here.

There are a few choices as proud Pirate fans. You can continue to go to games, and hope against hope the Nuttings catch lightning in a bottle one year, the entire (always underpaid) roster over performs, and success magically comes about for a  few fleeting moments before the economic realities of the team’s situation wash it away once again, much like in 2011. You can lose your interest in baseball all together, and exclusively follow the many other well run, winning organization that our city is blessed to have. I have a feeling many fans have taken this route.

But there are those of us who are both still passionate about the Pirates, and utterly dissatisfied and disgusted with the way the team has been run for the past two decades, the majority of which has been under Nutting control, despite their outright lies about how long they have owned the club. Kevin McClatchy was always their puppet since the late 90s, just like President Frank Coonelly is now. The time has come for us to not only not go to the games, in silent protest, but to loudly show up at the gates, but not enter, but instead besmirch and embarrass the misers sitting atop their piles of gold in their stately palace of baseball.

Pirates Nation Rise UP!!! You have nothing to lose but more baseball seasons, 19 and counting.

Any comments, suggestions, solutions, etc can be sent to mutinyontheallegheny@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

(NO) Moneyball

Well folks, there is no use sitting here and going over the last week of Pirates baseball. While the season has been unofficially over for about a month or so, it's now turned into  complete I don't care mode. Luckily, the team has adopted the same attitude; they just get paid a hell of a lot more to suck than I do. As an homage to the Nutting Style of baseball, I am going to take the focus off of the current product at hand and discuss a few things that are mildly related.

I have seen the trailers for the upcoming film Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, Jonah Hill as 'Peter Brand' (based on former Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta), and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Pittsburgher and fellow Shaler Alumni Art Howe. This trailer made me wonder about a few things. #1.) In Hollywood, where appearance seems to mean everything, why did they cast 2 fat guys to play skinny guys? and #2.) How long until somebody writes a book and/or makes a movie about the Pirates of the last 19 seasons, perhaps entitled "No-Moneyball"?. It could be out there already, but I was too lazy to take 10 seconds to do a Google search.

Normally, sports books and movies go one of four ways. The first is chronicling the success of a particular player or franchise with examples such as the films 'Miracle' or 'Pride of the Yankees'. The second is covering scandals such as the movie ' Eight Men Out' or the novel ' The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven'. Third is the screwball comedy we've seen with 'Major League' and 'Bull Durham'. Number four is the kids genre with epics like 'The Sandlot', 'Little Big League' and 'Rookie of the Year' among many,many, many, many, many,many others.

In this blogger's opinion, a book and/or movie about the last 2 decades of Pirates baseball could encompass the first three without a doubt. While on the surface it would appear that this team's 19 straight losing records is not a marker of success in any fashion, you have to face the facts at some point and admit just how impressive it is to go that long without a winning season. I mean, you almost have to try to suck that bad. For the scandal part, much has recently been made about the true intentions of the ownership and management group's intentions for this ballclub. Using a tax payer funded venue to churn out profit year after year while taking no personal risk has drawn the ire of many Pirates fan who are sick of losing and the Nutting's miserly ways. Interestingly enough, the same reason the story could be classified under the first category is also the same it would fall under #3, the screwball comedy: 19 straight losing seasons. That's laughable in and of itself.


Had 2011 gone differently for the Bucs, had they sustained that over-their-head pace of play, a novel would probably be in the works as we speak. The true underdog story of a once proud franchise looking to recapture the hearts of it's fans and put itself back on a national stage. Everybody loves those kinds of  underdog stories where the little guy triumphs over it's competition against all odds. Nobody likes a loser, especially not 19 in row. Look at Major League; they sucked for about 10 minutes before they were deadset in a pennant race with the Yankees. Therefore, the story of the Pirates woes heads back into development hell with Duke Nukem Forever and Chinese Democracy.

Wait, those have both been released? Really? Next you're going to tell me that Ghostbusters III is going to be green lit before the Bucs have a winning season............

Maybe it is time to start chronicling the bad years. After all, those who don't learn from history are bound to repeat it, right?