Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Not Cole

The Pirates lost a tough one last night, falling 1-0 to the defending World Champion Chicago Cubs despite a brilliant game pitched by staff ace Gerrit Cole. Despite putting up a wonderful effort that included 8 strikeouts, no walks, and only 2 hits over 7 innings, Cole took the very hard luck loss due to a double and a throwing error that allowed the Cubs Addison Russell to score the game's lone run. The Pirate bats could offer no support at all for their starter, and the loss dropped Cole to 1-3 on the season and the Pirates to a last place record of 8-12, 4 games under .500 and 4 behind the division leading Cubs.
Weak hitting. Poor fielding. Wasted opportunities.
Ladies and Gentlemen- Your 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Ghost of K-dro

Just a quick hit here, the Pirates logic was they could not afford to bring back former 1st round pick Pedro Alvarez because they just could not find a position for him in the field, he lacked the range and arm to play 3rd base and the brains and positioning to play 1st. The errors in the field were just too costly to a (supposed) contending team, so they just had to cut bait and non-tendered him before last season, fielding integrity being just so important to this team. (Nothing at all with him being an upcoming free agent who could hit for power and therefore demand extra $$$, nope not that at all, it was all about his defense)

Fast forward to the 1st 19 games of the 2017 season. The Pirates lead Major League baseball with a 19 errors, 1 per game. How much worse could the fielding possibly be with Pedro manning 1st base (or an outfield spot now that Marte is serving out his suspension?)The answer is, it couldn't. You literally cannot do worse than last place in the league in a category and that is where the Pirates are at, rock bottom. Last place in their division. Last place in team errors. And how much better would this lineup look with Pedro's undeniable power in it?

This is not so much about Pedro, the admittedly flawed player. This is about him bringing something to the team that nobody else currently does, a legitimate pure power hitter. You know what he is from his time here: A liability in the field. Too many strikeouts. An average that is only going to be around .250. And, of course, around 25-30 homeruns per 160 games.

That line would most certainly look better from the plate than any combination of Josh Bell, John Jaso, and whatever other scrap heap replacement players they plug in at 1st this year. Look, Pedro wasn't going to be a savior, and there was a reason we dubbed him Kdro early on here. But when he did get hot, he was a legit scary weapon that Jaso never was and Bell likely never will be.

What is actually super frustrating as a fan is that he would have been relatively affordable to keep, but the organizational philosophy is what ended his career here with no return at all on a 1st round investment beyond his arbitrational eligible years. He is currently only making $2M and in AAA in the Orioles organization learning to play the outfield. They see the value in his bat and are trying to make it work out. The Pirates played up his flaws to the fanbase and showed him the door instead of paying to keep him around. They actually non-tendered him and let him go for nothing instead of working to fix him game, finding a spot for him, and reinvesting in him. They plug in cheap bad replacement guys and chug along. It is a formula for continued losing, and that is what we are seeing once again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Marte Partay Suspended Indefinitely

Just a quick hit here with some updates on how badly things have gotten for our Battling Buccos since our last update last August (dedicated fans don’t always make for dedicated bloggers and I do have a family, a personal life, and an actual championship contending Hockey team to keep me busy most days).

The great (cost controlled) Center Fielder of the present and future Starling Marte was pinched for abusing the hardcore steroid nandrolone, a substance easily detectable by basic drug testing that stays in the system for months or even years and the head of infamous BALCO labs considered the “Kiss of Death” for tested athletes. Marte will be out 80 games (and more importantly if by chance this misfit squad gets that far, be ineligible for postseason play).

Obviously the Pirates are not in charge of what Marte puts into his body and cannot be blamed for their guy getting nicked by the piss police. However, the loss of one of their best young players for such a significant chunk of time puts yet another dark cloud onto the already stormy horizon of this season and beyond. Jung Ho Kang, the once promising Korean infielder is also still missing as he battles legal troubles surrounding a 3rd drunk driving arrest in his homeland after last season’s comeback campaign was marred by other legal troubles here stateside involving sexual misconduct investigations. Between Kang and Marte this year’s version of the Pirates has not only become a lot worse as far as on field expectations, but also a whole lot less fun to cheer for, as they obviously are housing at least a few bad apples under their fold.

Other than Marte himself, the player who is most directly affected by his unforeseen (and unpaid to Nutting’s delight) half season vacation will be erstwhile superstar and mildly discontented trade chip Andrew McCutchen. Cutch was immediately reinserted into his long held familiar territory of Center Field last night in St. Louis.

Although McCutchen was the much beloved leader of the club during their glorious but brief 3 years of playoff existence after 2 decades of futility, he was unceremoniously shopped around last winter and told when he did return that he would be moved over from Center field to Right to make way for the emergent Marte. To anyone who has followed this team under the reign of Nutting, it was obvious last year that the worm had turned on Cutch, conveniently as he went from affordable to expensive at the back end of his large contract, and even the slightest downgrade in his on field performance was enough for the regime to begin the propaganda campaign of throwing him under the bus and getting ready to trade his salary to a team actually attempting to win a championship. Mark my words, he is certainly on his way out the door still soon, and as Sean Gentille of the Post-Gazette has noted, Marte’s ill-begotten attempt at pumping up his physique to late 90s McGwire/Bonds levels just sunk any remaining hope of a happy goodbye campaign for his fellow outfielder.

So welcome back to the bad old days of Pirates baseball, I hope you fellow fans really enjoyed the brief respite of good fortune our team had for a few seasons, but fortune is a fickle mistress, and she appears to once again have abandoned the North Shore of our fair city to losing baseball and nefarious characters whom are hard to root much for. Who knows when the next shoe will drop and the next update will come, but perhaps by then John Jaso will actually have obtained a singular basehit in this cursed 2017 season. Cheers!

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 key 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 the 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.