Jeff Pearlman

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When one writes a mediocre column

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The e-mails came. And came. And came. And came. And came. One after another after another. Of the 150 or so I received, two were positive. All the others were thoroughly negative.

And rightly so.

For good and for bad, I take great pride in my writing. I don’t just argue for the sake of arguing (I really don’t), and I never hand in columns or books without having read the things, oh, 10 … 15 … 20 times before submission. This is what I do for a living, and I try extremely hard to do it well.

This week, however, I fell short. My most recent SI.com column, a piece ripping the Pittsburgh Pirates for continuous ineptitude, was extremely mediocre—and it pisses me off. I suppose the writing is OK and fine and whatever, but the point I was trying to make was completely lost (thus ruining the whole thing). In short: I started writing about how the Pirates would inevitably waste money on a high-priced, over-the-hill free agent, because it’s what they always do. Yet many of the players I listed as examples, from Eric Hinske to Doug Mientkiewicz, were bargain-basement additions from past years. They weren’t expensive, but relatively cheap, no-frills pieces.

What I wanted to express—but, again, failed miserably at—is that the Pirates always seem to bring in these guys, hype them up in the media as potential answers to team problems … then inevitably look dumb when they fail. While Pittsburgh fans can certainly argue this, at least a valid argument can take place. The way I wrote the column, I just wound up looking naive, stupid and uninformed. Ugh.

Truth be told, I don’t enjoy beating myself up. But I do believe in accountability. If we in the media are going to call out others for their shortcomings, we also need to be able to call out ourselves. I dropped the ball.

One more thing—Pirate bloggers were pretty damn vicious in ripping me … and from Free Tank Carter to Bucs Dugout, I applaud them for it. In the old days, writers and reporters could get away with mediocrity. Sure, some angry people might call the newsroom or write a letter to the editor. But it came and went, no biggie. Nowadays, however, bloggers are absolutely everywhere, looking for that next mistake to pounce upon. From this perspective, it’s not always comfortable. But it’s needed.

  • This is why I love your blog, Jeff. You get it.

  • SteveH

    Don’t be so hard on yourself Jeff. I checked out Bucs Dugout and saw this headline:

    “Pirates Sign Jack Taschner”

    My first reaction…”WHO?”

    According to the Bucs Dugout crew:

    “This is the definition of flyer. Taschner is 31 year old lefty with no history of success with the Giants or the Phillies.”

    Maybe you weren’t so far from the truth after all.

  • Andy

    Jeff, seriously don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve had 17 consecutive losing seasons. My 80 year old grandmother has the right to make fun of us now, and hasn’t remembered what baseball is in five years. As for every ‘bargain’ that we find, we also over pay for shitty-ass ‘high profile’, ‘talent’ (I feel like all of those words needed quotation marks to help express the irony).

    Let me run you off a list of my favorite blunders that we’ve brought (not grown down on the farm) into Pittsburgh:

    -Pat Mears
    -Joe Randa (LOVE the guy, but a combined 11 home runs from the hot corner? Come on.)
    -Benito Santiago
    -Matt Morris (Could be the biggest misappropriation of 10 million dollars ever)
    -My all-time favorite, however, Derek Bell and Operation: Shutdown

    That’s excluding the players whose talent we supposedly cultivated until they were ready to play major league baseball, but clearly weren’t, but we kept around for a while anyways (a la Kevin Young, the next Frank Thomas, anybody? Shit, he was awesome at popping up to the first basemen and that’s about it).

    No, Jeff, after 17 years of losing, I feel that regardless of how you felt your article came off, it was more than appropriate. If anything, you should have made it more condescending and harsh because our front office hasn’t been qualified to run a 3-ring flea circus, let alone a multi-million dollar franchise.

    Good day, sir.

  • Steve: Taschner signed a minor league deal with a NRI. He’s probably going to be a middle reliever for the Indianapolis Indians in 2010. If, by some miracle, he makes the roster, his contract calls for a salary under $1M. All teams make signings of that type, to fill out their minor league systems.

    Pearlman’s column would’ve been a fairly natural fit during the Littlefield era (and an even better one under Bonifay), but Huntington has actually been pretty prudent with his money. To this point, he generally hasn’t spent on mid-market veterans unless there were no viable internal alternatives for the position. And under Huntington, the Pirates have been among the top spenders in the draft, have greatly increased the budget for international talent, and have made substantial capital investments in a new Dominican facility. He’s doing exactly what he should be doing, as far as strategy is concerned – it only remains to be seen whether the execution of that strategy will bear fruit or not.

  • Andy

    Huntington is trying to work his magic, like he did in Cleveland. However, just because you spend money differently (i.e. – the draft), doesn’t mean you’re spending it prudently. He definitely has a better understanding of small market baseball (he places a lot more value on sabermetrical statistics), but his measuring stick won’t come along for a few years. Once we can see the effects of him cleaning house (firing everyone all the way down to the hot dog vendors who didn’t fit with his plan) and how his drafting pans out (Pedro Alvarez needs to be the next David Wright, not Andy LaRoche). My point, I guess, is that AFTER 17 YEARS OF EMBARRASSING BASEBALL, I reserve the right to be as skeptical as I want to be about that shit-show they call a baseball team down in Pittsburgh.

  • I’m not sure I understand your point, Andy. If you concede that Huntington is doing the right things, then why is it OK for Pearlman to blame him for things that happened before he came to the organization?

    Dave Littlefield is gone. He’s the Cubs’ problem now. If you (or Pearlman) want to criticize his work, it should be within that context, or else it’ll seem like old news.

  • Jeff, I got what the meaning of your original piece was: the Pirates tend to grab guys that were once very good players that are passed their prime and trot them out as if they’re going to make a difference.

    Chances are they’ll be gone by August 31.

    Santiago, Morris, Randa, Mears, etc are all guys that contenders either trade for late in the year or sign at the end of the winter to fill out their benches.

    The Pirates and teams like that use these players as marketing tools and frankly, it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing for the fans, the owner, the GM and the players themselves. All of them know that they aren’t going to add anything to the season and that the press conference is a charade so that Pittsburghers don’t forget the Pirates during the winter.

    It further stigmatizes these teams as second-class organizations.

    The Royals had a big press conference for Jason Kendall, gave him a new Royals shirt and hat and acted as if he was their Mark Teixeira or John Lackey.

    He’s not. He’s a dude that couldn’t catch on with a contender and now has to slum it in Kansas City hoping that he has just enough in the tank that maybe someone will trade for him at the deadline.

    The whole thing is an insult to all of our intelligence. But, every December and January, here we are.

    It’s not the worst “tradition” in sports, but it is one of the most worthless ones.

  • Andy

    “My point, I guess, is that AFTER 17 YEARS OF EMBARRASSING BASEBALL, I reserve the right to be as skeptical as I want to be about that shit-show they call a baseball team down in Pittsburgh.”

    I thought that was pretty clear. I could translate to Spanish if necessary.

    I don’t give a flying crap about what Huntington says, until he puts a team on the field that is competitive. After all of the horrible baseball in Pittsburgh I’ve been subjected to in my short lifetime, I deserve better than another wait-and-see approach.

  • dtoddwin

    Andy, you clown, you can be as skeptical as you want. If you want to have an intelligent conversation, start with realizing the current front office has been on the job for two total years of your 17 years of frustration. It takes some time to completely rebuild a franchise.

    Have whatever opinions or views that you want, but try to raise the dialogue above the “I deserve better” bullshit that you are spouting.

    And yes, please translate it into Spanish for me, Andreas.

  • Andy

    #1, that clown comment was really rude and I didn’t find it in the holiday spirit.

    #2, If you’re calling me a clown because of how I feel, I think the irony in that statement is that you’re a clown, sir. The fact of the matter is, before Neal Huntington there was Dave Littlefield who was full of hollow statements like:

    “As disappointed as I am in the record, I do want to emphasize that with the current crop of players we have I feel very confident that there’s going to be some significant improvement as we move forward.”

    Before him it was Bonifay saying shit like that. So if you want to talk about anything in regards to the Pirates, clearly ‘intelligent conversation’ is going to be out of the question. Intelligence is obviously not overly valued in that franchise.

    Now, I actually like Huntington and I think he’s somewhat savvy, but let’s look at his immediate impact, shall we? You say it takes years to rebuild a franchise? Let’s see where he’s starting from.

    .280/87/325/.793

    Won’t get you in the Hall, but nice. Those are Xavier Nady’s career Major League numbers in AVG/HR/RBI/OPS. We traded him, along with Damaso Marte in July of ’08. Now, let’s exclude Marte for the sake of limiting the scope of this point. In return for a 30 year old Nady (whose midseason numbers were, to that point in the season, far exceeding his career clip in just about every statistical measure), we picked up Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, and Dan McCutchen. Ohlendorf was (and is) arguably the only Major League ready player out of that bunch and in his first full major league season in the National League, he went 11-10, 3.92 with 109 K’s in 176 innings. Middle of the pack and below. Tabata seemed to be the gem in this deal as he has oft been compared to Manny Ramirez at the plate by scouts (of course, Kevin Young was also compared to Frank Thomas, so take from comparisons what you will). However, speculation is like masturbation. A lot of fun, but really messy.

    Between stops at AA and AAA last season (and between his crazy-ass wife kidnapping his daughter) Tabata managed 5 taters and 35 RBIs in 362 at bats. Yikes. So a comparison to Manny, who in his stint in AA-AAA before he was called up, smacked 31 HRs and 115 RBIs in 489 at bats, may be a little premature.

    Now, obviously we don’t have the gift of foresight. Maybe Jose Tabata will turn out to be a great player. Maybe he’ll turn out to be the next Kevin Young. So if your point is that it’s going to take some time to rebuild our franchise, I’m going to agree with you. Especially if we continue to trade average players for other average players and below average prospects.

    I’ve just looked at little pieces of the Nady trade and what makes me uncomfortable about it. I don’t think that there was a real focus on the sabermetrics in that deal. And I didn’t discuss any of the other players because, really, none of them have done anything of consequence (other than Jeff Karstens, who has managed to do a great job at putting up uninspiring numbers in the minors and downright terrible numbers in the bigs).

    If you stop and look at some of his other deals, like the Jason Bay trade, we didn’t receive anyone helpful in any capacity. In return for Bay we received Brandon Moss, Andy LaRoche, Craig Hansen, and Bryan Morris. None of whom have contributed consistently or significantly at the minor league level, let alone the big league level. The trades of fan favorites Nate McLouth (who was locked up for a reasonable price for an extended period of time) and Nyjer Morgan netted us Gorkys Hernández, Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, Lastings Milledge and pitcher Joel Hanrahan. Again, no evidence of consistent success in the minors, let alone the majors. We made those trades purely on speculation, not numbers, liked Huntington claimed he was going to do.

    Now that I’ve gone through a lot of the things I don’t like, I’ll point out some of his finer pieces of work that I agree with. Trading Jack Wilson was long overdue (his price tag was ludicrus). We received Ronny Cedeno, who is 10 times more servicable than Wilson and Jeff Clement who at the time had two 20+ homer seasons in the minors. Trading Freddy Sanchez for Tim Alderson seemed like we undercut ourselves at the time (although Alderson has shown good control and some heat in the minors with 6.67 K/BB and 7 K/9), but since he acquired Akinori Iwamura, I think that Sanchez-Alderson trade looks a lot better.

    So, as a paying customer, that ‘bullshit’ I’m spouting is totally justified because of the ‘bullshit’ that he’s spouting. Please, don’t pee on my back and tell me it’s raining. There have been enough front office ass-clowns in Pittsburgh that have done that already. Instead, let me know when you’re going to produce results.

    Also, for the Spanish translation of this passage, please visit:

    http://www.dictionary.com

    Click the ‘Translator’ tab.

    Select ‘English to Spanish’.

    Copy and paste the text into the box and click ‘Translate’. Enjoy!

  • Maxwell

    Andy, I think the main point is, you cannot blame current management for the past 17 years. They have been in charge for a little over two years, in which they have never signed someone and hailed them as the second coming of Honus Wagner.

    That was the main beef with Pearlman’s article, he was lumping NH in with DL and CB. That’s like blaming Obama for what happened from 01-08 (or Bush for the Clinton years). But he owned up to it admirably.

    Your points on Huntington (although I disagree with you on most of them) are reasonable and echoed by many frustrated fans. All I ask, is that let’s leave the “I’ve been lied to before, so I will be lied to again” rhetoric out of the conversion, because that is unintelligent.

  • Anonymous

    Andy

    Was this the same magic that got him demoted in Cleveland?

  • Vlad

    LaRoche was a league-average starting 3B in his first year as a regular. That’s a pretty significant contribution. And if you look at fielding-independent pitching stats, Morton was the best member of the rotation last year.

    I just don’t see how it’s productive analytically to complain about how the prospects acquired in veteran-for-prospect trades haven’t done anything in the bigs yet. They’re prospects. That’s the whole point of the thing. We’re trying to assemble a critical mass of young players that can all enter their primes at the same time and develop into a contender. If we instead focused primarily on acquiring current ML contributors, we’d get a smaller volume of overall talent, and the players we acquired would be over the hill by the time our guys who are currently on the farm developed into solid contributors. That is, in fact, exactly the approach pursued by Littlefield and post-’98 Bonifay, and it’s the main reason we’ve been losing for so long. They both talked about rebuilding, but in practice they cut the budgets for amateur player acquisition in order to afford veterans, and they filled the farm system with poor draft after poor draft.

    If you honestly, genuinely want a winning Pirates club, you need to wait and let the current strategy play out. It may be frustrating, but it’s the only approach that can possibly work.

  • Leo Walter

    Jeff,I do want to acknowledge you owning up to that column regarding the Pirates ( and the Royals as well ).My point in criticizing you was basically regarding the fact that those teams are such easy targets,when orginizations like the Mets and the Cubs are given a free pass while spending close to,if not more than, a billion dollars over the past 10 seasons,and what do they have to show for it ? The current GM of the Mets has made some of the worst acquisitions,and I see vey little criticism in the Sportsd media.At any rate,congrats again,and good luck with all in 2010.

    • Leo, let’s see if the Pirates sign Octavio Dotel. :)

  • VanSlick

    Jeff, I know it was done with humor, but your Dotel comment is symbolic. You will be quick to crack jokes on the possible short-term closer (I consider more in the view of Hanrahan insurance, who should close by the end of the season), who has equal or better numbers than Rodney and would sign for much less. Also, if you could cite me when Coonley/Huntington has ever cited a free agent as long-term answer or a franchise savior, it would be the first.

    • VanSlick, it was only done with half humor. A Dotel signing for, say, $3 mill would be the EXACT sort of thing I was referring to. And do me a favor and go back and read the team reaction to signing Hinske. You might be surprised …

  • VanSlick

    But once again, why would Dotel be a horrible signing, but Rodney -at twice the money – would not?

    Also, on your challenge I went back and read the stories and releases from the Hinskie signing and saw things like “blue collar” and “bench” and “fourth outfielders.” There was a reference to his experience in winning environments, but no implication from the organization that it would be duplicated in Pitty. Do you have a reference point to these trumpets and proclomations?

  • Joe G

    “VanSlick, it was only done with half humor. A Dotel signing for, say, $3 mill would be the EXACT sort of thing I was referring to.”

    That’s not a good thing. If we got Dotel for 3 mill it would be a pretty good move. Spending the 3 mil we just saved from releasing Capps on a better closer who will probably have more value at the trade deadline is smart. That is what a team like Pittsburgh SHOULD be doing to make themselves better. Also, I remember the Hinske signing and it was hyped up more than it should have. He was hyped up to be a better version of Doug Mientkiewicz/ That is a lot to live up to.

  • Dogknot

    Why would a Dotel signing be what you are talking about when he has been better than what the Pirates have had over the last two years?

    Do you know that Hinke was with the Rays when they went to the World Series and with the Yankess when they just won the World Series? How come he wasn’t a bad singing for those teams?

    I have never heard of you before. But I can assure you that you certainly didn’t do your research and you have never followed the Pirates. I do appreciate you saying that you were wrong, but you are still blasting the Pirates with your comments.

  • VanSlick

    Joe G, I do remember – indirectly – some of the Mientkiewicz comparisons, but that is hardly hype. It was more of an attempt to address the obsession the local media and some fans had with Dougie. Unfortuantely, the obsession was based on a weird admiration for calling out the org and teammates in the paper than actual production.

  • NorCal Buc

    Some serious journalism, please, Jeff >>>

    How about a piece, oh, on the CORRUPT financial condition of “FREE MARKET” baseball which leads to the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels buying a playoff spot every year.

    “FREE MARKET” is simply the code lingo to entice middle class Americans to feel they are getting something for “FREE”- like getting ripped off (Wall Street investors, health insurance conglomerates, oil tycoons, etc).

    Is that too serious for you, Jeff.

    If it is, go pick on another “abused victim”

  • Mike

    The problem with the article wasn’t the fact that it was ripping the Pirates, which is always justifiable, it was the arguments he used to defend it. He said Doug Mientkiewicz has a history of being on bad teams, when he’s played for good Twins teams, the Yankees, and most recently the Dodgers during their playoff run. Eric Hinske was just coming off a World Series trip with the Rays and also had one with the Yankees.

    The Pirates also don’t hype up these free agents any more than other teams. The last one who was going to “make a difference” was Adam LaRoche. He was billed as a savior, but it was several years ago now and he’s long gone. Most of the veteran free agents have been signed to either minor league deals or very minimal major league contracts and have been labeled as “role players” anyway.

    SteveH: Check out other teams’ transactions and you’ll see the same thing happen all the time. All teams have to fill out their minors.

  • pif

    I know that in the past they have without a doubt trotted out players like Matt Stairs or Jeromy Burnitz but that has not happened since Huntington came in. If you could point out who the “high priced” old guys that he has brought in, I’d appreciate it.

    Andy – the Nady trade was a great one in my opinion. You cite his stats before the trade. Why don’t you cite his stats after? He played what, like 20 games for the Yankees afterwards due to injury. We got a solid mid rotation guy in Ohlendorf, a possible quality OF that will play more games than Nady, and 2 relievers. I’m definitely ok with that.

    The Bay trade we got nothing, so you will get no argument frome me.

    McClouth, again, I’m ok with. Would I have loved to keep him? Hell yea. But, if you will ask me to choose between him and Cutch, I’m going with Cutch. The Pirates felt that they were going to get a good return for a player that was blocking their franchise players path. I’d go for it too.

    The Morgan/Burnett trade was ok too. Honestly all we lost in that trade is Burnett. Every outfielder we have is Nyjer Morgan. Small, fast, little power. You trade him for a player in Milledge that is supposed to be more like Cutch and a pitcher that performed fantastic after he got here. He finished with a 1.72 ERA with a 37/20 K/BB in 31 innings.

    Your entitled to your opinions and God knows I’m tired of the losing too, but to lump this management in with the crap we’ve seen in the prior years is silly.

  • gorillagogo

    I think the most egregious part of your column wasn’t just that you came across as completely uninformed about the Pirates, it was that you had such a cavalier attitude about your uninformedness. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing the inner workings of a perennially last place team, but the way you wrote about it just rubbed people the wrong way. Signing an overpriced veteran is about the very last thing the current Pirates management team would do. That criticism is about as accurate as calling the Yankees penny-pinchers.

  • w.k. kortas

    Did you mail in the SI column? Absolutely. Did you have to mea culpa for it (and would most other writers bother to do so)? No. It’s tough to look in the mirror and admit to yourself that you were a horse’s ass, and I applaud you for that.

    • Did I mail in the SI column? Absolutely not. “Mail in” suggests something else entirely. Did I do a poor job in one part. Yes. But mail in? No.

  • Andy

    Vlad,

    First of all it’s totally appropriate to look at the body of work that the prospects we’re getting put together in the minors. If they’re not doing it in the minors, chances are they’re not getting called up. If they do, they end up like Brian Bixler or Brandon Moss.

    pif, McLouth could’ve moved to left or right without question to clear the way for Andrew. To get the return that we did for that caliber of player for what we had him locked in for… I don’t think that’s a sound investment.

    I don’t mind that we traded Nyjer and Burnett, (with his arm problems and all) but we picked up an erratic reliever and a player that has shown he can’t produce consistently in the bigs (albeit he’s still incredibly young).

    Other competitive small market teams (like the Rays) spend to lock in their cornerstone players (like Carl Crawford and BJ Upton) and then build around them through the draft (Evan Longoria), savvy trading (Ben Zobrist), and free agent pick ups (Carlos Pena).

    I’ve already stated, I don’t think our trading has been that savvy (outside of Aki. He puts up solid numbers for his price tag). We’re getting a lot of really average minor league prospects, sans the few players stated above.

    And after two years in Pittsburgh he hasn’t actually proved anything, other than the fact that he can tell us to wait. Just like everyone else. So I will. Skeptically.

  • PhillyJake

    I basically agree with what Vlad has been saying.

    Andy, it’s interesting you sight the Aki trade as the one savvy trade. It’s the only trade where the PBC didn’t trade for potential, but for actual production.

    Look, NH’s moves may not work out. But, he took over a system that had little to no talent in the minors, not enough at the majors and no money to plug holes.

    What he did was trade for players across the spectrum, and changed the drafting strategy.

    Are all of these players going to make it? Of course not. Are most of them? Well, do we need most of them to make it? No. But, there is a lot more potential there, a lot more to get excited about.

    The Pirates don’t have the resources to turn it around. But, (and, this is a big but) they now have enough to do better. Or so the plan is. And, they have enough to do better with young players taking the lead. Not Jeremy Burnitzes, etc.

    Which brings us back to Mr. Pearlman’s article,adn the criticism of it. It’s NOT business as usual. It’s different the past two years. It may not work, but it’s not the same, and it’s not the way he portrayed it.

    And, in this mea culpa, he still doesn’t get it.

  • Pingback: Jeff Pearlman apologizes for story on Bucs « Pittsburgh Pirates()

  • Andy, the fact is that McLouth himself wasn’t very good. In fact, based just on what Milledge has done so far, they’re about equal in terms of talent.

    Look at McLouth’s career so far, and you’ll see 2008 was kind of a fluky season. It was his first full year as a starter, true, but in his second year as a starter he went .256/.352/.436 with 20 homers. That’s pretty middle-of-the-road production, and not what you would want if we moved him to a corner outfield slot like you suggested we should.

    His career before that was uninspiring in terms of corner outfield production as well, as was his minor league career. How about before criticizing others for not looking at the numbers, you take a gander yourself?

    Milledge is younger than McLouth, and has had more success at his age than McLouth did at Milledge’s current age. In addition, he played pretty well for us after coming up. The only thing he didn’t do right away is hit for power, which started to come later in the season and was a bit sapped anyway due to injury. I have full confidence that next year Milledge will have a season on par with if not superior to McLouth’s 2009 season.

    Meanwhile, Garrett Jones is at the other corner. Do you want to argue that McLouth had a better 2009 than Jones? Or a better 2009 than McCutchen, who took his place?

  • ndbrian

    Andy,

    I hesitate to even argue with you because clearly you’re a Y’inzer that doesn’t really understand baseball.

    Let’s start with the Nady trade. You say that Ohlendorf is our only major league talent. Yet you fail to mention the best piece of the entire trade Tabata. he’s our number 3 prospect. If you can’t recognize that Tabata ALONE was worthy an aging Nady, then well…you don’t get it. Kartstens has been a very good relief pitcher. Is he a pitcher for a contender, no, but as the third best player in a trade for one average outfielder…well that’s a good trade. In fact, that’s probably Neal’s best trade thus far in terms of actual production already.

    The McClouth trade. As a CFer, Nate was average at best defensively and very good offensively (albeit with a small sample size). As a corner OFer, he becomes way below average offensively and slightly above avg offensively. For him, we got Charlie Morton, who’s a potential number 2 or 3 starter and Gorkys Hernandez (a player very similar to Nyger Morgan) and Jeff Locke, a high upside young pitcher. Again–Hunnington wins.

    The argument that the last two regimes failures justify criticism of the guy who has made mostly great moves in his two years is like blaming Obama for us going to war with Iraq–it may make sense at some point, but it makes no sense right now.

  • Andy

    .260/71/230/76

    .267/29/133/35

    #1 McLouth’s career numbers in 5 seasons AVG/HR/RBI/SB

    #2 Milledge’s career numbers in 4 seasons AVG/HR/RBI/SB

    I’ll take McLouth’s production for 2.5 million. If you count ’07 (which was half a season that he started), ’08, and ’09, as a full-time starter McLouth’s numbers during that stretch as a Pirate were:

    .267/48/166/62 in 1,094 at bats.

    In fact, those numbers are so good, that over their last 1,000 or so at bats, Ian Kinsler is the only player in baseball with similar numbers with .286/49/157/47. (In his defense, Grady Sizemore would’ve had better numbers had he been healthy last season) That’s not bad company to be in.

    So, I don’t know what you qualify as ‘good’, but averaging 24 HRs, 88 RBI, and 31 SB over 500 at bats is pretty ‘good’. That’d be my research, which you’ll notice isn’t a hollow statement like, “How about before criticizing others for not looking at the numbers, you take a gander yourself?” Because I look at the numbers a lot.

    So for 2.5 million dollars, we could use those stats in left or right field, yes. Could we have fit Jones-McCutchen-McLouth in our outfield? Certainly. Could we move Jones to first full-time even if we didn’t have room in our outfield. Certainly.

  • Eric

    I don’t which inspires me more, your post or the fact that the Pirates still have a bevy of loyal fans.

  • Jason

    What numbers are you looking at for Milledge? This is his 3rd team already..he isn’t lighting it up so far, .267/.327/.399. His best, and only full season, in 2008 was pedestrian to be kind. .268/.330/.402, 14 HR, 61 RBI.
    They could have kept McClouth in LF, for not unreasonable money, had a pretty solid OF in McClouth/McCutcheon/Jones. Milledge is a huge question mark.

  • Scott Ross

    Congrats on manning up — that piece gave me a headache.

  • Vaffanculo

    WOW!!! Pirate talk and it’s not even the end of March yet.

    Andy has a valid point in that so far, Huntington has done what the previous admins have done, by trading MLB talent for guys who have washed out at previous stops or may never bes. Can anyone here NOT put Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, and Jeff Karstens in the same sentence as Bobby Hill? I think not.

    Also, all this talk of returned potential means squat. Until the player actually performs to this arbitrary level, in the MLB, it’s talk. Nothing more than we’re doing here.

    When you look at Tabata, I see the same injury-prone guy the Pirates traded away, in Nady. He averaged just about 100 games the past three seasons. As for the power, it has yet to develop. It may be due to the numerous injuries or it may be due to some scouts inflated expectations of him.

    When you compare Milledge and McLouth, the winner is McLouth, for two reasons. One, McLouth has done something at the MLB level while, the Pirates are now the third team waiting for Lastings to develop. Two. McLouth was not stopping McCutchen from coming up. As pointed out, McLouth could have played a corner OF. It’s not like the Pirates have an excess of 20-30 guys pushing from Indianapolis.

    Better yet, get something for him. Huntington wanted Locke as part of a Bay trade. Now, in a separate deal, he gets him. Sounds alot like Littlefield with Nady, Burnitz, Santiago, Torres, and… He got the guy he wants and will do anything to get him.

    The next thing is, Huntington does give the same press conferences after trades. If you close your eyes, you’d swear someone was doing a bad Littlefield impersonation. Not a direct quote, but “the talent we received will help us to compete in the future because we have better control of their contracts.” Been there, done that, tired of the three-quel.

    Let’s not forget the drafting of the catcher, Sanchez. A projected mid-to-late first rounder we drafted for signability. The PR department had a field day spinning that one.

    Also, speaking of the PR department, for too long, they have been running roughshod over the baseball operations. The baseball people had to overpay for Kendall and J. Wilson, because the PR department tied their entire marketing campaigns around a face of the franchise. And let’s end the, “but they were All-Stars”. Every team gets one. Kendall was a gap hitter with no real power. Once teams defensed that, his only remaining offense was the HBP. As for Wilson, it’s should have been easy to win a Gold Glove with the PR department rolling and the Official Scorer in their back pocket. Yet, not a single GG in his trophy case. Ever wonder why?

    As for the Pirates giving away golden parachute contracts, that has ended, but is it really Huntington or has Nutting reigned in the purse strings?

  • WilliamJPellas

    I’m with Andy 100%. McLouth should not have been dealt. Absolutely not. Period. McLouth’s numbers this past season were only a slight regression from what he posted in 2008, and he was hurt most of the year. He’s just now in his physical prime at 28 years of age, and even if his hamstring injuries prove chronic—and they might—which means his highly efficient running game might go away, I’ll still take a superb corner gloveman who’s still better than average in center and who will still crank 25 HR’s a season. No, the thing to do would have been to shift McLouth to left and have both him and McCutchen in the outfield. Now THAT would have been something to see.

    As for the return we got in the trade, Charlie Morton definitely has good stuff and if he stays healthy is probably a #2 type starter in the making, but don’t forget he had significant hamstring issues himself last season. Jeff Locke is too far away from the bigs to know anything for sure, but he’s been underwhelming to this point. But the guy who REALLY rubs me the wrong way is Gorkys Hernandez, the very quintessence of “overhyped”; I’ve said elsewhere that elite minor leaguers simply are not dealt from one team to another to another in less than two years, as he was. At best he might top out as another Nyjer Morgan, perhaps with a more fundamentally sound (though not necessarily more effective) glove. But that’s it. And we had Morgan at pennies on the pound for several years. Milledge definitely has better power and he can hit and he said and did all the right things upon arriving in Pittsburgh, but he wasn’t overwhelmingly better than Morgan (if at all) and guess what? He’s arbitration eligible after this season if I’m not mistaken.

    For these and other reasons, in my view the Huntington track record in terms of trading veterans for prospects is decidedly mixed. True, the final grade isn’t in yet, but count me as one who is more than a little skeptical. Huntington’s saving grace, without a doubt, has been his excellent drafting, and if the team is truly committed to keeping that going, then sooner or later it will certainly be significantly improved.

    But Andy is right: the Tampa model is still the one we should be following, ie, committing significant dollars to a couple of building blocks, then filling in around them with youngsters grown on the farm, and with the occasional smart veteran free agent and/or trade acquisition. And there’s no indication to this point that the Pirates are willing to commit to the “building block” portion of that equation.

  • Andy

    ndbrian,

    Clearly you’re a y’inzer who likes to use that word to pretend like you’re cool. Unfortunately for you, that word, however, doesn’t make you understand baseball better. Oh, sure, scouts LOVE Tabata. Scouts also loved Kevin Young, Rick Ankiel, Khalil Greene…

    So instead of saying arbitrary things like Jose Tabata is our third best prospect, or Jeff Karstens has been a very good relief pitcher (which he hasn’t been by about every statistical measure known to baseball) or Huntington (which you should learn to spell if you’re going to be hyper-critical) wins, I’ll give you some actual numbers. Here are some on Jose Tabata in the minor leagues.

    In 1,642 minor league at bats, Tabata has hit all-of 26 home runs. That’s the equivalent of three 162 game seasons. If you can’t do that math on your own: If you project those stats at the major league level, Jose Tabata hits about 8 home runs a year.

    His minor league line (BA/HR/RBI/SB:

    .295/26/221/81

    Well, the stolen bases are nice. If you want to look at him sabermetricly versus Nate McLouth (who you claim is an ‘average’ center fielder), his career OPS is .766 in the minors compared to Nate’s .796 IN THE MAJORS. Again, if you don’t understand those numbers .766 < .796

    Nate's Slugging % in the majors – .454

    Tabata's SLG in the minors – .402

    If you're keeping up with me, .402 < .454

    What I'm trying to get across to you people is that just because Neal Huntington makes trades for MORE prospects doesn't mean that he's making trades for BETTER players. Yes, trading for prospects is how small markets clubs become successful. However, that only works when you trade for GOOD prospects (for instance, when you trade Josh Beckett for Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez).

    Since you obviously haven't read anything about baseball in the last couple of months, I'll let you in on a little secret:

    Jeff Karstens is bad enough that we designated him for assignment so we could claim Chris Jakubauskas off of waivers. If you lost track of Chris Jakubauskas, we last heard from him in the 2009 season when he was 6-7 with a 5.32 ERA in 35 games.

    We designated Karstens for assignment to pick that guy up. That's how good Jeff Karstens is.

    Clearly your superior knowledge of the inner-workings of Pirates' baseball overwhelms me. Thanks for highlighting all of those really good points.

  • Andy

    William, Vaffanculo, thank you for helping to bring the voice of reason to this comment board.

    I’ll reiterate, trading for MORE doesn’t mean you’re trading for better.

    I agree with William that we’re going to have to wait and see what happens with Pedro Alvarez and, like Vaff stated, we overpaid for Tony Sanchez this past draft, so Huntington needs him to pan out in a big way as well.

    There’s nothing unreasonable with questioning Huntington’s moves, especially when you can show how statistically unsound some of them have been.

  • B

    Wow! PBC Blog is in full effect here.

    Pearlman overlooks the main problem from the Bonifay/Littlefield era — the Pirates did such a poor job of developing talent that they were entirely dependent on the free agent market, where they could achieve nothing more than bottom feeder status. Sadly, few of the declining stiffs he references (and there are many) were blocking legitimate younger talent, which was the real problem. If you want to focus on the Pirates struggles, look at the successive draft failures which focused more on signability than top tier talent (as opposed to Huntington’s first two drafts). Look at the dearth of Latin American prospects signed and developed in their system. Look at Littlefield’s ill conceived focus on promoting a ‘winning mentality’ in the minors by encouraging minor league titles over individual player development, notably allowing organizational players to excel while playing at age inappropriate levels.

    As for Pudge or Kendall signing horrific contracts, why not just rip the Royals and Nationals rather than taking cheapshots at the Pirates? Or better yet, why not take a hard look at the Mets and Cubs and what their free agent spending has brought? For the first time in nearly 2 decades the Pirates are on the right track to developing a team which can potentially contend. No one is holding out hopes for a championship in 2010, but there is finally a sensibile system in place and some promising talent which could allow the Pirates to compete within the next few years.

  • B

    BTW Jeff — You’re far too generous and immodest calling that a “mediocre column” Free Tank had you pegged

  • hokies416

    Jeff:

    Kudos….for stepping up on this brainfart.

  • “Let’s not forget the drafting of the catcher, Sanchez. A projected mid-to-late first rounder we drafted for signability. The PR department had a field day spinning that one.”

    …And then he proceded to tear it up in his first year of ball, hitting .309/.409/.539 with 7 homers in 215 plate appearances, earning a promotion to Lynchburg and playing good defense. He proved pretty much every doubter of his offense wrong, outhitting every position player taken in the first round except the two players the Angels got. One of those players had the same OPS as Sanchez, one had .002 points higher, and both play in a much more hitter-friendly park than Sanchez and at a less challenging position.

    If you’re still counting Sanchez as a mistake, you haven’t been paying attention.

    If you’re so concerned about rankings, how about this? Two short years ago, the Pirates were consistently being rated between 25-30 in most annual farm system rankings. Since Huntington took over, they’re being ranked between 10-15. He’s been on the job for two years.

    Andy, four of the stats you listed for your comparison are counting stats. Of COURSE McLouth is going to look better. He has over 1000 more plate appearances than Milledge to work with. I find it amusing that the only rate stat you used had Milledge higher than McLouth. Also, way to take into consideration the fact that McLouth is in his prime while Milledge is 24.

  • Andy

    McLouth has 5 years of service versus Milledge’s 4. Milledge has 1117 at bats, which is about 700 at bats behind McLouth right now. So if you think that over his next 700 at bats Milledge is going to hit 42 home runs, drive in 97, and swipe 41 bags… more power to you. Everyone is entitled to their hopes and dreams.

    “His career before that was uninspiring in terms of corner outfield production as well, as was his minor league career.” Pretty much sums up Milledge as well there, chief. He has one of those ‘fluky’ seasons, as you like to call it, under his belt too.

    I find it amusing that I didn’t bring up sabermetrics between McLouth and Milledge because McLouth is better in OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. But of course you knew that. Because you found that amusing.

    As far as defensively, McLouth has a better career fielding percentage at .992 (which is FAR above the league average for OF’s).

    And no one said Tony Sanchez was a mistake, but they did say he was a bargain pick by the Pirates because we knew he’d be easier to sign and for less money than other players. Kind of like in 2002 when we passed on BJ Upton because we didn’t want to pay him and instead used our #1 overall pick to draft Bryan Bullington. Which clearly worked out well.

  • “McLouth has 5 years of service versus Milledge’s 4. Milledge has 1117 at bats, which is about 700 at bats behind McLouth right now. So if you think that over his next 700 at bats Milledge is going to hit 42 home runs, drive in 97, and swipe 41 bags… more power to you. Everyone is entitled to their hopes and dreams.”

    700 at-bats, 834 plate appearances. (In case you don’t know the difference – which I’m starting to think is the case – plate appearances count walks, bunts, etc as well.) That’s about 2 seasons worth of plate appearances. Do I think Milledge can put up those numbers in 2 seasons? Frankly, I’d be shocked if he didn’t.

    “Pretty much sums up Milledge as well there, chief. He has one of those ‘fluky’ seasons, as you like to call it, under his belt too.”

    Lastings Milledge career minor league OPS: .849
    McLouth: .793

    Keep in mind that Milledge was doing that at ages 18-21. McLouth was doing it at ages 19-23. Who has the better track record again?

    “I find it amusing that I didn’t bring up sabermetrics between McLouth and Milledge because McLouth is better in OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. But of course you knew that. Because you found that amusing.”

    I did know that, and I still find it amusing that you don’t seem to get my point. Milledge is much younger than McLouth. 20-20 seasons are McLouth’s peak performance. Milledge came close to doing that at 23, in his first full year as a starter. Milledge has tons more upside than McLouth ever did.

    “As far as defensively, McLouth has a better career fielding percentage at .992 (which is FAR above the league average for OF’s).”

    You use sabermetric analysis like…fielding percentage? The worst, most subjective fielding stat in the game? How about this: In 505 games played in the outfield, Nate McLouth has a UZR of -22.4. His career range factor/9 in the outfield (putouts + assists per nine innings) can be compared to Adam Dunn’s. He has a crappy arm. Errors (and thus fielding percentage) are the least useful defensive stat. You have to touch the ball to get an error. Most of the time it just went over McLouth’s head instead.

    Milledge’s fielding has also been bad so far, but that’s aided by the fact that he was clearly miscast as a center fielder and that he’s working with too small of a defensive sample to come to a definitive conclusion. For what it’s worth, he looked good to my eye in left at PNC. So far the left field numbers back me up, as he has a 10.4 UZR/150 there. (Again, though, too soon to say anything for sure.) His arm is clearly well-suited for left, as he racked up 6 outfield assists in his 56 games there in Pittsburgh. Too early to tell, but it looks like Milledge will play some pretty good D in left field at PNC.

    “And no one said Tony Sanchez was a mistake, but they did say he was a bargain pick by the Pirates because we knew he’d be easier to sign and for less money than other players. Kind of like in 2002 when we passed on BJ Upton because we didn’t want to pay him and instead used our #1 overall pick to draft Bryan Bullington. Which clearly worked out well.”

    Except in 2002 we just kind of mailed in the whole draft. In 2009, we stocked up on tons of high-upside pitchers later in the draft. Several players that Baseball America and the like were saying “should have gone in the first few rounds, but didn’t for signability reasons.” Lots of high school arms. And Jeff Inman, who was projected to go in the first round. The Pirates spent about $10 million on the draft in 2009, placing them well within the top spenders in that category. The fact that Tony Sanchez was cheap should not hurt your image of the draft, especially since he performed so well.

  • Vaffanculo

    Nate says, “If you’re still counting Sanchez as a mistake, you haven’t been paying attention.”

    Sorry Nate, I have been paying attention, but I am not going to melt the brass for his plaque in Cooperstown, based on 3 months of low-level ball. If you remember correctly, Chad Hermansen smoked low-level pitching, too. I’ll take a wait and see approach. Hell, even Jack Wilson had a couple of three months stretches where he was an offensive juggernaut. For a career, you’d never call Jack a consistent offensive threat. It’s the consistency over the long haul, which Sanchez hasn’t had a chance to prove or disprove.

    The point you deliberately missed was, yet again, drafting someone like Moskos, even though better prospects were on the board because of signability. It’s a Littlefield/McClatchy regime move.

  • Vaffanculo

    Nate says, “700 at-bats, 834 plate appearances. (In case you don’t know the difference – which I’m starting to think is the case – plate appearances count walks, bunts, etc as well.) That’s about 2 seasons worth of plate appearances. Do I think Milledge can put up those numbers in 2 seasons? Frankly, I’d be shocked if he didn’t.”

    Well Nate, 600 PA seems about the norm for starters, so Lastings needs to clout those 42 HRs in a season and a third. Still confident on those numbers?

    Again, the point you are missing is that, the Pirates got younger by trading McLouth, but not better. Yes, Milledge has the POTENTIAL to hit better, which means he hasn’t done it yet. I have the POTENTIAL to cure cancer. All I need is an education in microbiology and $5 billion in startup capital. To date, neither Milledge or I have reached our goals.

    Let’s look at the Capps move for more proof of a Littlefield / Huntington link. If the season would start today, Hanrahan would probably be the closer. Joel had one good year out of three. Capps had one bad year out of three. Yet the Pirates jettisoned Capps for what, $500K and got nothing in return. If it looks like a Littlefield and quacks like a Littlefield, it’s a Littlefield move.

    As for mailing in the 2002 draft, wasn’t Capps and Nyjer in that one?

  • Andy

    The difference between plate appearances and at bats is moot. What I’m saying is that in 700 at bats he won’t acquire equivalent stats. So in 700 at bats from his current at bat total, he won’t hit 42 home runs.

    Also, here’s so more logical reasoning for your reading pleasure:

    http://networkedblogs.com/p22440791

  • Andy

    Nate, I’m glad you’re confident it’ll be so easy to replace that average Gold Glove All-Star defense in the outfield.

    Jeez.

  • Andy

    Also, Huntington does an AWESOME job of backtracking on his ‘vision’ when he says things like:

    “We agreed to the deal because we believe in Nate and believe we’re going to feel as strongly four years from now as we do today. We get cost certainty as we move forward. The player certainly gets the security of the money that’s coming his way. He can go out and relax and play and we can build around him.” – Neal Huntington

    http://www.mlive.com/sports/muskegon/index.ssf/2009/02/whitehalls_mclouth_signs_longt.html

    So much for building around him, huh?

  • Todd Boss

    Where’s the mea culpa for the sham job you did on the Washington Nationals in the same article? You used players we released 4 years ago as your “proof” that the team doesn’t know what its doing. Mentioning nothing about the fact that MLB ran the team into the ground, that the Sizemore/Lee/Phillips for 4-months of Bartolo Colon probably destroyed the team for 5 years all by itself, and that the team now has a new, competent GM instead of a court-appointed guardian in Jim Bowden.

  • “Sorry Nate, I have been paying attention, but I am not going to melt the brass for his plaque in Cooperstown, based on 3 months of low-level ball. If you remember correctly, Chad Hermansen smoked low-level pitching, too.”

    Hermansen was at every point of his career an over-rated prospect, but I still think he could have been a somewhat productive player if he wasn’t rushed through the system so quickly. That said, his line was never as impressive as Sanchez’s.

    “I’ll take a wait and see approach. Hell, even Jack Wilson had a couple of three months stretches where he was an offensive juggernaut. For a career, you’d never call Jack a consistent offensive threat. It’s the consistency over the long haul, which Sanchez hasn’t had a chance to prove or disprove.”

    Of course you should take the wait and see approach, but you have to admit that so far he’s looked great. It remains to see whether he can keep doing it, but we shouldn’t just toss out the fact that he was hot out of the gate.

    The entire doubt with Sanchez leading up to the draft was whether he could hit. The thought was “best defensive catcher in the draft. If he could hit he’d be a top pick.” All the scouts said “he has a slow stroke. He hit for power in college, but it was probably just the aluminum bat.” (I pointed out during the time of the pick that he performed well in the wood-bat Cape Cod League, but meh.) He’s shown thus far that his power wasn’t because of aluminum.

    “The point you deliberately missed was, yet again, drafting someone like Moskos, even though better prospects were on the board because of signability. It’s a Littlefield/McClatchy regime move.”

    The Moskos analogy doesn’t hold water here. When Moskos was selected, there were several very clear alternatives that were better than him. The most obvious was Wieters, but the first round had a godo amount of talent that was skipped for signability reasons.

    This draft wasn’t like that. After Strasburg and Ackley – the #1 and #2 picks, respectively, there wasn’t really anyone in the draft that was seen as a sure thing. Wieters was seen as a sure thing. Aaron Crow, who most people said we should have drafted, was not. There were just as many doubts about him as there were with Sanchez. And for what it’s worth, he didn’t sign and played 2009 in an independent league, pitching all of one inning.

    Even the publications doing the rankings were all saying things like “After the first two picks the first round rankings are basically interchangeable.”

    “Well Nate, 600 PA seems about the norm for starters, so Lastings needs to clout those 42 HRs in a season and a third. Still confident on those numbers?”

    Yes. That’s 20 homers in a full season and 12 in 1/3 of a season. Odds are he won’t hit the numbers so evenly. I’d count on 23-25 homers next season. After that, hitting 9-7 homers in 1/3 of a season should be cake.

    “Again, the point you are missing is that, the Pirates got younger by trading McLouth, but not better. Yes, Milledge has the POTENTIAL to hit better, which means he hasn’t done it yet. I have the POTENTIAL to cure cancer. All I need is an education in microbiology and $5 billion in startup capital. To date, neither Milledge or I have reached our goals.”

    Everyone uses potential as a derisive term. The fact is, potential is what the Pirates should be looking at right now. The guys who “had already done it” clearly weren’t winning games for them.

    Again, Milledge is much younger than McLouth. I wouldn’t sexpect him to equal McLouth’s performance yet.

    How quickly we forget that the 2007 Pirates had every one of the supposedly great players we traded away. Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Xavier Nady, Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Adam LaRoche…that team had them all. They finished with 68-94 record. For half of the 2008 season, those players were together again. At the All-Star break, the Pirates had a losing record again. If these players are so great, why wasn’t a team that was starting ALL of them winning games?

    Also, how good can McLouth really be when about 50% of Pirates fans still can’t spell his name right?

    “Let’s look at the Capps move for more proof of a Littlefield / Huntington link. If the season would start today, Hanrahan would probably be the closer. Joel had one good year out of three. Capps had one bad year out of three. Yet the Pirates jettisoned Capps for what, $500K and got nothing in return. If it looks like a Littlefield and quacks like a Littlefield, it’s a Littlefield move.”

    Releasing Capps was a bad move, you’ll get no argument from me there.

    “As for mailing in the 2002 draft, wasn’t Capps and Nyjer in that one?”

    Even a blind squirrel eventually finds a nut. Are you insinuating that our farm system would be in better shape if Littlefield and Creech were still in charge of the draft?

    “Nate, I’m glad you’re confident it’ll be so easy to replace that average Gold Glove All-Star defense in the outfield.”

    I’m glad you’re so confident in those awards.

    Every team gets an All-Star. Are you saying that Jason Kendall, Mike Williams, Ed Sprague, Tony Womack and Carlos Garcia are impossible to replace? Because they were all Bucco All-Stars, too. Some of them multiple times.

    The Gold Glove is a joke. If you don’t know that, you don’t know sabermetrics like you claim you do. Derek Jeter has won the Gold Glove 4 times.

    As for the Huntington comment, what was he supposed to say? “We signed this contract to boost Nate’s trade value?”

    The fact that most people miss is that that contract didn’t extend McLouth past what he would have been playing in Pittsburgh anyway. He had three years of team control left via arbitration. All the contract did is avoid having to go to arbitration at the end of each season. Deals like that are pretty typical.

  • More logical reasoning for your reading pleasure:

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2009/12/29/1223425/on-discussing-the-pirates

  • Andy

    “He can go out and relax and play and we can build around him.”

    I certainly wouldn’t tell my fans we were going to build a team around him and then turn around and trade him. That’s lying and is typically frowned upon.

    Saying the Gold Glove is a joke because it’s not sabermetric sure is taking a lot away from guys like Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Schmidt, Ozzie Smith, Ryne Sandberg and Roberto Clemente, who all won that award multiple times. Oh, and are Hall of Famers. That’s your opinion, and you’re certainly entitled to it, but I know a lot of people who would disagree with you on that point.

    I certainly never said anything along the lines of those players you named being difficult to replace because those players never put up the numbers that Nate McLouth did. So I don’t know why you’d assume I’d think something like that.

    And I’m not upset that Huntington is trading higher priced veterans for lower priced prospects, but it’s who Huntington is getting in these trades that doesn’t make sense. If you can’t understand that, I can put it in caps for you. The players he’s getting in return are average/below average minor league players. That’s where I have a problem with what he’s doing. Those players that put up average/below average minor league status put up the same type of major league stats, like Andy LaRoche, Ross Olendorf, Jeff Karstens, Brandon Moss, etc.

  • Andy

    This comment is good food for thought from that blog:

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2009/12/29/1223425/on-discussing-the-pirates

    Charlie,

    One additional comment today….

    “…or blames Huntington and Coonelly for their inability to magically transform a thoroughly trashed organization into a World Series team within a month of being hired.”

    Putting the fact that they inhereted [sic] a last place club and that there is only one direction to go but up ……

    I can accept the “Rome wasn’t built in a day” explanation however tell me when we can expect a winner. Give me a timeline and then be willing to be accountable if it isn’t met.

    There are not too many jobs in the world today that allow for poor performance for an indefinite period time.

    The Coonelly and Huntington front office inhereted [sic] a last place club and it has remained there. If the idea is that they needed to get the house in order, fine. But when is it reasonable to expect them to begin producing improved results on the field?

    How long is it before we start holding Huntington accountable for his decisions? Again, I’m not saying that the moves he’s making aren’t going to end up working out, because we all lack that foresight. But what I am saying is if you look at the numbers, the trades he is making aren’t bringing in helpful pieces to our farm system.

  • The thing you always have to consider in trades is that the other team has to be willing to trade the players you want.

    Who were the Pirates supposed to get for Nady and Marte? A-Rod? Or perhaps a prospect package of Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson? No team is going to give up the prospects you seem to want to receive for an average (and injury prone!) outfielder and a lefty specialist. MLB teams weren’t even giving up those kinds of deals for Roy Halladay! Why would they give them up for Pirates castoffs?

    What about Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett? Were the Pirates supposed to get Ryan Zimmerman? Good luck with that.

    Tell me some packages YOU would have tried to get back for these players.

    You’re right…Jason Kendall’s numbers were never similar to McLouth’s. When he played with the Pirates, Kendall’s numbers were better.

    Also, Andy LaRoche’s minor league numbers were far from “average/below average.” His career minor league line is .295/.382/.517. His career AAA numbers were .310/.412/.544 with 33 homers in 707 plate appearances. When he was in the minor leagues, he was widely regarded as one of the best prospects in the game. It’s become obvious that you don’t know anything about prospects.

  • Andy

    Jason Kendall never hit more than 14 home runs, scored more than 112 runs, or had more than 75 RBIs while with Pittsburgh. All of which Nate had more of in his one full season.

    You really hate Nate McLouth and I’m not sure why. He’s a nice guy, plays hard, great cook, puts up good numbers.

    It’s become obvious I know enough about prospects that I’m more excited about what a prospect does when they get called up than what they did in the minors. Like hit .233/.306/.666. Which isn’t good, silly. Was I excited two years ago when got Andy LaRoche? Sure. Does he look lost at the plate and in the field in the bigs? An awful lot.

    Did you look at any of the other players “average/below average” stats while you were snooping around the stat house?

  • Vaffanculo

    Nate says, “Hermansen was at every point of his career an over-rated prospect, but I still think he could have been a somewhat productive player if he wasn’t rushed through the system so quickly. That said, his line was never as impressive as Sanchez’s.”

    How was he overrated? All of the publications at the time put him on the fast track to Pittsburgh, to replace Al Martin. He was our number one prospect, for crying out loud. Note: That sound you heard was sarcasism.

    As for Sanchez, he is a glimmer of hope during his extremely brief pro career, but I disagree with your assessment that it was a mixed bag after the top two picks. After Strasburg and Ackley, there was a group of 6-7 players, Sanchez was in the group after that. The one in the second group was a SS, Grant Green from USC was passed on because he was represented by Boras. Didn’t want to go through that again.

    I use potential as a derisive term because it’s someone’s expectations based on what they see and their feelings. If you have even seen the pre-draft analysis of players, they use the terms, should fill out, projects to be, and similar to put your favorite player name here. It’s not an exact science, therefore, it should be derided at every opportunity.

    Hell, Neil Walker has potential. For what, I don’t know, but the potentail is there.

    I have no problem trading veterans for prospects, just make sure the guy really is a prospect. You’ve seen the top-ten list of prospects that are put out. Have you ever seen one where they say, Sorry, this team only has 4 legit guys”? No, everyone gets ten. I’m tired of hearing that Player A was that teams 5th best prospect, after doing squat to deserve a ranking like that, short of being drafted in the first round. There is no doubt that a top ten list for TB a few years ago, surpasses anything the Pirates had.

    Also, quit trading for guys that have failed at the MLB level. Karstens, Moss, LaRoche, Clement fit that bill. Did I expect to get Kennedy, Hughes, and Melky for Nady and Marte? No, but I want more than someone’s deadbeats. Package Doumit with them and get Kennedy and Tabata. If you don’t, walk away from the table. There was no rush in trading either Nady or Bay at that moment.

    Wasn’t that the stated goal in the Seattle deal? Throw in cash to finish Jack’s contract and get better prospects. We got Jack’s replacement, 3 minor league pitchers of dubious distintion, and someone pencilled in to keep Garret Jones on the bench, Clement. Seems smart to me.

    As for Littlefield and Creech running a draft, let’s give them Huntington’s purse at the same time. Weiters would be ours. Then we could have used the purse again to get the SS of the future. Instead, we get Cedeno, Crosby, and Bixler.

    As for Kendall his BA and OBP were better but McLouth had better Slugging and steals. The thing lost in the Kendall Mystic, was this great defensive guy. Sorry, it’s just not true. His SB/CS were crappy short of a few seasons. If you remember his injury year, the staff ERA dropped close to a run, AFTER he got hurt. Joe Oliver couldn’t hit worth crud, but that was not why he was brought in.

  • “As for Littlefield and Creech running a draft, let’s give them Huntington’s purse at the same time. Weiters would be ours. Then we could have used the purse again to get the SS of the future. Instead, we get Cedeno, Crosby, and Bixler.”

    Every report out at that time said that Littlefield was given the go-ahead to spend on Wieters, but he wanted to spend that money at the Major League level instead. That’s how we ended up with Danny Moskos in the draft and Matt Morris and his huge contract.

    In the draft, projecting is all you can do. What should the Pirates do instead? Look at and say “nobody in this whole class has proven ANYTHING at the Major League level! Screw the draft!”

    Where have you heard that Clement is pencilled in to keep Jones on the bench? He’s pencilled in to play first, and Jones is pencilled in to play right field. Would you rather Jones at first and Moss in right field?

    Grant Green was one of the better prospects in the draft, but he’s not a good enough prospect to command something like the $6 million we paid Alvarez. He should be a fine shortstop, but nothing special. There’s a chance that could be the case with Sanchez, too, and it’s what most thought before the draft. I think there’s just a difference of opinion here. I feel like the Pirates did the smart thing by spreading the money around and signing lots of later round guys above slot, you think they should have overpaid Grant Green and signed fewer impact guys later.

    As for the McLouth/Kendall comparison, OBP is the most important hitting stat there is, hands down. Kendall absolutely smoked McLouth in that category. He never had much home run power, but before his wrist injury he had a good deal of doubles power. Kind of like a healthy Doumit. The point isn’t to quibble about stats, it’s to say they’re similar players – nice to have, but not impossible to replace.

  • Dogknot

    These comments are so funny to me. Before people start posting, they should look some things up.

    How old is Tababta?
    How did Littlefield rebuild?
    Does age matter?

    Tabata is very young for his league. Players his age are not in Triple A. Would people seriously rather have Nady over Tabata and Ohlendorf?

    Littlefield never tied to rebuild the Pirates. He dumped salary and never drafted well or made international signings either. He brought in some old veterans and overpaid for them too.

    Huntington has not done anything similar to Littlefield. That is a good thing. There is more talent in the Pirates’ system now than there was for the five years Littlefield was in charge.

    I liked McLouth, but the Pirates sold high. McLouth is not going to do any better than what he did in 2008. Huntington recognized that and got a good return for him.

    Milledge is younger and has a lot more potential. Milledge hasn’t had the success as McLouth’s one quality season, but he is three years younger with more upside.

    The Pirates are rebuilding. When you rebuild, you get younger in the process. They might not have been trying to deal McLouth, but a good deal came about and Huntington couldn’t pass it up.

    The Pirates are rebuilding. I don’t know why so many fans keep forgetting that. Huntington is doing the right thing in drafting well and trading away the older veterans.

    Every good team built a core first. Only the 1997 Marlins bought their whole team on the open market. The Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Cardinals, and Dodgers (to name a few) all built a core. They have brought in other guys to fill in the holes.

    The Pirates are still putting together that core. Only time will tell if they will go out and spend that extra money to bring in what is needed. New Owner (third year) Bob Nutting said he will spend when the time is right. That time is not now.

  • Also, I want to clear up that I don’t “hate” Nate McLouth. On the contrary, I liked him a lot when he was with Pittsburgh. Regardless, he’s nothing more than a good complementary player.

  • Vaffanculo

    Nate says, “Every report out at that time said that Littlefield was given the go-ahead to spend on Wieters, but he wanted to spend that money at the Major League level instead. That’s how we ended up with Danny Moskos in the draft and Matt Morris and his huge contract.”

    Sorry Nate, you’re wrong. Littlefield asked McClatchy to ask Nutting for the go ahead and was rebuffed. After the fact, Nutting said he was never asked to “OK” an increase in the draft budget. Also, he said he would have approved it. By throwing Nutting under the bus, Littlefield, if he hadn’t done enough to get canned, sealed his fate that day. Personally, I trust nothing coming out of the mouths of Littlefield, McClatchy, or Nutting.

    We ended up with Morris as an appeasement to show that Nutting is willing to spend money. As if, Burnitz, Randa, and the Casey fiasco wasn’t enough to show that they could flush cash like the Mets.

    Nate says, “Where have you heard that Clement is pencilled in to keep Jones on the bench? He’s pencilled in to play first, and Jones is pencilled in to play right field. Would you rather Jones at first and Moss in right field?”

    Jones is penciled in, BUT his defense in RF leaves alot to be desired. Moss is scheduled to play about a third of the time and be a late inning replacement. Insert tone here: You can’t underestimate the value of Jones being a PH. End tone.

    Who said to pay Grant Green Alvarez money? I’m saying they cheaped out by drafting someone signable at less than slot. Since some here like to spout projections, if I remember correctly: good glove and range, projects to be .280 with 15+ HRs and less than 10 SBs. There so many of this type in the Pirate system already, I can see why’d they pass. NOW, if they had signed Sano, I could understand passing, but they didn’t.

    Nate says, “I feel like the Pirates did the smart thing by spreading the money around and signing lots of later round guys above slot, you think they should have overpaid Grant Green and signed fewer impact guys later.”

    Using that logic, they should have bypassed Alvarez and overpaid for lesser talent to replenish the minors. Please, pick one side of an argument.

    As for Kendall/McLouth, I stand by my original statement. Besides, runs produced is the most important stat (remember, it’s the score that determines the winner, not OBP), and McLouth averages 20+ more per season, based on 162 games played per season.

  • Vaffanculo

    Trust me, I’m not here to defend anything Littlefield did during his time here, but you have to agree that he was not given the same tools and orders as Huntington.

    In the Ramirez trade, he was under the gun by McClatchy to get $1 million. Kevin needed to pay back a loan to…the Nuttings. Once it was known, and it got out quickly, he had no leverage. But to take Bobby Hill and dump Bruback who he also got in the deal, was just plain stupid.

    In 2006, he was given the orders to get better quickly, because of the All-Star game. If you watched the Anatomy of a Trade that FSN-Pit did, you’d pull your hair out. They could have gotten Overbay for a couple of nothing minor leaguers. They could have gotten Blalock for a better package of minor leaguers. Instead, they chose Casey and $500K for Dave Williams. Knowing that Casey was to be a FA at the end of the season, it was a stupid deal, but the PR department needed the hometown kid to push on the fans.

    The Burnitz and Randa signings only prove that he had to overpay to get anyone to come here.

    As for international signings, that budget was close to nothing that it would have been better to be eliminated. Also, if you remember during that same timeframe, the Pirates had no advance scout. This team was being run on stretched out rubber band, a wad of gum, and pencil shavings. Even MacGyver would have just thrown up his hands.

  • Vaffanculo

    Dogknot says, “There is more talent in the Pirates’ system now than there was for the five years Littlefield was in charge.”

    Really, short of the expectations of Tabata, Alavarez, Sanchez and possibly D. McCutchen, who is there? The current MLB pitching staff is different, but I wouldn’t call it better. With Bullington, Van Benschoten, Burnett and Bradley, it was supposed to play out alot differently and might have, if the arm problems hadn’t developed.

    The lack of position players ready to move up in the lower minors, just shows that Huntington has the same belief system as Littlefield and it’s take care of the pitching and worry about the offense later.

    Look at the stats from Altoona, http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&cid=452 Nothing earth shattering there. Look at Lynchburg,
    http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&cid=481 Even less.

    Now with the trade talk of Doumit and Duke (can you say salary arbitration dump?), how is Huntington any different?

  • ftiliws

    my take on all of this: 1) i generally think that the management regime of the pirates is doing what they need to do with the cards they have been dealt. winning wasn’t happening with the players they had, so why continue on the same path? i’m not judging individual trades by saying this, but i am commending mgt on doing what i feel is necessary.
    2) gold gloves are (largely) awarded to people with very high fielding percentages which, besides wins, is the most overrated stat in baseball. jack wilson hasn’t won a gold glove b/c he gets to so many balls, hence has a higher chance at making more errors. plus, he can’t hit. voters tend to use that as a metric in their voting decision as well. cite ozzie smith if you will as an argument against the last sentence, but he could at least run. and he was far and away better defensively then his peers.
    3) mclouth was way overrated by pirates fans. he was at best average defensively. mclouth looked like a good cf b/c he had to make so many running/diving catches that look good to the untrained eye. check out the poor jumps he got on many of those nice looking catches, and you will then realize that he’s not a good fielder. is he an above average hitter? sure. i would love to have him on my team as a complimentary player. should he have been traded? debatable, but imo yes. if i remember correctly he was putting up resistance on moving to a corner of spot to make room for cutch (who, btw, is a much better defensive center fielder even though he is still a bit raw). that is ultimately the deciding factor on why i he was traded.
    4) minor league stats aren’t the best barometer on how good barometer on how someone will do in the majors. see steve pierce. see jj davis. see joe koshansky. see chad hermanson. see brad eldred. see nate mclouth. he hit 40 hr in 2422 ab’s (one every 61 ab’s). tabata is at 26 in 1836 (one every 71 ab’s). that includes time battling a wrist injury. milledge hit 38 in 1559 (one every 41 ab’s). my point: mclouth has demonstrated 20 hr power in the majors. who’s to say tabata or milledge won’t? the first few mentioned tore up the minors and did nothing in the majors. you can’t tell until sufficient time has been given to prospects to prove themselves. does that absolve pirates mgt for trading mclouth? no. i’m just saying to give it time until you rip them. i believe that trading mclouth was the right thing to do b/c the pirates were never going to win with him. if he hit 25 hr for the next three years before he was traded, who cares? the pirates weren’t going to win in those seasons, b/c they wouldn’t have enough of a team around him to win b/c nutting won’t spend money. why not take some chances and at least have a shot at winning in the future if things pan out with prospects? that goes for the other trades as well. you can analyze them all you want, but i feel that bold moves needed to be made. and they were. time will tell if they pan out. if they don’t, what changes? not the pirates record, that’s for sure. if they somehow do and the pirates become competitive, then great.

    so, before i get bashed, i want to reiterate what my overall point is: my point wasn’t to analyze individual trades, or to absolve current mgt on prospects received from these trades that may miss. it was to point out that the pirates weren’t winning with mclouth, bay, wilson, sanchez, et. al. which had been proven over the past several years, so why not play your cards and take some bold chances?

  • “Jones is penciled in, BUT his defense in RF leaves alot to be desired.”

    True, but last year was also his first year playing right field at any level. Considering that, he didn’t look so bad out there. He has the physical tools to be a successful right fielder, it’s just a matter of learning the fundamentals of the position. Unfortunately, he wasn’t taught those fundamentals in the Twins system, so he has to learn them in Pittsburgh.

    “Moss is scheduled to play about a third of the time and be a late inning replacement. Insert tone here: You can’t underestimate the value of Jones being a PH. End tone.”

    I’m sure Moss will be a defensive replacement, which makes sense to me. He’s a good defender. As for Jones being a PH, I doubt it. Delwyn Young has that role locked down.

    “Who said to pay Grant Green Alvarez money? I’m saying they cheaped out by drafting someone signable at less than slot.”

    Actually, Sanchez’s contract was a little bit over slot. He and Grant Green signed for about the same about of money…in the $2.5 million range. Is it possible the Bucs just liked Sanchez more?

    “Since some here like to spout projections, if I remember correctly: good glove and range, projects to be .280 with 15+ HRs and less than 10 SBs. There so many of this type in the Pirate system already, I can see why’d they pass. NOW, if they had signed Sano, I could understand passing, but they didn’t.”

    That’s about the same as where Sanchez projected. The players were basically interchangeable with the bat, it was the position and skill at the position that distinguished them. At the time of the draft, the Pirates were thin at both SS and C, but slightly thinner at C.

    “Using that logic, they should have bypassed Alvarez and overpaid for lesser talent to replenish the minors. Please, pick one side of an argument.”

    Not the same thing. Alvarez was far and away the best talent in the draft, and is seen as a once-in-a-lifetime type of talent. Grant Green and almost everyone else in the first round past Ackley and Strasburg were seen as potentially good players. Of course they should have paid for Alvarez.

    “As for Kendall/McLouth, I stand by my original statement. Besides, runs produced is the most important stat (remember, it’s the score that determines the winner, not OBP), and McLouth averages 20+ more per season, based on 162 games played per season.”

    By runs produced, I’m assuming you mean runs scored here, which is a fallacy. Kendall played in weaker lineups than did McLouth, so his chances to score runs were fewer. OBP is more important because it removes team context. You have to get on before you can score.

    As for runs above replacement…the data collected on FanGraphs only goes back to 2002, thereby cutting out Kendall’s most productive years as a Pirate. Still…

    Jason Kendall runs above replacement:

    2002: 27.3
    2003: 52.1
    2004: 45.7

    McLouth:

    2005: 4.1
    2006: -3.9
    2007: 16.2
    2008: 35.1
    2009 (between Pirates and Braves): 36.1

    So even at his worst, Kendall was better than McLouth.

    I’ll admit that early in his tenure, Littlefield was hamstrung by ownership. It’s possible Bonifay was too, but I doubt that considering the massive contracts he handed out to players like Kendall.

    Still, that’s no excuse for making the boneheaded moves Littlefield made. For example, he could have gotten cheaper and better by trading Kris Benson for Ryan Howard, but he didn’t do it because we had Brad Eldred in the system.

    And even then, later in the McClatchy/Littlefield years, Littlefield was given more purse to work with. He still made consistently bad decisions.

    The fact is that smart GMs can work on a shoestring budget. The Twins, Marlins, Rays, Brewers and Athletics have all done it at various points. The budget hampers success, but it doesn’t destroy it.

    Finally, he said the system has more talent now than it did under Littlefield. That’s not saying it’s a great system, but the Pirates have made big strides in the talent in the system.

  • Dogknot

    Hey Vaffanculo,

    If you don’t see the differences between Littlefield and Huntington then you aren’t looking very closely.

    Littlefield never rebuilt. Not once did he clean house and start from scratch. Huntington is doing the opposite and has made more strides in two years than what Littlefield did in five.

    I am shocked that a Pirates’ fan (assuming) doesn’t realize that or see the differences.

    I think it is funnier that you brought up Bullington and Van Benschoten too. Bullington might have been a top college pitcher in the draft, but he wasn’t the best player. Van Benschoten was drafted as a pitcher instead of a hitter. These were two very bad picks to start the Littlefield era. By the way, Bradley and Burnett were not drafted by Littlefield.

    It is pretty clear to me how Huntington is different. It is sad that you can’t see that.

  • Dogknot, good point bringing up the Van Benschoten as a hitter thing. If I remember correctly, he had the most homers in all of NCAA the year the Pirates drafted him. I know for a fact he was considered one of the best hitting prospects in the draft. And they converted him to a pitcher.

  • Vaffanculo

    Dogknot, I am looking closely. I want quality in the trades, not quantity. The Ramirez-Lofton for crap and cash deal, looks very similar to the Bay deal, which looks very similar to the Nady deal, which looks very similar to the McLouth deal. Notice the trend?

    Examine the Bay trade and see that they already gave up on Moss. They’re close to giving up on LaRoche. Nobody really knows if and when Hansen will come back. So it’s down to Bay for Morris. Quantity over quality.

    Examine the Nady trade and see that they got Karstens and Ohlendorf, but remember they both failed with the Yankees. Can you say Bobby Hill? The jury is still out on Tabata and D-Cutch, so this could be a wash to a win, but again, quantity over quality.

    As for the McLouth deal, it had the fingerprints of a Littlefield deal. Trade a guy because he has an affordable (Pirate) contract for a guy you lost out in previous negotiations. Neal wanted Locke as part of any Atlanta-Bay trade. Wow, a separated at birth moment.

    All of these trades were made for “organizational depth” and “potential”. Now, where have we heard those words before?

  • Vaffanculo

    ftiliws, 1) All Admins do what they think is necessary to get the job done. The problem is still having the leadership in place to understand what the problem is and how to fix it. With Nutting anywhere decision making, it’s going to be done cheaply.

    2) While I agree that sometimes the GG is used as a reward for offense, Jack didn’t win a GG because the voters saw how much of a gift he got from the hometown scorer in previous years. As much as I think his defense was a product of a PR machine over talent, (It’s not like you could have pumped his o numbers. They are what they are.) if he would have stayed with the Pirates the entire season, or at least the NL, he deserved a GG last year.

    3) McLouth wasn’t overhyped to the extent of Kendall or Wilson, so I think the fans judged him appropriately. I agree that he is a complimentary player, but with the impending trades of Wilson and Sanchez, having a veteran player on the field for Cutch was crucial. Someone to help him adjust to PNC and MLB. Personally, I would have put Cutch in left, only to get used to the notch and PNC. Nyjer filled the veteran void, until they shipped him out. I understand that they weren’t going to win many games, but I didn’t receive a rebate on my tickets for packing it in by August.

    4) Since they’re not going to win this year, who do they ship out? At some point, you have to put down stakes and say, “we’re locking in these players because in x years, we will have the pieces together.” If all you keep doing is changing the pieces, you’re not solving the problem.

    Now with all of the infused talent, from recent trades, in the minors and the MLB roster, it’s pretty much Huntington’s show, top to bottom. We’ll see how much, as an organization they actually improve.

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