After ensuring their 18th consecutive losing season last week, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ plan to get back to respectability is to rely on the “core four” and stockpile young power arms.
OFs Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata, 3B Pedro Alvarez and 2B Neil Walker are the first quartet of everyday players in Pittsburgh under the age of 25 since the World Series winners in 1971. Owner BobNutting, President Frank Cooney and GM Neal Huntington are hoping that these young hitters progress over the next few years and lead this pathetic organization out of the doldrums.
Since arriving three years ago, Huntington has stockpiled pitchers through the draft and trade in hopes of building a strong rotation. His trades for a myriad of hurlers haven’t really panned out, although there’s hope for a few (Ross Ohlendorf, James McDonald, Jeff Locke). As for the draft, Pittsburgh has invested over $32 million in signing bonuses over the past three years, the highest amount in the game, mostly on power arms. It will take a few years for those pitchers to arrive and perhaps a few more to adjust to the big leagues.
As the “core four” and these arms develop over the next few years, Nutting has said that Pittsburgh will up its payroll to put together a postseason-challenging club. However, since taking over ownership Nutting has been under fire from the media and fans for pocketing millions, especially tax luxury money, instead of investing in payroll.
Financial reports released recently indicated that Nutting has pocketed over $30 million the last three years.
However, bickering about ownership aside, this plan won’t work if the Pirates can’t catch the ball.
This past weekend’s series with the Milwaukee Brewers is a perfect example. In Friday’s 7-2 loss, RF Lastings Milledge badly misjudged a liner in the seventh inning with two on and one out into a two-run triple which cost starter McDonald the lead and opened the floodgates.
In addition to the Milledge misplay, Brewers fans laughed at that Bucs in the ninth inning on Friday when SS Ronnie Cedeno overthrew 1B Garrett Jones trying to complete a double play, then Jones tracked down the ball and overthrew Cedeno at second.
Even uglier, in Saturday’s 8-7 loss in 11 innings, the Pirates blew a 6-3 lead and Alvarez’s error on a routine grounder at third in the seventh allowed the Brewers to tie the game. Alvarez has been brutal at the hot corner with 10 errors, matching his home run total, and he’s been miserable at tracking balls to his right.
In the 11th inning, 2B Neil Walker’s error on a grounder led to the winning run. Walker’s defensive metrics aren’t great, but he’s passing the smell test in his first year at his new position, and he was approaching 50 games without an error prior to Saturday.
Ownership, and even Commissioner Bud Selig has stated recently that the Pirates are on the right track. Perhaps the Bucs will find and polish some treasures in the next few years, but right now with Pittsburgh (43-87) challenging for one of the worst records of all time, it appears all the treasure will remain buried for quite some time.
About the Author
Written by Jim Keller
I'm a life-long, suffering Pirates fan who is old enough to remember the Lumber Company, the "We are Family" World Series winners and Roberto Clemente, Bob Prince and "Green Weenies." You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PiratesProperty.