Starkey: Pirates doing right by fan base
By Joe Starkey
Published: Thursday, August 2, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated: Sunday, August 5, 2012
Up here in Latrobe, it would have taken some story to knock the Pirates off the front page — and rumblings of Ben Roethlisberger having a slightly torn rotator cuff did not qualify.
Not after a reporter asked general manager Kevin Colbert about it, and Colbert smiled as Ben threw bullet passes behind him.
Not after coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he had any concerns and if Ben was being held back in any way.
Tomlin's answers to both questions were the same: “None.”
So let's get back to the Pirates, who embark on their biggest series in 15 years when they visit Cincinnati on Friday.
Let's start with a question: When exactly did this season become a now-or-never proposition?
When did everyone who predicted 90 losses suddenly decide the Pirates MUST WIN NOW or possibly never win again?
You've heard this before, but the idea really is to build a team that can consistently contend. And unless I'm missing something, the arrow is heading in that direction.
After manning the radio airwaves Tuesday and listening to all the doom-and-gloom and how-dare-they-do-nothing-at-the-deadline ranting, I feel the need to say something:
What are you people thinking?
First of all, the Pirates did do something — and they did it without touching their best prospects. They did more than their closest competitors in the NL Central, the Cardinals and Reds, merely by acquiring a bona fide starter in Wandy Rodriguez.
As for Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez, who knows?
For what it's worth, longtime major leaguer Sean Casey says Snider “has thunder in his bat” and will thrive with regular duty. Others say he's a swing-and-miss guy who wasn't worth Brad Lincoln.
I plan on giving him at least three more at-bats before I make a final judgment.
Sanchez was an all-star last season. His three-year split against lefties offers a .310 average and 12 home runs in 277 at-bats.
Has he recovered from a slump that stretched back to last season? No idea. He seemed to regain his stroke in Triple-A.
I'll give him 11 at-bats.
Yes, the Pirates missed out on Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. I just have a hard time understanding the outrage over that.
Victorino, a leadoff guy, is 49th in the NL in on-base percentage.
Pence was hitting .271 with 17 home runs, sort of in the Garrett Jones ballpark. His defense, as described by one Phillies beat writer, was “atrocious at times.” He is expected to earn $13 million to $14 million next season before he could become an unrestricted free agent.
Nice player, but was Pence the guy to take the Pirates to the Promised Land? If the price for was, say, Starling Marte and Lincoln, as broadcaster Greg Brown suggested during Tuesday's game, the Pirates did the right thing by passing.
I believe Neal Huntington, who said if he'd met the Phillies' price (Huntington didn't give details), “Your phone lines would be lit because I'd be the biggest idiot in the history of the world.”
The Pirates are not averse to taking on salary (they did so in the Rodriguez deal) and adding rental players. They did both last season to mixed results.
Derrek Lee was fabulous before he got injured. Ryan Ludwick stunk. He has rebounded to hit 20 home runs for the Reds this season. You never know what you're going to get with a two-month sampling.
In the meantime, why can't people enjoy the process of watching a young team grow up?
Why can't people admit that management, for all its past sins, is acting in good faith these days?
The signing of Andrew McCutchen was an excellent example. So was picking up Rodriguez.
You can understand why fans who've been beaten down for 19 years don't trust it when they are suddenly treated well.
It's hard to love again.
But instead of looking for evidence of betrayal, how about looking at the standings? The Pirates are 16 games over .500.
I've spent much of my adult life reflexively ripping this franchise, but if you ask me to identify my major complaints at the moment, I'm quoting Tomlin.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Excellent article, and exactly what I've been trying to tell people since the trades. I mean, let's assume that none of the trades work out and every player for which they traded bombs. In that case, they still have nearly the exact same team, minus Lincoln and McGehee - hardly game changers. In that scenario, they basically remain what they have been all season. However, if any of the trades work out, they have improved the team both currently AND in the future. Plus, it was done without giving up any of the team's top 5 prospects. It's really a no-lose situation.
Submitted by: greg on Thursday, August 2, 2012
This is perfectly dead-on. An objective and balanced view of what the Pirates accomplished for now and 2013. As alluded to, Garrett Jones has a higher OPS than Pence and the cost to get a big "name" bat was prohibitive, by all accounts. Instead, they made several incremental improvements to a team that has a record amongst the MLB best without sacrificing any of the top 7 prospects. They played it the same way the Rays would have played it, and that's the team they should try to emulate. Consistently competitive year after year by improving today's team and building for tomorrow.
Submitted by: Jack on Thursday, August 2, 2012
What exactly do you mean by "you people" :)
Submitted by: Dock on Thursday, August 2, 2012
This is exactly what I've been trying to yell at people for days.
Submitted by: Gene on Thursday, August 2, 2012
No doubt about it! The people who are complaining are the sames one that fell off the bandwagon years ago, and have just now got back on. I personally never fell off the bandwagon - however I did protest two summers ago by not wearing my Pirate hat all summer :)
Submitted by: Wally on Thursday, August 2, 2012
Joe, Thank you for pointing out a bandwagon I'm on (and I've been on the Pirates bandwagon since 1960). That's the Why-Do-We-Holler-About-Hunter-Pence-When-Garrett-Jones'-Numbers-Are-Within-A-Few-Swings-Of-Pence Bandwagon. And for $8.2 million less in salary this year.
Submitted by: Michael on Thursday, August 2, 2012
The answer is simple, people are instinctively prone to complain, never satisfied, always scrutinizing the smallest of details. I personally am thrilled at this point. Obviously the objective is a World Series ring, but this is better than anything that has happened in the last 19 years. My advice is ... life is too short, enjoy the good things while they last. If you are a true Pirates fan, you should have a big smile on your face these days!!!!