Kovacevic: Pirates misfire on priorities
TribLIVE Sports Videos
It was 3:30 a.m. Thursday when Pirates players, coaches and other personnel dragged themselves off their charter plane at Pittsburgh International Airport. They'd just flown five hours from San Diego, they'd just played their 20th game in 20 days, they'd just been swept by the Padres and they'd just fallen out of playoff position.
Spectacular time for that scheduled day off, right?
A chance to plop on the couch, unplug the phone, surf through Netflix and forget it all.
Well, forget that.
The day off never came.
Those players, coaches and other personnel were sent off the very same morning for the Pirates Charities Sporting Clays Invitational at the Seven Springs Resort owned by team chairman Bob Nutting.
Right from the aircraft to a waiting bus on the tarmac.
In the dead of night.
To drive over three counties.
To blow up clay pigeons.
As in, you know, “all in.”
Players who participated in the June 11 Pirates Charities Golf Classic were excused from the shoot, but that still left 10 players who were told to go, including a few key performers, plus pretty much everyone else who'd been on the plane.
What a blast it must have been.
The bus capped the 90-minute drive at Seven Springs by the crack of dawn, way early for the morning session that began at 10:30 and ended at 1 p.m.
By the time all were bused back to PNC Park, retrieved their cars and drove home, it was about 4 p.m.
The day was as shot as those pigeons.
Of the several players with whom I spoke Friday at PNC Park before that beat-goes-on 6-5 loss to the Brewers, every last one of them fumed over it, though none would speak on the record.
“It's a pennant race,” one player said. “Maybe everyone around here will realize that at some point.”
Actually, I'm sure the Pirates' front office already has a firm grasp of that. I'm just not sure they know how to conduct business in a pennant race, whether that's related to trades, roster management, game strategy or even silly stuff like this.
Look, this is no egregious offense.
There's nothing in Major League Baseball's labor agreement preventing the Pirates from ordering players to work on off days. Article V, Section C, which deals with scheduling, stipulates, “An open day shall be scheduled following travel from cities in the Pacific time zone to cities in the Eastern time zone,” but that applies only to playing games. Same with the clause that prevents teams from playing “more than 20 consecutive dates without an open day.”
Nothing about pigeons.
The Pirates' players did not contact the MLB Players Association over this matter, and Greg Bouris, MLBPA spokesman, declined comment until or if they do.
So this isn't about the Pirates breaking or even bending rules.
It's about common sense.
It's about priority.
The Sporting Clays shoot has been in place since Nutting became controlling owner in 2007. It's a worthwhile event that last year raised more than $100,000 for Pirates Charities' many excellent initiatives.
But these aren't the 105-loss Pirates anymore. This isn't the same as when Adam LaRoche would don the camo and facepaint, and everyone would get a big chuckle out of it.
It's a pennant race.
In fairness, these 10 players were given a choice: They could participate in the shoot as scheduled or have it pushed back to Sept. 6. Because the latter would have been a true day off — with no travel — the players decided to just get it over with.
But how about a third choice: Kill the whole thing.
Or do it in the offseason.
Do clay animals hibernate?
The amount raised by the shoot is roughly what Wandy Rodriguez earns per start.
Why not just cut a check for that amount and cut everyone on the team a break?
In a November interview with MLB.com, Nutting said this of charity work: “Everyone at the Pirates, from myself to our manager, coaches and players, understand that giving back is a significant part of each of our responsibilities as an employee of the Pittsburgh Pirates.”
But it would be fair to counter that the Pirates' most significant responsibility to the community is to win baseball games.
It's outright bizarre that, even this summer, this still needs to be reinforced.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Two wild-card format hurting Pirates in short term
- Gameday: Pirates at Brewers, Sept. 1, 2015
- No certainty for Pirates’ call-up veterans
- Biertempfel: Pittsburgh native faced quick learning curve as Marlins GM
- Starting 9: Pirates place renewed emphasis on nabbing base-stealers
- Rossi: Continuing legend of Pirate Ray
- Strong-armed outfielder Garcia growing into all-around threat
- Pirates notebook: Burnett’s simulated game goes well
- Pirates erupt for 6-run 2nd, maul Marlins behind Locke, McCutchen
- Pirates notebook: Hurdle’s faith in Polanco pays off
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Rockies, Aug. 30, 2015