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Pirates players 'wonder what's going on' with deals

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jack Wilson has seen this before.

He saw it four weeks ago, when the Pirates traded Nate McLouth. He saw it last July, when Jason Bay was dealt on deadline day. He saw it when Aramis Ramirez, Brian Giles and Jason Kendall joined the Conga line of players sent away to other teams.

Tuesday, when Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett were traded to the Washington Nationals, Wilson was not surprised.

"It's tough to see good guys go," Wilson said. "You hope that eventually some of these trades will work out. They haven't yet.

"The biggest question is, when do things start turning around• It's hard for guys who have seen these exact kinds of trades happen before and seen it do absolutely nothing. For nine years, I've seen these trades two or three times a year, every year, and we still haven't had a winning season."

Morgan was not the Pirates' top slugger. In 71 games, he batted .277 with two homers and 27 RBI. But he was the joie de vivre of the clubhouse and helped pull the team together after McLouth's sudden departure.

"I'm sad to leave these guys," Morgan said. "I was just being myself. It's kind of cool that the guys have my back and I brought a little bit of light to them."

With his effervescent style of play, Morgan also became a fan favorite.

"Thank you very much, Pittsburgh, for embracing me," Morgan said. "I don't mind (playing in) our nation's capital. But there was something about being in Pittsburgh — the fans, the baseball tradition. It's the City of Champions, you know• I definitely wanted to be part of that. Hopefully, the pieces they bring in will be part of the new turnaround."

The Pirates acquired outfielder Lastings Milledge and reliever Joel Hanrahan. Milledge, 24, is five years younger than Morgan and has more offensive tools, but his career has been pockmarked with immature actions.

"I still believe in Lastings Milledge, and I think he's going to be a good player in the big leagues," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "It's just tough that it didn't happen here."

Still, several Pirates players openly wondered whether adding Milledge's potential pop was worth another blow to the team's chemistry.

"It's a pretty big hit," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "If it's something that had to be done, fine. There's nothing we can do about it. It's not our job to understand the 'big plan,' I guess, of the future of this team. That's up to (management)."

General manager Neal Huntington was not surprised by the players' sour response.

"Anytime you take away one of their friends — or you take two or three away in a short period of time — it's unsettling," Huntington said. "The human element is something we can't ignore. But our goal is to put an excellent team on the field and not just to put a bunch of nice guys out there."

Burnett admitted "there were some tears" after he found out he'd been traded by the team that made him a first-round draft pick in 2000.

"Not being (a Pirate) anymore, I can talk now," Burnett said. "In spring training, there was that upbeat feeling. It was a young group of guys who had been around together. A good chemistry.

"That (McLouth) trade kind of made guys wonder what's going on. We don't know what direction we're going in. It's not about talent; it's about keeping guys around who you want to go out and battle with. That's what we're not seeing right now."

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