Stop me if you’ve heard something like that before. It’s pretty well known that the Pirates are one of the more frugal teams in baseball. They haven’t had a winning season since the days Barry Bonds’ waist was wider than his head and they’re perpetually in rebuilding mode. They do have a few good ballplayers on the team, second baseman Freddy Sanchez, a former batting champ, being one of them. Sanchez is hitting .323 with a league-leading 14 doubles and he’s been Pittsburgh’s best hitter this year. Given that information, you would figure the team would keep his bat in the lineup on a daily basis — you know, if you’re trying to win and all. Apparently that’s not the top priority for the Pirates who held him out of the lineup twice in the past week.
The Pirates did not bench second baseman Freddy Sanchez twice last week to hold down his plate appearances and keep him from triggering an $8.5 million vesting option for 2010, team president Frank Coonelly said last night.
“I am very surprised and, quite frankly, offended that anyone would suggest that, in the middle of our worst slump in his tenure as a major league manager, John Russell would do anything other than put out the lineup he believes gives us the best chance to win the most baseball games,” Coonelly said, referring to the eight-game losing streak the Pirates carried into last night. “A player’s contractual clause has no bearing on J.R.’s lineup or player usage.”
Sanchez needs 635 plate appearances or 600 plate appearances if he makes the All-Star team to guarantee the option year. The two days he sat in the past week were against right-handed pitchers Todd Wellemeyer and Livan Hernandez — none of whom would put the fear of god in you. When I went back and thought about this story again, I realized that Freddy’s played his entire career in Pittsburgh. It clicked with me that he must be telling them to bench him so he’s not forced to play for the Pirates next year. That has to be it!