Pirates Fire Pierogi, End Losing Streak

We’ve ripped on the Pirates a number of times for a number of reasons. A few years ago their fans had a walkout to protest the ineptitude in the organization. Between not having a winning season since 1992 and trading away all their talented players, the fans have been given a lot of reasons to be unhappy. The Pirates also were riding a 12-game losing streak until Saturday night, and they got a heap of negative press for firing one of their pierogis recently, as I found out reading Mondesi’s House. No joke.

Andrew Kurtz is one of 18 people who dresses up in a pierogi costume and runs in the race the Pirates hold at PNC Park every home game. The Pirates fired Kurtz for negative comments he posted about the team on his facebook page, so Kurtz’s mom went crying to the newspaper about the situation. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, here’s what Andrew Kurtz said on his facebook:

Coonelly extended the contracts of Russell and Huntington through the 2011 season. That means a 19-straight losing streak. Way to go Pirates.”

It’s hard enough running an organization where you haven’t won since ’92 and you’re in the middle of a 12-game losing streak. It’s even harder to break that spell and turn things around when you have pissant pierogis ripping management and creating even more negativity within the organization. People may be laughing at the Pirates because the story is humorous and petty, but I think they did the right thing. It’s funny that they fired a pierogi as if that would be the answer to their problems, but the guy asked for it. Maybe things will work out for him running hot dog races at minor league parks.

Pirates’ PR Nightmare Continues with Pierogi Dismissal [Mondesi's House]
Out at the plate: Pirates dump outspoken pierogi [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Andrew McCutchen Gives Pirates Fans Hope for the Future

The Pittsburgh Pirates are rarely talked about. It’s been years since they’ve had anything to be excited about because they keep trading away all their decent or better players.  But now they have center fielder Andrew McCutchen, a young outfielder who last year said he was “just a step away from reaching his dreams.” Now at the Major League level for the second straight year, McCutchen is a symbol of hope for a deprived fan base.

The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992 so the people of the Pirates organization can’t help but smile watching him play. Pirates outfielder Ryan Church commented on McCutchen’s wheels saying, “He’s so damn quick, it’s amazing. It looks like he’s just floating through the air.” It’s no surprise to read that when McCutchen was called up from Triple-A last year people said he was playing “like a 10-year veteran.” McCutchen has been turning heads in the big leagues ever since.

Despite my praise of McCutchen, I’m not crazy enough to think the Pirates winning season drought of 17 years will finally come to an end. Still, Pirates fans should be smiling when they get to see their speedy leadoff man and center fielder for he is their future. If their farm system can keep producing young talent like it has with McCutchen, we may soon see a different team competing for a top spot in the NL Central.

Biding his time [Midwest Baseball Magazine]
A reason to believe in Pittsburgh [ESPN]

Pirates in the Market to Trade Bat Boy

The Pirates have been an easy target for my derision lately, and that of MLB in general since ’92 — their last winning season. They haven’t even won 80 games in that 17 year span and they seem to be content with their bottom-dwelling status as the farm team for everyone else. Their GM Neal Huntington is treating his roster almost as if it’s a joke, taking the phrase “trigger-happy” to a whole new level.

In just over a year, the Pirates have traded away Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Nate McClouth, Freddy Sanchez, and Jack Wilson. That’s a semi-decent team right there. Look, I understand the financial constraints in the game as well as anyone and how hard it is for teams to compete on an annual basis unless you have the pockets to sign All-Stars each off-season. Thing is, that doesn’t mean the team’s GM has to go overboard in trading away every single halfway decent player with talent like they have swine flu.

I understand if you acknowledge that you won’t be competing in the near future and that you’re trying to get value in the meantime. I understand if you feel you want to start from scratch and get rid of all bad contracts. Here’s my problem: I’m still waiting to see what they got back for All-Star Jason Bay so you better make it worthwhile if you’re going to trade a player. Secondly, you have to keep at least one good player with experience otherwise you’re running a Triple-A team out there and that’s when this happens.

So while Huntington’s treating his team like a farm club, might as well jump in and get in on all the action. I hear they have good bullpen catchers to warm up your pitchers.

Pirates Looking to Channel Indian Fan Base, Sign Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel

I guess when you haven’t had a winning record since the days Terry Bradshaw was quarterbacking the Steelers, you’re bound to start thinking outside the box. Not only have the Pirates thought outside the box, GM Neal Huntington has swooped in on Taj Mahal, snatching up two potential pitchers with non-draftee free agent contracts. Now how exactly did he get hot on Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh’s trail? MLB Blogs explains:

The two Indian pitchers were discovered while participating in the Million Dollar Arm competition in India last year to find the strongest and most accurate arm in the country. Singh and Patel emerged as the winners and were then invited to train with University of Southern California pitching coach Tom House in the US. After months of training, the two pitchers — who had never played baseball before entering the contest — threw in front of numerous Major League scouts earlier this month.

Hey, I’m not saying these guys are gonna be winning Cy Youngs or anything, but anyone who’s seen cricket bowlers knows that Indian athletes have some damn good arms. With a good amount of work, I’m sure they could turn out to be serviceable one-inning relief guys. On another note, for the skeptics out there, I’m sure you could combine this news with the Xavier Nady trade to the Yankees and say the league puts pressure on the Pirates to act in the best interest of MLB. Who knows? Maybe some of that is going on. Oh, and on a different note, I wonder how the ratings were for that show.

Matt Morris Is Why Players Have No-Trade Clauses

You’ve probably sat there a few times wondering exactly what no-trade clauses are, rather, why players have them in their contracts. Well, the long answer is, so the player can decide to what teams he’d allow himself to be dealt, or to ensure he’s not dealt at all. The short answer is, Matt Morris.

Matt Morris may have been traded from a last place team to a last place team, but it wasn’t quite that simple. He went from a booming metropolis in San Francisco, to an industrial town in Pittsburgh. He went from a large market, high payroll team in the Giants, to a small market, low-budge team like the Pirates. He went from being teammates with a man poised to break baseball’s greatest record, to being teammates with a guy poised to star in Jackass III. In one day, Matt Morris went from a bad, but manageable situation, to a nightmare.

Memo to all you players out there (because so many of you read this site): this is why you include no-trade clauses in your contract — so you don’t get dealt to East Bum**ck hell in the baseball world on the day of the deadline — Pittsburgh. Matt Morris is why you need a no-trade clause, my friends.

Pirates Fans Planning a Walkout

Last year it was Orioles fans, this year, Pirates fans. Apparently. Following the third inning of Saturday’s game against the Nationals, Pirates fans are expected to walk out of the stadium to express their displeasure with the organization. Team leaders Jason Bay and Jack Wilson didn’t have much of a comment in response, but the team sure has. They are planning to ignore the walkout as best as possible:

They have asked their television announcing crew not to discuss the walkout with the media. They have removed all comments about the walkout from their message board at pirates.com. They have the support of their television rights holder, FSN Pittsburgh, which does not plan to show the protest as part of its game coverage.

Contacted about the protest, Greg Brown, who will do the play-by-play of the telecast along with [Bob] Walk, said, “I have been asked by the Pirates not to comment and refer all calls to Brian Warecki.”

Warecki, the team’s senior director of communications, issued this statement via e-mail:

“We greatly appreciate the passion of all of our fans and their freedom to express that passion in any way they choose.”

No surprise that the teams is trying to downplay it as best as possible — they have to worry about putting 15,000 butts in seats on a daily basis! To counter Warecki’s email however, doesn’t sound like they appreciate the fans expressing their passion in this manner. Man, 15 years of losing, that really stinks. And that’s coming from a Bengals fan (sort of).

Baseball Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

Last year’s record and finish in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus

Pittsburgh Pirates (67-95, 5th in NL Central) + 3 games

Get Crunked: They have so much more promise than last year — I really wanted to take them out of the cellar but couldn’t quite do it. It’s a team on its way up, full of young starters, a surprisingly solid bullpen, and a good heart-of-the-order. You now have Adam LaRoche to complement Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and Freddy Sanchez, adding more pop to the lineup. Tony Armas Jr. and Shawn Chacon join emerging stars Zach Duke and Ian Snell to form a solid core of starters. Damaso Marte will support Matt Capps and new (and capable) closer Solomon Torres to close out the 7th, 8th, and 9th. And Jim Tracy’s the manager, he’s cool.

Party Foul: Youth is all that can keep this team down — but that is also something you can get crunked about. Depth is another issue — if and when there are injuries, they won’t be able to plug the holes as well as most other teams. Finally, there aren’t any recognizable names on the roster (but that’s not an issue as long as they play well). Keeping in mind that it is the frugal Pirates we’re talking about, that’s not a whole lot of bad.

Pirates and the X-Factor ain’t messin around

What’d my GM do: Littlefield killed it. He brought in Tony Armas Jr. for a year deal for less than $4 mil, a great bargain. I was a big fan of the Mike Gonzalez trade — Torres is more than capable of closing, and they needed the pop LaRoche brings. He re-signed Freddy Sanchez, Shawn Chacon, Damaso Marte, and Xavier Nady on the cheap. Dan Kolb, Jose Hernandez and Luis Matos all were signed to minor-league deals, and at least one of them will help the club, probably two. Good off-season for Littlefield.

Lay it on me Straight: I’ve been very complimentary of the Pirates thus far and that’s because they’re headed in the right direction. Only time will tell whether or not they’re ready to take that next step this year, next year, or in two years, but at some point, they will soon.

So where my boys gonna finish right now: Let’s not get it twisted — it’s still going to take a lot to get them out of the cellar, but at least they’ll win many more games.

Can we be better than that: Yes, you can be a heck of a lot better, potentially only a few games below .500 if the young guys hit like last year, and the starters bloom earlier than expected. You can also be a lot worse considering I might have over-hyped the squad, but lets be optimistic.