Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Pirates Tree Of Ineptitude

  • Why do one stupid, senseless thing when you can do five stupid, senseless things?

Ah, the Pirates...

The machinations of this organization would be easily explainable if they were based on pure luck----good or bad; of individuals just doing things as if spurred by a derangement for which they cannot be held responsible.

One would assume there was a reason that they so avidly pursued Akinori Iwamura from the Rays to take over as their second baseman; that there was a reason they were willing to take on Iwamura's $4.25 million contract in its entirety; that they gave up a useful bullpen arm in Jesse Chavez to get him.

I've been wondering why the Pirates needed Iwamura since they acquired him and have yet to come up with a sensible conclusion. Yes, he can run; yes, he can play second and third base; yes, he seemed popular with his Rays teammates; and yes he contributed some big hits to the Rays success in 2008.

But what did the Pirates need him for?

It wasn't as if Iwamura had grown too expensive for the Rays; as if they had a ready-made replacement and wanted to bolster some other aspect of their club; or that the Rays let the word out that Iwamura would be available and the Pirates jumped on him----the Pirates pursued Iwamura for months!

His play this season aside (.182 BA; .292 OBP in 54 games), even if Iwamura had been the solid player he was for the Rays from 2007-2009, what good would he have done the Pirates? A 31-year-old complementary player for a team that is ostensibly in the midst of a rebuild.*

*In theory the Pirates are rebuilding; I've heard of 5-year plans, but the Pirates are undergoing an 18-year plan, and counting.

All that aside, the series of additions and subtractions that were a direct result of the Iwamura trade is fascinating and does a better job of explaining the Pirates than I can.

Let's take a look.

Pirates trade RHP Jesse Chavez to the Rays for Akinori Iwamura.

This deal was completed on November 3rd, 2009.

The Pirates were waiting until the World Series was over to get it done; they were chasing Iwamura.

Jesse Chavez has not pitched well this season for the Braves, but he did show enough for the Pirates to hang onto him and try him as a part of their bullpen in 2010 not just practically, but financially. Iwamura was owed $4.25 million; Chavez is making $415,000 for 2010.

Chavez had closed in the minors and displayed solid strikeout potential----with his salary, that's reason enough to keep him or wait for a better deal to come along.

This trade made less sense after the winter circumstances played themselves out.

Rays trade RHP Jesse Chavez to the Braves for RHP Rafael Soriano.

On December 11th, the Braves, stunned by reliever Rafael Soriano accepting their offer of salary arbitration rather than choose free agency and having already signed both Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito to strengthen their bullpen, traded Soriano in a salary dump for Chavez.

I didn't (and don't) trust Soriano as a closer. Despite great stuff, his penchant for the home run ball and shakiness in big games made him a questionable choice for a club in contention; but he's been brilliant for the Rays this season and is costing $7.25 million on a 1-year deal.

Pirates sign RHP Octavio Dotel to a 1-year, $3.5 million contract with a $4.5 million club option for 2011 and a $500,000 buyout.

Pirates sign RHP Brendan Donnelly to a 1-year, $1.35 million contract.

Brendan Donnelly was signed on January 18th; Dotel on January 21st.

Octavio Dotel is a journeyman closer/set-up man who allows too many homers. He's been horrendous this season and the Pirates might get a low-level minor leaguer in a trade and they'd have to kick in some money for that low return. Maybe.

Donnelly is the epitome of a Marlins scrapheap reclamation project. They signed him, let him get his stuff together in the minors, brought him up at mid-season and got some production , then dispatched him. Of course the Pirates were hypnotized from his renaissance last year. Completely ignorant of the reality that a once-solid veteran can regain that which he lost for brief spurts, but will almost universally revert to his declining status just as quickly, the Pirates signed him and expected the Donnelly from the Marlins and not the Donnelly who pitched for the Indians in 2008.

He's allowed 5 homers in 19 innings and has been about as bad as Dotel.

Calculating the money, you get a clearer view of how dim the Pirates "braintrust" was regarding Iwamura.

Iwamura cost $4.25 million and would've had little-to-no trade value at mid-season when the Pirates were known to be looking to move contracts. He's been awful and they designated him for JUNE!!!

Chavez cost $415,000 and would presumably have had a similar trade potential as Iwamura----teams are always looking for bullpen help.

Soriano signed a 1-year, $7.25 million contract with the Rays after he was acquired from the Braves and would've been a far greater choice as closer----with huge trade potential----than Octavio Dotel.

Dotel was signed to a guaranteed $3.75 million contract with a 2011 option. No one's giving up anything worthwhile for him in a trade.

Donnelly signed a 1-year, $1.35 million contract. They'll get nothing for him.

The Pirates are on the hook for over $10 million with the players they have or had----players who did or do nothing for them; they could've had Soriano at $7.25 million and traded him and done what they're doing now at second base playing Neil Walker or give Delwyn Young another chance.

What makes it even worse is that team president Frank Coonelly was the labor guy in MLB's front office before taking over the Pirates. Shouldn't the financial guy know this? Shouldn't GM Neal Huntington have enough foresight to realize that some better names will be available at lower prices before diving headfirst into the empty pool with Iwamura?

Take a look at the series of decisions that led to the designation of Iwamura and tell me if you'd be able to find any other organization anywhere who would function in this way; any club in the universe that is this inept.

Like an exploding party favor, when it finally popped, it not only sent the innards all over the place in a multitude of different directions, but----as usual----it blew up in the Pirates collective faces. A case study in what not to do to reconstruct a once proud franchise, they reach new lows in absurdity.

There's been talk that both GM Huntington and manager John Russell are in trouble; that changes are in store for the Pirates.



To blame Huntington and Russell is disregarding the crux of the problem. There's no plan; no one to take charge of the organization; no one who has the intelligence and single-mindedness to do what's best for the organization rather than what's palatable for MLB's front office to maintain the facade of financial sanity and "what's good for the game" communism.

How can we know whether Huntington is a good GM when his hands are bound by Coonelly?

Russell has not shown himself to be a good manager, but what difference will firing him make? All they'll do is replace him with another cheap soldier, grateful for the opportunity and easily replaceable.

Does baseball see it? Do the Pirates? Do their remaining fans?

Apparently not, because they repeatedly run into the same brick wall, oblivious to pain and failure, clueless to reality. Until something fundamentally changes in the inner workings of the franchise, they'll remain the worst run organization in sports; secure in their cocoon as the current catastrophe they are----the toxic wasteland known as the Pittsburgh Pirates.

  • The Phillies would "love" to have Cliff Lee back?

Check this out from HardballTalk by Craig Calcaterra:

File this Jack Curry tweet under Things No Phillies Fan Really Wants to Hear Right Now:

Spoke to baseball official who has regular contact w/ Phils. He said they are itching to add a starter and would love to get Cliff Lee back.

You can also file it under "Things That Would Never, Ever Happen in a Million Years." I mean, on what planet would Rubin Amaro -- or any other GM -- make a deal that screamed "I totally blew it last winter" like this one would? How would this even work? As a do-over trade? Would Ramirez, Aumont and Gillies go back to Seattle? Would Cliff Lee tell Amaro to eff-off the second he got off the plane in Philadelphia, or would he send him a telegram asking him to kindly eff-off prior to his arrival?

I think the Phillies would be more likely to make a trade for Terry Mulholland than they would for Cliff Lee at this point.

I'm wondering if this source is the same one who was advancing the idiotic rumor of Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols a couple of months ago.

Calcaterra hit it right on the money. Under no circumstances is Ruben Amaro going to humiliate himself in such a way by trying to re-acquire Lee; if he goes after a starter in the Roy Oswalt mold or tries to get Dan Haren, the ridicule would be bad enough as to why they traded Lee in the first place.

Add in that with Domonic Brown off the table in trade talks (I would hope); that J.A. Happ is hurt and no one's touching him now, the Phillies don't have the prospects to get Lee back.

Then, the Lee factor isn't to be dismissed. The vitriolic contretemps between Lee and the Phillies would preclude such a reunion. Amaro claimed Lee's representatives didn't want to negotiate an extension; Lee's people said they were never seriously approached. One would assume that unless the Phillies offer is above-and-beyond that of other clubs for Lee, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik would grant Lee the courtesy of not sending him back to the Phillies.

No way.

My podcast appearance with Jeff and his crew at the Red State Blue State podcast is now up and available on all sorts of outlets here-----link.

I'll also be a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz later today.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

Disbelieve the rumors of my atrocities. I'm not that bad.

Well, maybe I am. But listen and read anyway.

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