Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Pain of Being a Pirates Fan

The focus of this blog is primarily Steelers football, but Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls remain an impassioned, interested and endlessly tortured fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The latest fiasco, the disputed signing of ballyhooed first-round draft pick Pedro Alvarez, follows nearly a month of truly awful baseball (7 wins, 19 losses) following the July 31 trade deadline. In the two major deals before the deadline, the Bucs’ braintrust dealt the team’s best reliever and two best hitters for “nothing terribly evident,” as Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier put it.

“New management has, within the month, ridded itself of its best players in return for nothing terribly evident. Yesterday was the day Craig Hansen, acquired in the convulsion that was the Jason Bay deal, got sent to the minors. Yesterday was another day when it was increasingly evident that Andy LaRoche, acquired in that same deal, might, in a couple of years, given patience and careful instruction, become the next Jose Bautista, whom the Pirates traded last week.”

Nevertheless, the two big deals are done, although we thought beforehand that there was some merit to actually picking up Damaso Marte’s option for next year and extending Jason Bay and/or Xavier Nady. Before the trades, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls wrote, “Personally, I'd like to see the Bucs retain Nady, Jack Wilson and Jason Bay, although I could see the sense in trading any or all of them – depending on the return.”

Well, the return now looks even less promising than it did in the immediate aftermath of the deals, when Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls railed against the Xavier Nady-Damaso Marte trade with the Yankees. That deal brought to the Pirates four prospects, including right-hand pitcher Daniel McCutchen (6-9, 4.28). Pitching for AAA affiliate Indianapolis last night, McCutchen allowed six runs and nine hits, including four home runs, in four innings. Not encouraging.

So, it’s easy to second-guess the deadline deals, let alone how management handled negotiations with Alvarez and his agent, Scott Boras, although it appears the notorious Boras is up to his usual shenanigans. It will be interesting to see their future dealings with Boras, in light of this situation and their pre-draft proclamations that they would select the best talent available regardless of agent. Will they avoid a Boras client next year? That might be tough, as Boras regularly represents a high percentage of the top prospects available in the draft – seven of the top 10 players in June’s draft, if we’re correct.

In the meantime, here’s some media coverage of how well ex-Bucco Jason Bay is doing in Boston (sigh):

Trade for Bay Looks Like Another Stroke of Genius

“Jason Bay has been a revelation. Bay has hit safely in 20 of his 23 games with the Red Sox and has driven in a run in 13 of those, for 24 RBI in total, to go along with a .347 average. Bay's performance has helped allay the fears that Ramirez's absence would leave a gaping hole in the middle of the lineup.”

Liberated Bay fitting in just fine

"I've never had this atmosphere," said the leftfielder who was liberated from the terminal malaise of Pittsburgh at the trading deadline. "That's no slight to anybody, that's just the position I was in. So to come here, I use the word rejuvenating.”

Manny Who? Fans Forget Ramírez as Bay Picks Up Slack for Red Sox

“Jason Bay has proven to be an amazing perk.”

Bay says all games have been Sox/Yanks

“After emerging from years of playing in baseball purgatory — otherwise known as Pittsburgh — Jason Bay said he feels like every game he's played the past four weeks has been a Red Sox-Yankees game.”

New Guys Chip In Nicely for Red Sox

“Of course, the Red Sox did all right just before the deadline, too. They were pretty much forced to get rid of Manny Ramirez and still were able to land Jason Bay, who has been a revelation.”

Last Call

The final preseason game is tonight, vs. the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field. Last call for borderline prospects and hangers on (Orpheus Roye) vying for a spot on the roster.

Not much drama, actually. Only a few spots bear watching: Will the fifth wide receiver be Willie Reid or Dallas Baker? Will the punter be Paul Ernster or Mitch Berger? Will the Steelers keep three tight ends? Will Roy Williams or Anthony Madison make the final cut in the secondary?

The biggest question, though, is whether superstar Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers will breeze past our turnstile offensive line and decapitate quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Probably not. The starters will play two series at most, and they probably won't go all out. Carolina's starters don't want to get hurt, either.