Friday, June 18, 2010

The Curious Case of Aki Iwamura

Will the Pirates force Aki Iwamura to go play for AAA Indianapolis?

On Tuesday, June 15, in tandem with the promotion of third baseman
Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates announced that Iwamura had been DFA'd ("designated for assignment").

From that point, the team had 10 days to trade or release Iwamura -- or send him to Indianapolis, where they will continue to pay him the rest of his $4.85 million salary.

Let's examine the options:

  • Trade Iwamura -- This appears unlikely. Who would want him? Even if the Pirates paid nearly all of Iwamura's salary, who would trade for him? In 54 games this season, the 30-something Iwamura (apparently still recovering from knee surgery last year) displayed no range, played lousy defense and batted .182. The Pirates will have difficulty finding a taker for him and, even if they do, would presumably pay most of the $2.5 million remaining on his salary.
  • Every other team's general manager knows all this, so the Pirates have no leverage. Presumably, the Pirates would be happy to unload Iwamura with virtually no return, just to save face. Who needs him, though? Anybody looking for infield depth would go with a healthy young AAA prospect who at least can play some defense and run the bases.
  • Release Iwamura -- This would be embarrassing, but the entire Iwamura saga is embarrassing, so it's only a matter of finally closing this chapter. Releasing Iwamura would require Neal Huntington to publicly admit that he made a major mistake in trading for him -- and wasted nearly $5 million of owner Bob Nutting's money.
  • Everybody knows this already, anyway, so just be done with it. With Huntington's extension just announced, perhaps Huntington has the so-called "job security" to man up and do this. If not, they apparently have only one other option ...
  • Iwamura to AAA -- This would be pointless for the Pirates, another PR distraction, a waste of time for all parties, and humiliating for Iwamura. It might happen, though, but only if the Pirates take the low road and use the demotion as a way of trying to get Iwamura to quit, in which they would no longer be responsible for paying the rest of his salary this season. Yeah, Iwamura just might rather go home to Japan, and who could blame him? ... except that he would forfeit all that money. This would make for a sticky situation for both parties, but it's not out of the question.
  • The Post-Gazette reports Huntington said that if other options fail, he would prefer to option Iwamura to Indianapolis. From a baseball standpoint, why? What's the point? To punish Iwamura? Let him work on his chain-smoking? He's not coming back to Pittsburgh, not with Neil Walker entrenched at second base and Alvarez at third.
  • Sell Iwamura's Rights to a Team in Japan -- The Post-Gazette cites "a team source" as saying it's unlikely the Pirates will sell his rights to a team in Japan. Whether Iwamura longs to return to Japan, only he can say -- and he doesn't speak English.
Just let him go already. The entire Aki Iwamura saga was a mistake. Walk away from it.

Calling B.S. on Frank Coonelly, Who Offers As Much Transparency as BP or North Korea's Kim il-Jong

Regarding the Pirates, one can't help but wonder ...

One can't help but wonder if ... Pirates' owner Bob Nutting and president Frank Coonelly held off announcing the contract extensions (through 2011 for both) of General Manager Neal Huntington and Manager John Russell because they wanted to retain the option of firing them, or at least one of them, during the 2010 season.

Nutting and Coonelly had to know that rumors and speculation thrive in a communications vacuum. They had to know that letting Huntington and Russell twist in the wind wasn't doing anybody any favors, least of all Huntington and Russell. Yet they still kept the extensions a secret. What were thinking? Where are their PR guys? Working for BP??

It's baffling, mystifying and ridiculous. It makes no sense. It's bad business. And just plain stupid. It's so-o-o-o Pirates.

It was absurd of the Pirates to try to keep the extensions a secret.

Now that the secret has come to light, as it inevitably would, one can't help but wonder
why the Pirates refused to announce the extensions. Operating as a lame duck could not possibly have helped either Huntington or Russell. What was the point?

After announcing the extensions yesterday,
Coonelly said, "a contract will not prevent us from making a change if one is appropriate and thus contract status truly is irrelevant."

... At which point, our "B.S. Meter" went kerflooey.

With that "explanation," Frank Coonelly, speaking as the representative of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club, offered about as much clarity, validity, sanity and transparency as North Korea's Kim Jong-il.

Sorry, Mr. Coonelly, but we gotta call B.S. on all of this.
  • In light of Coonelly's statement, just when is a 13-game losing streak appropriate?
  • When is a record of 23-43 appropriate?
  • When is a run differential of -154 appropriate? ... on June 18, no less! Opposing teams have scored 154 more runs than the Pirates -- by far the worst in the majors! When is that appropriate?
  • And, finally, just when is is it appropriate to post a record of 152-238 -- the Pirates' record under Huntington and Russell since the beginning of the 2008 season, and the worst in the majors in that span -- when is that appropriate?
Exactly what forced Coonelly to announce the extensions? Was it the rumors reported in national media that Huntington and/or Russell were about to be fired?

Or was it just possibly the whisperings of agents in the ears of the top two draft picks in last week's draft (Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie) ... whisperings to the effect of,
"We have leverage against the Pirates -- their general manager's a lame duck, so he's desperate to sign you. Let's hold out or hold 'em up."

*** *** ***
Speaking of the recent baseball draft:

One can't help but wonder if ... Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington would have drafted slugging high school shortstop Manny Machado instead of fireballing high school pitcher Jameson Taillion, if they had known flamethrowing high school pitcher Stetson Allie was going to be available still when their turn came around in the second round.

You can never have too much pitching, but Taillon and Allie are both fireballing/flamethrowing high school right-handed pitchers.

We have a feeling they would have drafted Machado,
if they'd known Allie was going to be on the board still in the second round. There was no way for them to know that, of course.

One can't help but wonder if ... The Pirates had drafted Manny Machado, what the left side of the infield would look like in a year or two with Pedro Alvarez and Machado playing third base and shortstop, respectively.

One can't help but wonder .. How the starting rotation might perform in four or five years with Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie potentially at the top of it.

One can't help but wonder if ... The Pirates will actually be able to sign both Taillon and Allie, or either one of them, for that matter.