Despite Reports, Sky Not Falling at PNC Park
I am not a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.
Despite the fact that one of my best friends/blogmate is a die hard fan, my city's baseball team is the minor league affiliate of the Pirates, Roberto Clemente is one of my favorite baseball players of all-time, and the fact I drove a total of 12 hours to see a game at PNC Park with previously mentioned friend, I am not a Pirates fan.
While I have multiple reasons while I should be a Pirates fan, at best I am an admirer.
I believe that needs to be addressed before I move on.
Yesterday the Pirates conducted yet another trade. It involved sending outfielder Nyjer Morgan and pitcher Sean Burnett to Washington in exchange for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan. Now this trade has caused quite a stir amongst Pirates personnel, players and baseball analysts.
Nate shared his thoughts about exchanging Milledge for Morgan when this trade was just a rumor, but since the trade occurred my anger has increased. Although, not for the reason you might think.
Let's examine this trade a little bit.
The Pirates gave up Nyjer Morgan—one of this year's top defensive players who was beloved by fans—for the under performing Lastings Milledge who always seems to be making bad life decisions.
While on the surface this seems like a bad move, Morgan is 29 tomorrow and has hit his ceiling. He will not get any better than he is now.
As for Milledge, while he has made some mistakes, most of the "bad" things he's done don't really sound any different than what most 24 year olds do.
In every city where Lastings has played, he was the future of the outfield and that's quite a lot of pressure to apply to a young guy like Milledge. In Pittsburgh, that pressure will not exist as that designation belongs to Andrew McCutchen.
Milledge is young and has a lot of potential to improve his game. He's going to be a really good outfielder as long as he is coached/mentored in a manner that will help him to mature as a player/person.
As for the other part of the trade, the Pirates sent Sean Burnett - a pitcher who missed all of 2005 with arm issues and is having a very good year - to Washington for Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan is having a difficult season after having a fabulous showing in the World Baseball Classic.
This part of the trade may seem sketchy, but the Pirates decided to risk a pitcher with a history of arm problems on a pitcher who shows potential to be a solid reliever, especially if they bring him back to the form he was in during the WBC.
The Pirates sold high and bought low. They know that the players they dealt were aging and were at their highest market value. So they traded them for talent that had not maxed out their full potential that could contribute to winning games down the line.
Worst case scenario after this trade is that Hanrahan never really regains his form and Milledge becomes a slightly better version of Morgan in left field. Not much is really lost. Meanwhile, the reward for taking risks on these players could prove to be quite fruitful.
Although based on the reaction I've heard thus far you would think the Pirates just sold away the entire team for peanuts.
The fan reaction over this trade has been surprisingly mixed. Pittsburgh fans were irate after the Jason Bay and the Nate Mclouth trades, but some think that this was actually good moves. Also certain members of the media—including Buster Olney—think this was a good deal for the Pirates.
Meanwhile, others think that this trade was garbage.
Before I advance this thought, I would like to say that I met a lot of loyal Pirates fans last night and those in attendance really do love their Bucs, so it could be entirely possible that those I am about to reference may not be part of this contingent.
Some think that this trade may actually be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back. As I looked at ESPN.com this morning I saw a fan poll asking if it was time for Pirates' fans to "jump ship."
This poll has since been removed from the website, which is a shame because it included many kernels of wisdom that I would love to share with you word by word.
Basically the majority of what was there were calls for new management, anger expressed over a team "not even trying to put a winning product on the field" and of course a rallying cry for a boycott of the Pirates until...well, I guess until they win more games than they lose.
But wait, there's more!
While watching ESPN today it seemed that the network was criticizing the Pirates for making a lot of trades and at one point Michael Wilbon criticized the Bucs for building up talent only to trade them away in their prime for minor leaguers.
Here's the thing, all this talk about the Pirates' management/front office being inept has to end.
Yes, for a long time Pittsburgh was plagued by the ownership of Kevin McClatchy and by the general manager from Hell, Dave Littlefield. Littlefield was so bad at his job that he actually made Matt Millen look somewhat competent at running a professional sports franchise.
Yet those days are gone. Replaced by the Robert Nutting/Frank Coonelly/Neal Huntington era. This front office has already proven to be one with a high baseball IQ that is willing to take calculated risks in deals.
So what's the problem here?
Those calling for new management, you got it a while ago, you just haven't been paying attention.
Meanwhile it appears that parts of the media are either not doing their research or they're just running their mouths. Sure this looks like what Pittsburgh has done in the past, but it was with Littlefield calling the shots and if you want an idea of how horrible some of his moves were, go ahead and look up some of the deals he made.
If you took the time to look into this trade and even notice something as large as an regime change, it would be obvious this isn't the same thing.
As for those calling for a massive boycott of the team, you sicken me. If you're a Pittsburgher who is a sports fan, then you already have a reputation for being one of the most loyal fans in the country.
All you're doing here is making your city look bad, along with making your fellow sports fans look stupid for not doing any sort of research.
To say a team isn't committed to putting a quality product on the field, when they obviously are doing everything in their power to set themselves up for a large period of contending, shows you have no clue what the hell is going on.
You're running your mouth and making your fellow fans look stupid...or at least you're just making yourself look stupid.
I get it though, a lot has happened since you had a winning season, although that doesn't excuse talking like an idiot.
It's fine to disagree with the trade, and those people who have a problem with it are completely free to express their disgust. Yet, if you do, please...do some research.
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