Pittsburgh Pirates Continue Losing Ways: One Nate of Hope

Shawn DommerAnalyst IMay 4, 2008

There is a T-shirt worn around Pittsburgh which is just as popular as the Steelers' Super Bowl XL championship shirt. The shirt is simple, uses the minimum amount of words and is to the point. It quite simply says:

Pittsburgh Pirates: Rebuilding Since 1992

The Pirates are off to a fast start trying for their 16th straight losing season. One month into the season, they are seven games below .500 and half a game up on the cellar-dwelling Reds.

What makes the suffering in Pittsburgh worse is the relative ease in which the Pirates may be a contender. In 2006, the Cardinals won the division being only five games above .500. Last year, the Cubs captured the division crown being only eight games above .500.

There is no excuse for the Pirates continuing to lose year after year.

First and foremost, they play in one of the greatest sports cities in the United States. It is nearly impossible to obtain tickets for a Steelers or Penguins game. Pittsburghers rally around their teams like no other city. The Pirates sell out every opening game, when there's still hope.

The Pirates complain about being a small-market team and a lack of revenue. The team, however, plays at PNC Park, which many rate as the best ballpark in America. It has a great view of the city and its rivers with all the modern amenities. Any trace of a competitive team and they would sell out any game.

Really, if revenue is such a big deal, why take all of Matt Morris' contract while the Giants were offering other teams packages where they paid a substantial amount of Morris' contract if he was taken off their hands.

The Pirates' lineup is formidable, especially in the NL Central. The problem lies in the pitching, which has been a consistent problem for the Bucs.

Ian Snell is a solid in the No. 2 spot and great in the No. 3 spot. Zach Duke looks like he may return to be a good pitcher and Tom Gorzelanney with Paul Maholm round out a rotation that could be competitive with proper coaching, a true No. 1, and a solid bullpen.

The bullpen, however, is anything but reliable. Their one good pitcher is Matt Capps, their closer, who can only get the ball if the three guys in front of him can hold it together for eight innings.

The possibility of the Pirates competing is just realistic enough to keep fans hoping but in the end; disillusioned and frustrated with ownership.

The one ray of hope the Pirates have has been in Nate McClouth this season. Nate is hitting .323 with seven homers and 25 RBI. He is all over the NL Leader board. It is hard to believe that with these numbers, McClouth was actually competing for a spot in the opening day lineup against speedy Nyger Morgan.

McClouth is a young spark plug that Pittsburgh has claimed as its own. He is more charismatic than Freddy Sanchez, doesn't have a defeatist attitude like Jason Bay, and is more exciting than the quiet Adam LaRoche.

McClouth seems to be a player for the Pirates to build around. He's fast and he's showing power. He excites fans by playing center field like Aaron Rowand and is only 26 years old. He was also probably a fantastic late-round pick or free-agent pick up in your fantasy league.

Pirates’ fans wait to see what will happen. A good move would be to trade Jason Bay for some pitching. Move Morgan into the leadoff spot in LF allowing Nate to drop to third. After all, keeping Morgan on the roster isn't allowing him to develop and a minor-league assignment would be a waste of his talent.

Look for the Bucs to pull the trigger if LaRoche gets going and Ryan Doumit continues to be solid. If Bay is traded and when Jack Wilson returns you'd be looking at this:

LF Nyger Morgan

2B Freddy Sanchez

CF Nate McClouth

1B Adam LaRoche

RF Xavier Nady

C Ryan Doumit

3B Ronnie Paulino 

SS Jack Wilson


A very good National League lineup.  


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