17 and Counting: Young Pittsburgh Pirates Make History in Same Old, Losing Ways
Two thousand eight hundred eighty nine games. Six managers. Five (soon to be six) last place finishes. An average of 22.34 games out of first place.
Near the end of the game, the Let's Go Cubs chants rang through the misty air surrounding the players.
Having the third lowest payroll in the league, the Bucs are one of the most profitable teams in the league (ranking 8th in 2006). The "small market" excuse is no longer, nor was it ever, tolerable (see Marlins, Florida or Brewers, Milwaukee).
Their payroll is floating around $49 million, with the average player making almost $2 million. The money is there to spend, but why isn't it being spent? NUTTING GREED!
Another negative is that the entire coaching staff is invited back for another go at the 2010 season.
Last year, JR was given a contract extension for "exceeding expectations". The front office must keep pretty low expectations, because the club lost 95 games under Russell.
He is on pace to lose about the same number of games this year. But according to management, he has "maximized the potential" of the players. There has been no effect on the record with JR's Super Duper Development Program.
Despite making history in a negative way, the future looks bright for the (very) young team.
The starting rotation has great potential, with names such as Ross Ohlendorf, Zach Duke, Tim Alderson, Brad Lincoln, and Paul Maholm.
The corners of the infield are solid, with Garrett Jones/Jeff Clement at first, and Andy Laroche/Neil Walker/Pedro Alvarez at the hot corner.
The outfield is the strongest part of the lineup, with Lastings Millidge, Andrew McCutchen, Jones, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jose Tabata.
The Bucs have a strong catching corps, with Ryan Doumit, Jason Jarimillo, and Tony Sanchez coming in the future.
The only weaknesses foreseeable are at middle infield and the bullpen.
As we have already seen, Brian Bixler is a terrible bat. Argenis Diaz (acquired for the elder Laroche brother) is a Gold Glove caliber fielder, but also doesn't carry a good bat. Brian Friday could play out, but is unproven against Major League talent.
Delwyn Young is in his contract year, and could be on his way out the door, and Ramon Vasquez is just plain awful.
In the bullpen, there is nothing. Matt Capps can't close a game to save his life. Chris Bootcheck get rocked harder than fans at a Donnie Iris concert. Steven Jackson, Phil Dumatrait, and Jesse Chavez are average pitchers at best.
Evan Meek and Denny Bautista could also pan out, but its too early to tell. The only bright spot in this dark pen is Tyler Yates, but he has had elbow trouble.
The streak will be extended for a few more years, and we will see more trades that upset the fans, but the Pirates' time will come in about 3-5 years. Until then, I hear 17, do I hear 20?
Let's Go Bucs. Rebuilding since 1992.
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