The Pittsburgh Pirates Need A Byron Leftwich

Peter TumbasCorrespondent INovember 5, 2008

Weeks ago when Charlie Batch went down with a collar bone injury, Byron Leftwich and Daunte Culpepper were brought in for a tryout. The Steelers signed Leftwich forcing Culpepper into retirement, hilarious circumstances for the time being until Monday night’s game against the Redskins. 

Baby Roethlisberger, as he is commonly called around my parts in an affectionate and no homosexual manner, injured his shoulder scoring the go ahead touchdown late in the second quarter.

Leftwich replaced him in the second half and calmly put his throat on all of Washington, D.C. well technically Landover, Maryland. In many ways Leftwich surpassed Ben on that evening. Long story short, the Steelers had managed to sign a backup more than capable of winning an important road game.

What if they had signed Culpepper? Would he have been able to throw 90 MPH comeback routes and 60 yard fly routes in a semi hostile environment? Would he be ready to start the next game against Indianapolis? Thankfully, we’ll never know because it appears the Steelers front office made the correct choice months ago.

Devil’s Advocate time.

The Pirates don’t have a player as valuable as Big Ben on their roster. They haven’t had a player of that magnitude since Barry Bonds. Thankfully Lemieux and Crosby are bucking or have bucked the Killer B dependency, must be a Canadian thing.

Back to Pacino and Keanu in a courtroom. The Pirates don’t have one player as valuable as Ben we’d have to remove several players to balance this hypothetical scenario. However rather than beat you over the head with the failings of the front office I will only injure one of them.

Let’s say 2008 All Star representative Nate McLouth becomes involved in a freak gasoline fight accident and is forced to miss a month of the season when miraculously the Pirates are in playoff contention.

Who replaces him? Sure, the Pirates have bodies that’s what a bench is for but do they have a replacement on par with a Byron Leftwich? Do they have someone waiting to help them in a pennant race if the star goes down?

One could argue that Andrew McCutchen would be ready to replace McLouth. Pirates fans have heard about him for years just waiting for the next great Pirate outfielder. And, how we wait. Andruw Jones arrived at Yankee Stadium in the World Series at 19 years old and promptly hit two homeruns in his first two at bats.

McCutchen who turned 22 in October hit only nine homeruns in Triple AAA Indianapolis during all of 2008. Perhaps an unfair comparison to Jones as one weighs 175lbs and the other was closer to 200 during his fit days.

How about a side by side comparison of the Pirates lone All Star in 2008 to the number one prospect in the organization keeping in mind McLouth played in 152 games while McCutchen played in 135.






Batting Average












Runs Batted In



Stolen Bases



On Base Percentage










Now the common conception about being called up to the big leagues is a player’s numbers will initially drop off before they make the proper adjustments.  Now if McCuthen had played in the same number of games as McLouth maybe he would have totaled a similar number of hits this is encouraging to Pirates fans. Certainly, the serious Pirates fan doesn’t expect him to replace McLouth’s power numbers, right?

However, one must consider the aforementioned stipulation that it takes time to adjust to major league pitching.  Thus if this mythical injury occurred to McLouth last season and McCutchen was the chosen one to replace him Pirates would certainly not have been greeted with an instant impact in the same vein as Leftwich. But with the departure  or rather shipping off of Bay and Nady, surely Pirates fans will finally see McCutchen get his chance in the majors.

Regrettably if he duplicates his numbers from 2008 in 2009 he will be an average player at best incapable of leading the Pirates should an offensive player go down with injury. The Pirates have no super subs because we have no super stars in front of them.

Pirates future depth is already playing thus tarnishing their development. In other words, players who should be improving their skills in the minors have been called up too soon thanks to trade deadline firesales and a general misconception that they are ready thanks to extreme deficiencies in Pirate advanced scouting and player personnel departments.

In that sense it is encouraging that the Pirates are taking their time with McCutchen, who was been either the number one or number two prospect in the Pirates system since 2005. Or, he simply isn’t good enough and the top prospects in the Pirates farm system

Depth is critical in a 162 game baseball season or a 16 game football season, and money plays a big part of acquiring significant, talented depth. The Pirates have shown no willingness to spend money but neither have the Rays, Twins, A’s, or Marlins and yet they find ways to win.

If the a salary cap is never accepted in baseball and the Pirates continue on the same path of destruction (poor drafting, poor scouting, signing expensive yet worthless free agents), the consecutive streak of losing seasons will surely continue.

Those problems have been easily identifiable and yet for some reason they remain unfixed. In the shadow of the Penguins entry draft success and the insert capable back up here model the Steelers have perfected, the Pirates look like a little school boy who forgot to get his permission slip for the field trip to Heaven.


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