The Pittsburgh Pirates were in serious contention for the National League Central crown when the trade deadline approached two weeks ago. General Manager Neal Huntington, faced with incredible heat from the city to make a move. Lyle Overbay did not help the cause by having an atrocious season in a Pirate's uniform.
Enter Derrick Lee. An obvious improvement over Lyle Overpaid (popular nickname in Pittsburgh), but still an aging player who was hitting .240 at the time of the trade.
It was enough to keep the sports talk radio critics happy and fan base quiet. Lee himself did not seem absolutely thrilled with the trade. Here is a direct quote from the Baltimore Sun: “How do I feel about it? It’s the business of baseball.”
After getting his family to Pittsburgh, Lee was prepared to play the business of baseball. It did not take long for him to seem comfortable as the middle of the lineup bat for the Pirates. In his second at-bat, Lee did the unthinkable and hit it out of the park. A rarity for anyone who wears a Pirates uniform.
Despite a whirlwind of a weekend, Lee could not hold back a smile as he walked through the dugout following his first home run. He did not disappoint with an encore performance in the 8th inning against his former team.
Lee hit 2 home runs in his debut. Something that has not been done since 1997 when Shawon Dunston took 2 out of the park.
The Pirates lost that game and went on to continue their losing ways for two weeks straight. Lee would injure his hand after being beamed in the hand by Carlos Marmol on August 3, 2011. He would only play one game since being hit by the pitch.
It was announced on August 13, 2011 that Lee will be placed on the 15 day disabled list.
This could very well be the end of Derrick Lee's Pittsburgh Pirates career. When he is eligible to return, rosters will be expanded. If the Pirates call up a first baseman such as Matt Hague, why would they play Derrick Lee?
The Pirates just might make room on their 40 man roster for Hague who is hitting .321 with 11 home runs and 66 RBI in Triple A this season.
That means Derrick Lee would be placed on waivers and most likely dealt if a team with depth issues would be willing to take on his contract.
Acquired on July 31st, it only took two weeks to re-evaluate Lee's tenure with the Pirates. With the cheap price tag in terms of only trading Aaron Baker, it seems more like bad luck than a bad transaction.
But it must be tough for a Pirate's follower to not think of Derek Bell, Matt Morris, Pat Meares, Jeromy Burnitz and Chris Stynes. It might be unfair to include Lee with these horrific names, but his Pirates career possibly could end with only five games under his belt.
It is realistic that the Pirates might not be competitive for another two to three years. If it takes even longer than that, Derrick Lee might be the punch line for future Pirates jokes when looking back at the 2011 season.
It is simply a shame that a team that has made numerous bad decisions (unfair to include Huntington in most of those, though) can also have horrible luck.
At least Lee can say that he was on pace for over 20 home runs in the last two months of the season.