Archive for July, 2009

Pirates Make Some Minor Personnel Moves

July 30, 2009

Sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve been extremely busy this week — I was stuck in a meeting all afternoon and wasn’t even online to Control-V “What the hell are the Mariners doing??” to every single one of my friends online, including alternate screennames of dudes I’ve never talked to since I worked on a Spanish project with them in the second semester of my freshman year of college.

In short, not having much regard for the thought of the 2010 Buccos running out two expensive thirtysomething middle infielders to begin with, I’m fine with the Snell/Wilson deal and particularly happy about the Sanchez trade. Now I will tell you why in the form of jokes!!

It’s usually a good sign when an entire fanbase is going berserk about a trade their team made with your team, and that’s certainly the case with the Pirates’ pickup of Tim Alderson. Plus, if Neal “Numbers McDeptherson” Huntington makes a deal for just one person, that guy has to be awesome, right? Just after the deal broke, I had this exhange of texts with my friend Dave:

Me: Did NH actually make a trade for just one guy? This dude must be the messiah.

Dave: He thought he was getting a dude named Alder and his son.

[I’m guessing the truth is a little from Column A, little from Column B]

As for the Wilson deal, it’s a clear case where both players the Pirates gave up provide more value to the trade partner than they would’ve for the Bucs; Wilson is two months away from free agency, and the Pirates certainly weren’t gonna bring him back without a massive pay cut, though the Mariners might negotiate an extension or actually consider sucking up his $8 option to ensure this trade wasn’t a rental. Snell has an ERA around 5.40 over the past two seasons with a crappy 133/187 BB/K ratio in 244 innings. His numbers are likely to benefit from the park in Seattle and just the sheer probability of him not continuing to be this bad, but people will surely attribute this improvement to his clear-headedness following his change in scenery. Remember – he wasn’t feuding with Neal Huntington during the majority of those 133 walks (though Huntington did keep deflecting his balls out of the strike zone in his last major league start, which I thought was unacceptable).

Most people (including myself) believed that the Pirates’ demotion of Snell to AAA squelched what little possible trade value remained in him, but ironically, that move may have actually increased his value, at least to the point where a double-swap of two relatively expensive average-to-below-average performers yielded the Pirates a recent top hitting prospect, three pitching prospects, and a stopgap infielder. It’s not a dynamite, blue-chip heist, but we’re talking about Ian Snell and two months of Jack Wilson. As the old saying goes, “People with Angry, Bad-Pitching Ian Snell On Their Baseball Team-ers can’t be Choosers.”

Huntington has repeatedly stressed the need for pitching depth throughout all levels of the minor leagues, which is really the only sound approach towards conquering the most unpredictable and oft-injured position in sports, and both transactions today are major steps towards achieving that nice-sounding mantra; if the Pirates tack on Colton Cain and Zack Von Rosenburg from their draft class this year, they will have essentially acquired 8/10 of their arguable Top 10 Pitching Prospects list in the past 12 months.

Keep in mind – we aren’t even at July 31st yet! I can’t wait to see if Huntington has one final ridiculous-shakeup grand finale to this fireworks display of transactioning. McCutchen/Alvarez package deal?

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No Seriously, The Tampa Bay Lightning Want You On Their Team

July 24, 2009

Is this “The Tampa Bay Lightning Want You On The Team” thing just a website promo? We’re talking about the Lightning here, so I’m pretty sure they really would just indiscriminately add anyone who reads the website to their team…

Lightning Website

Just fill in your name and number to receive an  “Important Message,” and by “Important Message,” we mean an actual, 5-year, $22 million contract to quarterback the power play. Enjoy!

Also, Ryan Malone still looks thrilled to be in Tampa.

(via Puck Daddy)

Marian Hossa’s Blackhawks Career Starts With A Bang, Of A Scalpel Against His Shoulder

July 24, 2009

ESPN:

Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa will undergo surgery Friday to repair a small tear in the rotator cuff of his right shoulder…

The Hawks signed Hossa to a 12-year, $62.8 million deal on July 1. The Hawks said they were aware of the injury before signing him.

Hossa is expected to be shelved at least four months, so he’ll miss at least the first two months of the regular season.

Worried? Nah, we’re not worried, we totally knew about this injury when we signed him to that 12-year $62 million deal. Seriously, we did. It’s no big deal.

I mean, so he has shoulder surgery, he misses two months of the regular season before he even puts on our uniform for the first time, maybe that’s not ideal, but then we have him for the next ELEVEN AND TWO-THIRDS SEASONS, so it’s all gooooooooood.

YARRRRRs And Ends (That Means Pirate Odds And Ends)

July 23, 2009

— Was Brandon Moss whimpering after his walk-off homer against Milwaukee?

Moss Face

— A stellar comment on the PBC Blog post about no cash being included in the LaRoche trade:

WhyStanBelinda wrote re: No cash included in LaRoche trade

Neil should be banned from trading with the Red Sox by Selig.  You are not getting good value from them.  I’m not saying Jed Lowie [SIC], but Lars Anderson would have looked nice.  They have Kotsay spot starting.

“Look, I’m not saying the Red Sox were gonna give up Jed Lowrie, a solid middle infield prospect, for two months of Adam LaRoche. All I’m saying is, they might have given up their TOP PROSPECT IN THEIR ENITRE SYSTEM for two months of Adam LaRoche. Hunnington u r so gay!!!!!”

Bob Smizik’s Blog offers a well-deserved nod to the Pirates’ improved pitching depth this season. Try to read this paragraph without wincing:

In 2008, John Van Benschoten, Yoslan Herrera and Matt Morris all got five starts for the Pirates. Jimmy Barthmaier got three. Their earned run averages for the season, respectively, were: 10.48, 9.85, 9.87 and 9.85. That’s the house that Littlefield built.

Ahhhh!!! Can we please never speak of the ’08 pitching staff ever again? I feel like those numbers just undid my entire offseason of psychological counseling. Thanks!

— Pat From WHYGAVS posits reasons why the Pirates might be shaving payroll this season. Obviously, anything is speculative without seeing a team’s books, which are undisclosed, but the reasoning appears sound.

— And some good news, the Pirates signed 7th round draft pick Trent Stevenson, one of their supposed higher-upside, above-slot type selections. Several Bucs Dugout commenters have floated the theory that the timing of the signing might be a ploy by the front office to retain some positive press in the wake of the LaRoche trade, but…is any actual Pirate fan upset about the LaRoche trade?

LaRoche Trade Another Excuse To Dust Off The Easy “Disband The Pirates” Jokes

July 23, 2009

Deadspin’s Dashiell Bennett, on the Adam LaRoche deal:

And the poor Pirates. This is the fifth regular starter they’ve traded in the last year and their double play combo of Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez is not far behind. Do they even qualify as a baseball team anymore? They only exist to fill in as the rainy-day backup plan for real teams that are actually trying to win. They should either be disbanded or sold to Mark Cuban, because I’m not sure how much self-destruction one fan base can take.

I realize the tone of the paragraph is intentionally exaggerated, but I feel like any mention of the Pirates from any non-Pittsburgh source — be they other newspapers, other media outlets, opposing announcers, etc. — immediately jumps to these vague pot-shots about what a joke the franchise is and how they’re not even trying to win.

Right this minute, the Pirates have a better record than Washington, Arizona, San Diego, Oakland, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Baltimore. In addition to those teams, they also have a better run differential than Seattle, Florida, Houston, Cincinnati, and the Mets. Essentially, they are performing better or at least comparably to almost half the teams in Major League Baseball; granted, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll compete any time in the immediate future, but it definitely doesn’t mean they’re some crazy, out-of-whack joke organization that ought to be quarantined into its own category of futility away from every other “Trying To Win” franchise in Baseball (like the Nationals).

The Pirates currently have a -7 run differential. One year ago at this time, the Pirates’ run differential was -78, and that was with four healthy months of the Bay/Nady/McLouth GOEA (Gretest Outfield Ever Assembled). Even if we completely ignore the Pirates’ bolstered minor league depth in the past 12 months, their major league ballclub is performing 71 runs better than they were one year ago at this time. That number isn’t the be-all and end-all of statistical information, but does that not, by definition, mean that Neal Huntington is trying to improve this team?

No, they’re just a bunch of blind money whores who hate winning and fans and freedom, I know, I know. Fair enough. I thought I had a point for a second.

Red Sox Acquire Adam LaRoche, Fill Apparent Need For Tall Frustrating Dude

July 23, 2009

The Pirates dealt Adam LaRoche to the Boston Red Sox for 22-year-old AA shortstop Argenis Diaz and 20-year-old single-A RHP Hunter Strickland. The Pirates also receive the added bonus of not having to pay the remaining $3 mil on LaRoche’s contract this season, and the added added bonus of not having to start Adam LaRoche ever again.

LaRoche’s April struggles in ’07 and ’08 led to a more dubious fan reputation than he probably deserved (he hit a mathematically impossible negative a million homers in April ’08), which wasn’t helped by fans’ initial enthusiasm for his arrival coming off a 32-homer career year in Atlanta, but LaRoche was still never better than an average offensive first baseman in Pittsburgh and frequently less than average, and with his UFA offseason pending, a move seemed pretty inevitable. Over the past four weeks, LaRoche has really been putting the cover back onto the ball, posting a pitcher-like .185 / .214 / .272, 1 HR in 84 PA, which should be the perfect spoonful of sugar to help fans swallow this trade without a problem, as if they would’ve had a problem to begin with.

Diaz and Strickland were ranked the #29 and #38 prospects in the Boston farm system according to SoxProspects.com, which may or may not be reliable but has a really cool layout, so I trust it. Both project as fringe major leaguers at best, Diaz being a fieldy, no-hit shortstop and Strickland a big, possible backend rotation guy with a low-90s heater, but combined with the $3 mil in LaRoche savings, the added playing time for Jones / Young / Pearce / Moss / Milledge, and me never again having to root for LaRoche to strike out with men on base so we avoid a double play, I have no problems with this trade.

Also, I know the budgets are “totally separate,” but with yet another $3 mil shaved off the already-paltry major league payroll, the Bucs are gonna look reeeeeally bad if they don’t sign Miguel Sano and some of these higher-upside draft picks in the next month.

And for an added laugh, check out the list of Pirates home run leaders without Adam LaRoche. Hehehe.

Ohhh Noooo, The Mindless Pirates Complainers Have Claimed Gene Collier Too…

July 22, 2009

I’ve always been a big fan of the Post Gazette’s Gene Collier; I grew up reading him and listening to him on WDVE, I still enjoy his sense of humor and his intentionally overly-verbose writing style (I can relate), and his “human interest” take on sports is a welcome yin to the hard-numbers, Baseball Prospectus / Hardball Times / Fangraphs yang that comprises the majority of my baseball readings and general ways of thinking about the sport.

I therefore take it a little extra-personally when Collier pens a column that I not only disagree with, but which essentially boils down to exactly how my mind would view the Pirates’ current situation on Opposite Day. The column is entitled “Wilson-Sanchez scenario gloomy” – I don’t want to waste time rehashing too much of his argument word-for-word, so feel free to read it, and my comments about specifically egregious passages are below.

Collier writes:

Last year’s soulless dismantling of one of baseball’s best offensive outfields via the Jason Bay and Xavier Nady deals and this summer’s stunning deportment of the productive and popular Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan firmly have established current management as having more in common with past sins than future promise.

Oh geez. Three things, which we should all know by now:

1) The phrase “one of baseball’s best offensive outfields” is completely and utterly meaningless. It’s as meaningless as saying “one of baseball’s best-hitting second baseman + left fielder + catcher tandems.” They had three ok hitters for half a season – so what? You don’t get bonus points because they all happen to play in the “Outfielder” category. This isn’t Yahtzee.

2) How do people honestly keep just lumping the Nady trade in there with all the other deals? I’ve had friends complain to me “Man, we traded Bay, Nady, AND McLouth, what’s going on???” Even if you don’t agree with the Bay and McLouth deals, surely NO ONE can even begin to argue that dealing Nady was the wrong move. Yes, we don’t know if he would’ve gotten hurt if he stayed in Pittsburgh, but he’s appeared in 7 games for the Yankees all season and is a free agent in two months, and Damaso Marte has pitched all of 5 1/3 innings with a 15.19 era. You can’t just sneak that into a column about cheap management; it should only ever be raised as a very strong example of exactly why you should trade players when their value is highest, the complete antithesis of this entire column.

3) I’ve said this many times, but this concept doesn’t appear to be getting through to Pirates fans, so I’ll type it again here in caps 30 times.

THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS
THE PIRATES NEVER COMPETED WITH THESE GUYS

Continued after the jump:

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Penguins Sign Backupgoalie McBackupgoalieson To One Year Deal

July 22, 2009

The Penguins signed ex-Capitals and Blues goaltender Brent Johnson to a one-year, $525,000 contract. It’s a one-way deal, so barring any injuries, Johnson will back up Marc-Andre Fleury when the season begins, allowing John Curry to start at Wilkes-Barre.

Johnson is coming off hip surgery but is still only 32, and has plenty of NHL experience over the past couple years; the Pens were rumored to be looking at Devils backup Kevin Weekes as well, but Weekes is three years older than Johnson and has played about negative two games in his last three NHL seasons, failing to even grab playing time when Martin Brodeur missed more than half the 2008-09 season.

The deal is a minimal commitment to someone who should be an upgrade over Dany Sabourin and Mathieu Garon, and fills out the Pens’ major-league roster with about $1.8 million in cap space left over for callups or mid-season finagling. After all, when you’ve got a franchise goalie locked in to a lengthy, expensive contract, it’d be pretty frickin’ stupid to blow $2.5 million a year on a veteran backup. I mean, who’d do something like that? It’d be a total admission of mismanagement. Or possibly a conspiracy by an ex-backup goalie turned general manager who’s obsessed with backup goalies. Either way, it’s not something I could ever see an actual NHL organization doing, cause it’d be a huge waste.

The Roethlisberger Thing

July 21, 2009

I think it speaks volumes about my personal sports preferences that I spent fifteen minutes GChatting with my friend Dave this morning about Freddy Sanchez’s response to Neal Huntington’s contract extension offer, and what it meant for Huntington and the franchise and for Sanchez’s future and whether or not he’d still fetch anything on the trade market, and only after a long extended period of neither of us typing (I was on the verge of almost doing some work), I mentioned that neither of us had brought up the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault charge.

I’m not ignorant to the potential severity of the issue, but basically, at this point, I have absolutely no opinion to offer; the details are so sketchy, the reporting is all second and third-hand hearsay from a year ago, and no matter what the truth of the matter is or the legal outcome, there really isn’t anything funny about the situation, nor do I have even the slightest amount of insight to shed on the subject.

I greatly prefer talking about trades and free agent signings, analyzing stats, and ripping on the Montreal Canadiens’ offseason as opposed to water-cooler speculation about whether or not the Steelers’ quarterback sexually assaulted someone in a hotel room in 2008, especially when the conversation doesn’t go much farther than “Yeah man…this sucks…what a weird story.” When more info leaks out (or when ESPN breaks their mysterious silence on the matter), maybe I’ll have some kind of quarter-informed opinion to toss out.

Until then, though, we’re a week from the MLB non-waiver trade deadline, so I’ll just focus on what I love to focus on: Rooting really hard for the Pirates to make crazy deals to get prospects I suddenly want because I looked up their A-ball stats, even though I hadn’t heard of them before last week. Comeooooonnnnnnnn, LaRoche/Sanchez/Grabow/Duke/Maholm package deal…

ESPN’s NHL Games To Watch In The 2009-10 Season (#1 = Basketball)

July 15, 2009

I always feel bad for Scott Burnside when ESPN forces him to troll out a “Games To Watch This Coming NHL Season” Column like three minutes after the NHL reveals its schedule, partially because we know ESPN secretly doesn’t want us to watch any games ever, but mostly because we won’t know which games have playoff implications until, I don’t know, a little while after July 15th?

Regardless, here are some of Burnside’s Onez II Watch [spelling mine] in ’09-’10:

Oct. 3: Tampa Bay at Atlanta
Speaking of top picks — and troubled franchises, for that matter — the Lightning inherited Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman with the second overall pick, although a number of observers felt Hedman was the best player available in the draft. Hedman in all likelihood will be in the Lightning’s lineup, too, as they try to rebound from a disastrous 2008-09 season.

Whoa-ho-hoaaa!! DVR ALERT!!! Lightning at Thrashers for the first of their eighty-two regular season games!! So much gripping front-office instability!!! This game is actually on my list of Games To Definitely Not Watch in the 2009-10 NHL Season, and my list is only one game long.

Other words to fill out a forced, pointless column games to watch:

Oct. 24
All 30 NHL teams will be in action, marking the second and final time the NHL will feature a full slate of action during the 2009-10 season. The first will be Oct. 3.

See, this is exactly the kind of crap that’s going to inevitably pour out when you squeeze someone to write a pointless column like this. Burnside can’t just keep repeating Chicago/Detroit games so he has to revert to random anomalies like the fact that all 30 teams happen to play on a date in October. What is exceptionally worth watching about October 24th? All fifteen games? Man, the out-of-town scoreboard between periods of the Pens game that I’ll be watching anyway is gonna be SO FULL!!! Who cares?

March 1
First regular season game (Detroit at Colorado) following the Olympic break.

Awesome! Cleanse your palate of that exciting, All-Star Olympic action with a random regular season game between two rusty teams! I can’t wait to see how long it’ll take the third-liners to find their legs! Scintillating.

April 11
The final day of the regular season with eight contests. Wonder how many will have playoff implications?

I wonder that too.  I guess we’ll have to wait until after July frickin’ fifteenth to find that out. But let’s not let that fact stop us from already deciding which NHL games we should keep an eye on in a column written minutes after the NHL schedule came out.

Who would’ve thought Pens/Canes or Pens/Panthers would have been critical matchups before February of last year? I mean, they’re not traditional can’t-miss, always-classic rivalries like Thrashers/Lightning, but they still ended up being worth a peek. But don’t let that stop you from setting your DVR tonight for every game on this list. I’m just gonna Season Pass the Thrashers now to be safe.

April 11
The final day of the regular season with eight contests. Wonder how many will have playoff implications?