Jesus Christ, Baseball Writers, Am I Really Gonna Have To Defend The Pirates Again?

The Pirates are terrible. They’re playing abysmal baseball, their offense is deplorable, their bullpen is a wreck, and watching them for any extended length of time — as I still bring myself to do quite often, just as I kept eagerly watching Season 14 Simpsons episodes — is nothing short of excruciating. The last thing I am going to begin to argue is that the Pirates are not currently terrible. Deal? Deal.

With that out of the way, brace yourself for some more ham-fisted, unintelligible, vague Pirate-bashing gibberish from one Murray Chass, writer of numerous nonsensical articles including most recently this jaw-dropping homage to whaaaa?? about the Red Sox.

In honor of yesterday’s Fire Joe Morgan reunion over at Deadspin, let’s take an FJM-style peek into Chass’ new column:

“PIRATES GET $40 MILLION, PLAYERS $20 MILLION”

A peripherally-Pgh-knowledgeable sportswriter is upset about the way the Pirates do things! Feel like we’ve been down this road before

As the season dwindles down to a precious few weeks, attention is focused on remaining races – not that there are any – and the playoffs ahead. But pause for a moment in your excited anticipation and think of how Pittsburgh Pirates fans approach the post-season.

They may actually look forward to it eagerly because once they get beyond Oct. 4, the Pirates can’t lose any more games this year.

True! Meanwhile, fans of the Astros and Orioles will be all like “Awwww man, the season’s over?? I wish this battle for 75 victories could last forever!”

They probably can’t make any more trades either because they have already traded everybody of value.

On second thought they have Andrew McCutchen on their roster, and if they traded Nyjer Morgan they can trade Andrew McCutchen.

Tires screeching .wav! Did you just compare trading Nyjer Morgan to trading Andrew McCutchen?

Nyjer Morgan: 29 years old, hitting .307 / .369 / .388, 3 HR in unexpectedly-sustained career year.

Andrew McCutchen: 22 years old, hitting .272 / .347 / .454, 11 HR in first major-league season.

Morgan has had a more amazing year offensively and defensively than even the most optimistic Pirate fan could’ve expected. He is also 29 years old and dependent upon his speed and batting average for his offensive value; considering most players tend to decline after their age 27-30 seasons, and that slap hitters who rely on batting averages tend to fluctuate wildly from year to year, it is sheer lunacy to expect Morgan to ever improve upon these numbers, and almost as unlikely for him to ever repeat them for a full season.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is a former first round pick who, at age 22, is outslugging career-year Morgan by 60 points, and appears poised to quickly ascend to the elite ranks of National League outfielders.

You’re talking about trading apples and oranges, if the oranges were 7 years younger than the apples and already a more dynamic offensive player but the apples smile a lot and hit for average so sportswriters love them cause they’re gutty throwback tablesetters. A lobotomized emu could see the difference between trading Nyjer Morgan and Andrew McCutchen.

Anywhoo…

Simply put, the Pirates are an embarrassment to Pittsburgh and an embarrassment to Major League Baseball. It’s not just that the Pirates are a poor team, a losing team, but they are an embarrassment because of the way they have become a worse team than they already were and how they are trying to hoodwink their fans.

Instead of playing baseball games when we come to the stadium, the Pirates just show the movie Hoodwinked. They have some nerve.

The Pirates this year traded Nate McLouth, Morgan, Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Eric Hinske, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, John Grabow and Sean Burnett. You could almost put a team on the field with that lineup.

You sure could! And they’d be terrible! Terrible, old, and you’d also have some work to do when LaRoche, Sanchez, Wilson, Hinske, and Grabow all became free agents in one month.

When the Pirates completed their roster cleansing July 30, they had a 43-58 record (.426) and were 11 ½ games from first place. Since then, through Monday’s games, they had a 12-29 record (.293) and had tumbled 28 ½ games from first.

Went from mathematically out of it to mathematically out of it. Embarrassing.

If the Pirates incur losses in their last 20 games at the same rate they have lost since July 30, they will finish with a 60-102 record (.370), their worst record in the 17-season stretch and their second worst record since the early 1950s and the days of Vic Janowicz, the O’Brien twins Johnny and Eddie and Joe Garagiola.

Wow. How far they’ve fallen from the 2005-2008 Glory Yearz (TM) when they won 67, 67, 68, and 67 games. Why didn’t they lock up Jason Bay??

At least those teams had Ralph Kiner, the perennial National League home run champion, who gave the fans a reason to go to Forbes Field. Why fans go to PNC Park is beyond me. For their last home stand, six games with the Cardinals and the Cubs, the Pirates drew a total of 105,000 fans.

What a bunch of dicks. Do they just enjoy going to baseball games or something?

But do these Pirates play a credible game of baseball? Maybe it doesn’t matter. The Pirates of the early ‘50s didn’t play a credible game of baseball, but I frequently paid a dollar for a seat in the left field bleachers at Forbes Field nevertheless and not just for the chance to see Kiner hit a home run. I was not one of those fans who left after Kiner had batted for the last time.

The Pirates sucked in the 50s and I still went to games, and they suck now and people are still going!

Conclusion = %()3l./g

But today’s fans should not be so kind to the Pirates because management is cheating them and trying to fool them. Club executives justify the trades by saying they have to start over by accumulating good minor league prospects and building with them.

Is that the “fooling” part?

But what was Morgan (at left)? He was a rookie who showed he was ready to play in the majors. He was hitting .271 when he was traded, and he has hit .351 for Washington for a .307 season average.

The belief among officials of other clubs is that the Pirates traded Morgan because of his age. At 29, he is five years older than Milledge (below). The Pirates, though, shouldn’t be concerned about having a 35-year-old Morgan playing center field for them. They would have traded him well before they reached that juncture.

Whaaa? You’re saying the Pirates should’ve kept Nyjer Morgan because…they could have just traded him later? Talk about damning with…convluted…praise.

Also, the difference between 24 and 29 in baseball terms is astronomical. It’s practically the difference between 16 and 21 in statutory rape cases (at 16, there’s always a chance the victim might develop some gap power in the next couple years). Ed Note – Delete this.

Perhaps the most striking figures are the payroll numbers. The Pirates opened the season with a $48.7 million payroll. They are closing it with a payroll (based on the Aug. 31 roster and disabled list) of $20 million. The players they traded during the season have salaries totaling $31 million.

Dejan Kovacevic, who follows the Pirates more rigorously than any other human on this earth and pulls no punches when empirical evidence can be cited against Pirates management, calculated that the Pirates ultimately pared about $7.3 million off their payroll with the trades this season. They’ve also increased their draft budget and Latin American spending by unprecedented margins under Neal Huntington’s tenure, two areas which are certain to yield higher per-dollar returns that spending money at the major-league level, particularly on aging veterans.

Should this team approach a contending level in the future and Nutting still refuses to lock up core players or acquire complimentary pieces, then sure, I’ll be right alongside every sportswriter in the wave of negativity. But a team trading a bunch of aging, mediocre players that they already lost with for half a decade — in addition to trading Morgan and McLouth at their points of highest value, a high-risk high-reward proposition that the last GM regime never once attempted — can hardly be viewed as some criminal syndicate that threatens the very core of baseball’s integrity.

There is more. The Pirates traded their middle infield, Sanchez and Wilson, not to stockpile minor league talent but because Sanchez and Wilson, who had expressed a desire to stay in Pittsburgh, rejected woefully underpriced contract offers designed for effect.

The offers were designed (1) to show fans that the Pirates tried to sign Sanchez and Wilson and (2) to induce them to say no so that the Pirates could then justify trading them because they did not plan on exercising their contract options totaling $16.4 million for next year.

Back when those contract offers were reported, I would’ve semi-agreed with this sentiment, as the Sanchez offer in particular (on the eve of a one-year, $8 mil option kicking in) appeared to be lowballing. Now, though, Sanchez will likely not reach the required number of plate appearances to get his $8 million option to kick in, and thus will likely enter the same free agency marketplace that forced Orlando Hudson — a comparable offensive player to Sanchez and the same age — to settle for a one-year-deal worth just $3.38 million last offseason. Huntington’s offer was for 2 years and $10 million, which is more than Hudson got, and certainly at least enough to not dismiss the contract as a meaningless publicity plea.

Also, the Pirates managed to trade two months of Sanchez for the Giants’ Tim Alderson, who instantly becomes one of their top 3 pitching prospects. Even if you don’t agree with Huntington’s approach, just the slightest amount of research reveals that Huntington obviously has a methodology and a plan; it might end up working and it might not, but simply looking at some moves and saying “expensive player traded = management is cheap!” just isn’t a sufficient argument.

Also, simply writing “not to stockpile minor league talent…” doesn’t make it true. See, watch: “Two plus two equals a billionplex.” I just wrote a sentence!

Now for the kicker. The Pirates, one of the smallest revenue teams in the majors, received approximately $40 million in revenue sharing last year and most likely will get at least that much, despite the economy, for this year. One thing we know for sure. They aren’t spending the money to pay players.

Trade bickering aside, though, here’s the biggest problem I have with this article — where did this $40 million number come from? I seem to recall Kovacevic indicating the revenue sharing figure would come in closer to $20-$25 million, but could be wrong. I then tried Googling the figure and couldn’t find an exact number anywhere. So where is the $40 mil coming from?

You think that’d be an important source to cite or link in an article that claims in its title the Pirates are “Getting $40 million and spending only $20 mil on players,” even though we know that’s not technically true because they paid a lot of those guys for 2/3 of the year and they’re still paying some money to Snell and Matt Morris’ buyout and money on draftees, etc. But the article just makes it sound like the Pirates pocketed a free $20 million, then doesn’t get around to justifying that figure until the 78th paragraph, and even then doesn’t explain where the numbers come from.

So, basically this was a huge waste of time. If you’ve read to this point, I apologize.

Hey look over there, Pedro Alvarez hit three home runs!

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5 Responses to “Jesus Christ, Baseball Writers, Am I Really Gonna Have To Defend The Pirates Again?”

  1. Steve Says:

    I sent Murray a lengthy email, to the same effect as your article, starting with the premise that, if he was going to write “but they were going to get that record with the players they traded away; it would just have taken them longer.”…in his article, why did he bother writing the article in the first place. He missed his own point, if that is possible.

  2. Gautam Says:

    Wow, this is just irritating. I really wish these writers would not publish these crude attempts at financial analysis based on two numbers that they estimated on the back of the coaster at TGI Friday’s.

    I don’t even know where to begin tearing apart this article (“pocketing” seems like a good place, but so do many others), so I won’t. Suffice to say that guessing what the revenue sharing number will be and then characterizing the difference between that amount and the estimated payroll as some wad of cash going into the Chairman’s pocket is both decidedly fallacious and entirely useless.

  3. The Mad Bubbler Says:

    All the Pirates care about is making money, and it’s a shame that people like you support them. They’ll never change as long as people go to games

  4. Steve Says:

    Yes, Dan, YOU are the problem. How could you be so self-centered as to publicly support a professional sports team? Your lack of apathy is appalling. Apathy is what is needed. Your apathy will make the Pirates win, because when people stop going to the games, the Pirates will leave Pittsburgh and then they’ll win. That’ll show those pesky owners! Wait, what?

  5. adamco Says:

    Oh Murray Chass…god I miss FJM

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