Pittsburgh Pirates: A Decade of Decadence.

The Pirate Parrot is laid to rest following 17 consecutive years of losing. Pittsburgh City Paper Cover Illustration

The Pirate Parrot is laid to rest following 17 consecutive years of losing. Pittsburgh City Paper Cover Illustration

The Pittsburgh Pirates are the worst team of the decade.  Baseball, Football, Soccer, hell you name the sport.  Unless you’re from Kansas City don’t even try to argue.    The Royals may have lost 100 games in four of five seasons, but at least the Royals found a way to finish above 0.500 once during the decade. 

The Pirates can only celebrate May 29, 2004.  Because it was the latest date in any season,  in the entire decade, the Pirates were over .500.

You think your team is bad?  Read along with us as we look back at the past decade of Pittsburgh Pirate baseball.  Remember, there is a reason why plenty of good seats are still available in the best ballpark in America for just nine bucks.

The Pirates had zero winning seasons in the decade. Zero.

Of the ten seasons of losing, the Pirates lost at least 90 games seven times.

In the past five seasons of losing, the Pirates have lost at least 94 games five years in a row.  95, 95, 94, 95, 99….

For the decade, the Pirates have averaged 68.1 wins per season.

How does the saying go?  No rain.  No rainbows.  The decade was a monsoon for Pirate fans.

The Case of the  PITTSBURGH PIRATES are the Worst Team of the Decade

EXHIBIT ONE:  At the beginning of this madness was SS Pat Meares who was 31 years old in the 2000 season.  After being signed for $1.5 million in 1999, Meares autographed a four-year extension after having hand surgery.  He played  a total of 239 games with the Bucs, and had an OPS .647 .  He was out of baseball on Oct 7, 2001.  He earned roughly $16 million for that production.

EXHIBIT TWO:  In November 2000, the Pirates GM Cam Bonifay signed Jason Kendall to a six-year $60 million dollar extension after the catcher came back from one of the most gruesome injuries in baseball. 

The catcher never hit for power again after he tore a ligament in his thumb in the 2001 home opener.  He played through the pain because the Pirates didn’t want to lose the gate and quickly became a singles hitting catcher that was paid as if he was a powerful corner outfielder.  

Kendall claimed it wasn’t the cash that kept him in Pittsburgh, ”If I didn’t believe we were going to win here, I wouldn’t stay here, no matter how much money they gave me, It’s going to happen here.  I just have that feeling.”   A feeling that permeated the locker room when Kendall, the ‘team leader,’ would greet new players with a hearty “Welcome to Hell!” 

 Kendall was traded for 35 year-old  Arthur Rhodes and LHP Mark Redman in 2004.  Three years later when the A’s traded Kendall, the Pirates were reportedly still paying Kendall $5.5 million dollars. 

Rhodes was gone shortly afterward in another trade and Redman went 5-15 for the Bucs before being traded for a minor leaguer and Jonah Blayliss.    Blayliss appeared in 50 games spinning a sparkling 7.22 ERA, 1.77WHIP, the highest of any Pirate reliever.

EXHIBIT THREE:  In 2001, after just 17 days on the job, GM David Littlefield traded Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal for Ryan Vogelsong and Armando Rios

Rios blew out his knee after two games with the Bucs.  The next season, he hit one HR in 76 games and was released, a year later Rios was out of baseball.

Vogelsong blew out his arm after losing two games for the Bucs and got  Tommy John surgery.  He stuck with the Pirates until 2006 going 10-19 with a 6.00ERA, 1.61 WHIP.

Jason Schmidt?  Well he was pretty good for the Giants, Schmidt was the starting pitcher in the 2003 All-Star game, was a league leader in ERA and also was in the top five  for the Cy Young Award.  Twice.  

EXHIBIT FOUR:  In 2002, GM David Littlefield  traded Chris Young and Jon Searles for reliever Matt Herges.  The Pirates had paid Young one million dollars in the draft to keep the 6’11” pitcher on the diamond and off the basketball court. 

Herges was cut in spring training before playing a game in Pirate black and gold. 

Young became dominant and finished atop the stat sheet in 2006 and 2007:  top three for WHIP, top six for ERA, and Young was first in the league in fewest hits per nine innings pitched.  In 2005-2007, Young was first for strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  Young was an All-Star in 2007 with San Diego.

EXHIBIT FIVE:  Derek Bell was aghast when told he would have to actually compete for the RF job in spring training with the Pirates in 2002. ”Nobody told me I was in competition. If there is competition, somebody better let me know. If there is competition, they better eliminate me out of the race and go ahead and do what they’re going to do with me. I ain’t never hit in spring training and I never will. If it ain’t settled with me out there, then they can trade me. I ain’t going out there to hurt myself in spring training battling for a job. If it is [a competition], then I’m going into ‘Operation Shutdown.’ Tell them exactly what I said. I haven’t competed for a job since 1991.”   Bell was hitting .148 at that point in Spring Training.  

The ultimatum came on March 18th, 2002.  Just months after his 2001 season, when he signed a two-year, $9.7 million dollar deal and hammered major league pitching to the tune of a  .173 batting average and an OPS of .576.  

Bell sailed into the sunset on his houseboat on March 29th.  He would be officially released on March 31. He was paid $4.5 million to never play again for the Pirates.  In fact, Bell would never play another major league game again.  Pittsburgh cult icon  Mark ‘Super Genius’ Madden described it best, “Derek Bell becomes the ultimate Pirate: Lives on a boat and steals money.”  

 Bell would later pose for a picture after crack cocaine charges in his orange jumpsuit.

To add further failure to the situation, the Pirates’ manager at the time, Lloyd McClendon, declared that the signings of Bell and journeyman pitcher Terry Mulholland would “send shockwaves through the industry.”

It certainly did.

We recall the fans favorite line:  ‘He’s going into Operation Shutdown?  When was Operation Startup?’

EXHIBIT SIX:  In 2003, 3B Aramis Ramirez was traded by GM David Littlefield along with OF Kenny Lofton to the Cubs for 3B Jose Hernandez, minor leaguer Matt Bruback, and a mysterious player to be named later. 

Maybe it would be better if the player never was announced.  2B Bobby Hill was the mystery man.   Hill hit .267 as a part-timer for the Bucs, got sent to AAA, and was traded to the Padres for a player to be named later. 

That player was Clayton Hamilton, a player who had grown up in Pittsburgh.  That’s where the feel good story ends.  Hamilton would be forever changed by his trade to Pittsburgh.  Hamilton had a cracked rib misdiagnosed by the Pirates medical staff as a muscle strain.  Hamilton eventually had to have the rib removed, but not before pitching a year with a broken 11th rib.  Hamilton was picked in the 2007 Rule 5 draft and was back on the mound with Oklahoma City this year, just a little bit lighter and happier to be out of Pittsburgh (his hometown).

Do I need to explain further about one of the darkest days of the decade? 

Ahem.  Littlefield now works as a Cubs scout.

EXHIBIT SEVEN:  Randall Simon.  The weiner whacker.  In 2003, Simon took a check swing (hell it looks like his swing was in slow motion) at a participant of the Sausage Race in Milwaukee.  The sausage fell faster than the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.   Cue Milwaukee CSI:

Simon was traded to the Cubs later in the season where he had a productive year helping them to the NLCS.  He was signed in 2004 by the Pirates, struggled and was cut in August. 

From July 4, 2008 until July 21, 2009, the Pirates endured a 17-game losing streak to the Brewers, being outscored 113-49, perhaps it was the curse of the weiner?

EXHIBIT EIGHT:  In 2003, Littlefield also allowed five members of the Pirates to be picked in the Rule 5 draft.  Five of the first six picks in fact.  Scouting Director Brian Graham said in the Tribune Review, “It’s a compliment.”  

We’re pretty sure MLB had to institute a rule to prevent the Pirates from permanently injuring themselves after this blatant cry for help. 

EXHIBIT NINE:  In February 2003, Littlefield cut Bronson Arroyo.  Arroyo was picked up by the Red Sox becoming a key member of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox team.  Apparently, the corn rows were a little too much for the Pirates to endure. 

Highlight for Album: Cornrows for Bronson Arroyo Red Sox pitcher 2004 World Series Champ

Arroyo was an All-Star in 2006 when he pitched the most innings in the NL.  He  finished in the top ten in innings pitched three times, and has won 77 games since escaping Pittsburgh.

EXHIBIT TEN:  In 2004, Raul Mondesi was signed.  Three months later, Mondesi was talking of leaving the team due to personal reasons in the Dominican Republic.  Former major leaguer Mario Guerrero was suing him for one percent of his earnings because he taught him baseball as a youth.

Mondesi left the team on May 11  and his contract was terminated about a week later.  Mondesi signed with the first-place Angels in June.  He got hurt. The Angels then terminated his contract after he failed to show up for injury rehab. 

Mondesi was out of baseball after his 2005 season.

Luckily for Pittsburgh sports fans, the rage caused by the threats on Mondesi and his family spurred the creation of the most popular blog in town.  Mondesishouse

EXHIBIT ELEVEN:  Jeromy Burnitz was paid $6.7 million in 2006.  The 37 year old posted a  .711OPS.  Burnitz got more money than the Bucs spent on the entire draft in 2006. 

Batting under .200 in May, Burnitz had to apologize for not running out a grounder and described the challenges facing the Pirates ahead in the 2006 season saying to Dejan at the PG, “this is the first team I’ve been on in a couple years where I’m Joe High-Paid Free Agent. That, in and of itself, should tell you the big picture that the team’s in. If I’m just another guy on one of those big-market, big-paying teams … that’s not the way it is here, and I understand that. I’m cool with it.”

‘Joe High-Paid Free Agent’ Burnitz cashed his last check with the Bucs in 2006.  Burnitz was quoted telling GM David Littlefield, “Dave, I can’t thank you enough.”  He hung up the spikes for good after the season and started a radio show.

EXHIBIT TWELVE:  Starting centerfielder Chris Duffy went AWOL in 2006.   After six weeks, the ‘future building block’ of the Pirates future refused assignment to AAA and vanished.  Don’t worry, he’s back in baseball now and happy again as he has escaped the Pirates.

EXHIBIT THIRTEEN:  Crazy Wives Are To Blame

13a. Wife Tabata:  The Pirates have a prize prospect named Jose Tabata.  He is  a 21 year old toolsy, hitting machine hyped to be the youthful talent so desperately missing the past ten years.   This spring, Tabata was shocked to learn that his 43-year old wife had kidnapped a two-month old baby.   She tried convincing him it was his baby.   He issued an amazing statement.  “What I do know is that I am a Pittsburgh Pirate and my life-long idol is Roberto Clemente. And because of that, when presented with this difficult situation, I asked myself “what would Clemente do in this situation?”

Clemente would win a Gold Glove, have another All-Star season and lead the Pirates to victories.  Let’s start there Mr. Tabata.  Sound good?

13b. Wife Benson:  A Pirate first round draft pick,  Kris Benson had an insanely hot wife that drug him around by the nose. Anna Benson was proclaimed “Baseball’s Hottest Wife” by FHM, but she was never seen in Pittsburgh again when the Pirates traded her husband and Jeff Keppenger to the Mets in July 2004.  Rumor had it the Phillies offered Ryan Howard for Benson.   Heh, Anna, you were a blast, but Pirate fans would have rather watched Howard’s blasts.  The Bucs got Jose Bautista and Ty Wigginton

Baseball's Hottest Wife was even traded in 2004. In a decade long of poor decisions, was this the one that hurt the most?

Baseball's Hottest Wife was even traded in 2004. In a decade long of poor decisions, was this the one that hurt the most? PHOTO: Steven White FHM

Anna went on Howard Stern with some hilarious comments “I told (Kris) — because that’s the biggest thing in athletics, they cheat all the time — I told him, cheat on me all you want. If you get caught, I’m going to screw everybody on your entire team — coaches, trainers, players. I would do everybody on his whole team.  I’ll (also) circle into other teams. Whatever team he’s playing, I will screw all them, too.”

Nice move Littlefield.  At least keeping Kris Benson on the mound would have given the Pirate fans Anna to look at in the stands.  Who knows, maybe he would have gone Tiger Woods and some players would have been the beneficiary?

13c and 13d.  Wive(s) Martin:  Former Pirate OF Al Martin led the league in bigamy when he married Shawn Haggerty in a Vegas drive-thru, apparently not understanding that a drive thru wedding chapel in Las Vegas was legally binding.  Oh yeh, he also didn’t remember he already had a wife. And the other wife lived just nine minutes from the real wife, as reported in the PG.  Apparently ‘good guy’ Al told one of his wives (it’s hard to keep track) “I’ll OJ your ass!”   Martin summed up the the allegations of domestic violence, threats, two marriages and paternity out of wedlock. “It isn’t that bad.”

Shawn Haggerty-Martin and Al Martin

Al Martin married Shawn Haggerty at a Vegas wedding chapel and they didn't live happily ever after. PHOTO Peter Diana Post Gazette

Martin also was confused when he collided with Mariner teammate Carlos Guillen comparing it to the time he tried to tackle Michigan running back Leroy Hoard in 1986 when he was playing strong safety at USC.  Just a couple holes were poked in that story:  He  forgot (again) that he didn’t really play football at USC

 USC and Michigan did not play that year. 

 Martin was an outfielder in the Atlanta Braves system at the time. 

And, USC has no record that Martin ever attended the university

EXHIBIT FOURTEEN:   In 2007, GM David Littlefield was anxious to save his job with a splash play.  So, the Pirates went back to the Giants for more trash.  The  Matt Morris trade was David Littlefield’s best ever.  In this example, the Pirates were lucky that they didn’t give up anyone good, just a big pile of money.  The Bucs spent $13 million dollars worth of money.  The entire Morris contract was picked up and the Bucs sent two players to the Giants.  The Bucs got three wins and eight losses, a 1.75 WHIP and  7.40ERA over 16 starts from Morris.

On April 27, 2008 the Pirates released Morris.  He retired two days later.

EXHIBIT FIFTEEN:  Much has been written about the Pirates draft failures. (Very little is written about the 1984 decision to not open an academy in Venezuela that could have forever changed Pirate history) We hear little of the hideous player development (or lack thereof) that allowed so many of the Pirates’ draft picks to under perform and in the case of pitchers, to blow out their arms.  

In 2000, Sean Burnett was taken at number 19 and blew out his arm.  But finally in 2007,  two of the first round picks, 2001’s John Van Benschoten and 2002’s Bryan Bullington would reach the majors after what seemed an eternity in the minor leagues. 

In Bullington’s first major league start, he was pounded by the St. Louis Cardinals for five runs on seven hits in three innings pitched.  Maybe he hadn’t recovered from his blown out arm?  Van Benschoten came on in relief.  Please remember he was converted from a slugger that led the NCAA in homers at Kent State to a Pirate pitcher. 

I think it surprised a lot of people, but I was like, ‘If they want to pay me that much ($2.4 million signing bonus), I’ll do anything.”

Van Benschoten  blew out his arm soon after being drafted in the number eight slot.  Anyway, this was his big night and he quickly gave up  five runs on six hits while recording four outs.  Rick Ankiel did most of the damage that night.  The converted Cardinals outfielder hit two homers in a 3-for4 effort.   Just doesn’t seem right does it?

EXHIBIT SIXTEEN:   In 2007, The Pirates drafted Daniel Moskos Matt Weiters was left for the Orioles.   Weiters was the 2008 Minor League Player of the Year.  Moskos wasn’t.  In the Arizona Fall League in 2009, opponents hit .349 off Moskos.

EXHIBIT SEVENTEEN:  A look back at the memorable quotes and a recap of each season thanks to Baseball Almanac.

2001: PNC Park opened and Willie Stargell died.  Yeh, same day.  Starting pitching sucks.  The Pirates were awful all season losing 100 games wasting huge seasons by Brian Giles and Aramis Ramirez.

“We don’t want to be the team that gets stuck with 100 losses. If anything that’s what drives you to win. We want to finish strong.” – LHP Dave Williams.   

2002:  Starting pitching sucks.  Ticket prices are raised after 100 loss season.  Operation Shut Down by Derek Bell, the Ramirez ankle injury, Mike Williams saved 46 of the 72 wins, Pokey Reese and Jack Wilson were amazing in the middle of the infield, and Manager Lloyd McClendon popped champagne when the Pirates ensured they wouldn’t lose 90 games.

“…certainly, we’ve had some hard times. But we can start to see light at the end of the tunnel. I just thought they deserved it. I’m proud of them. I told them the next time we pop the champagne, it’ll be for real.”  Manager Lloyd McClendon

2003:  Starting pitching sucks.  George Steinbrenner complains that the Red Sox got to play the Bucs in interleague play.  Simon fined $432.10 for SausageGate.  Ramirez and Kenny Lofton were  traded.  Giles was traded for Jason Bay and Oliver PerezMike Gonzalez was traded to the Red Sox and then traded back to the Pirates with Freddy Sanchez.  Two of Littlefield’s best moves and his all-time worst trade.  All in the same year.  The Pirates were near .500 for the last 100 games.  Yee Haw!

 ”We’re trying to get as much production as we can. His salary was not a concern. He had some productive years here, but we’re trying to get better every day and we have to make decisions (releasing him) that will make us better right now.” – Pirates GM Dave Littlefield on Kevin Young

Young may have been kept around because of his famous quote in 1999 after 17 players were on the disabled list:  “We have a lot of guys hurt, but all we can do is put our best foot forward and try not to sprain it.”

2004:  Pitching staff was awful except for Oliver Perez who was insane. 

“We got it done today. It was really good to end the schedule (at PNC Park) on a good note. It was very important. We know we have a future. This team is young and we’re going to hopefully play together for a long time. We’re excited about the direction we’re going.” – Pittsburgh Pirates SS Jack Wilson

2005:  Starting pitching sucks. Oliver Perez was awful.  Just awful.  So awful he kicked a laundry cart and had to go on the DL.   Jason Bay had his best year .306/.402/.558 32 homers, 21 steals and played in all 162 games.  The Pirates were 30-30 in mid-June, but brought down to reality a week later. 

“You look at the young guys we (the 2005 Pittsburgh Pirates) have. We’ve all played together before, and we’ve all excelled together before. I feel like we showed some signs that we’ll be able to do that in the future as well.” – Pittsburgh Pirates Rookie Pitcher Zach Duke

2006:   Starting pitching sucks.  Joe Randa and Jeremy Burnitz define the words overspending. Bay hits ten HR in ten games.  Castillo hits five HR in five games then disappeared.  Littlefield traded Sean Casey, Kip Wells, Oliver Perez, Roberto Hernandez and Craig Wilson.  All in one day. 

“The 2006 Pittsburgh Pirates were the baseball equivalent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Their transformation between the first half and the second half of the season could not have been more drastic. Prior to the All-Star break, the Pirates were the worst team in the big leagues, a distinction they solidified by being swept in Kansas City during a 13-game June losing streak. Following the Midsummer Classic, the Bucs were a confident young group that playoff-contending teams didn’t want to have to face down the stretch, as evidenced by their five straight wins against the Mets and Dodgers in September.”  Sportswriter Ed Eagle on MLB.com

2007:  Starting pitching sucks.  Mike Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta for Adam LaRoche.  Weiters Moskos was drafted.  The walkout happens.  Rajai Davis is traded for Matt Morris.  Littlefield is fired in September.  Sanchez tanks, Bay battles a knee injury.

“We’ve (the 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates) gone through two or three stretches this year where everything has come together, but then when you lose it, you can’t lose it for two weeks. We have to learn.” – Adam LaRoche (Jenifer Langosch, 10/01/2007)

2008:  Starting pitching sucks. Jason Bay, Damaso Marte, and Xavier Nady are traded at the deadline. Went 7-21 in August.  Pedro Alvarez is drafted as Bucs inject major cash to the tune of $9 million in the draft.

“It’s hard for people to see because you look at our (the 2008 Pittsburgh Pirates) record and I’ve heard, ‘Here we go again,’ ‘Nothing’s different,’ ‘It’s the same old Pirates,’ But I think if you’ve been around it, you do see that things are different. You see that it has changed.” – Pittsburgh Pirates Manager John Russell on MLB.com (Langosch, 09/28/08)

2009: Sanchez, Wilson, Sean Burnett, Nyjer Morgan and Nate McLouth are traded.
“We have a good team (the 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates). I believe we showed that on the road, not giving up and finishing up strong. We did pretty well and hopefully we’ll be able to stay together and just get better.” – Andrew McCutchen on MLB.com (10/04/09, Langosch’)

 EXHIBIT EIGHTEEN:  The Fans for Change Walkout

The Pirates don’t win often and when they do, Pirates fans like to watch it.  It got so bad in 2007  that  staged a walkout– fans were suppossed to exit the ballpark in mass after the third inning of a sellout game against the Washington Nationals.  Well, it didn’t quite work out as planned.  An estimated 2,000 fans left PNC Park.  It would probably have been a much bigger walkout, but the hometown team was winning the game. 

Prior to the game, Pirate owner Bob Nutting made this statement, ”I appreciate the passion of all of our fans and their frustrations with the team’s performance.  There is still a lot of baseball to be played.  Our focus as an organization remains on winning games.”    

Pssst…heh, Bob..we’re still waiting.

Also,Redskins owner Daniel Snyder didn’t invent the removal of signs from a sports stadium, Bob Nutting did it two years prior.  It was confirmed in this Mondesi House post regarding the walkout when fans had this sign removed from the rotunda.

EXHIBIT NINETEEN:  In October of 2007, the Pirates were so focused on winning games that it was necessary for GM Neal Huntington to fire Jim Tracy.  Yeh, the same manager that won that award this year.  What was it called?  Oh, yeh Manager of the Year.    Huntington was asked what he was looking for in a Pirates skipper.   “A manager with energy, with passion, … who is a tireless instructor, who will instill some discipline, is an exhaustive communicator and wants to return the pride to the Pittsburgh Pirates.”  

It sure does look like the new manager is tirelessly instructing, instilling discipline, and is exhausting his communciation lines in returning pride to the Pittsburgh Pirates when a year later,  veteran Doug Mientkiewicz was quoted as saying this about the Pirates, “It’s just embarrassing. It really is. You’ve got three guys who run balls out right now. It’s frustrating. Just frustrating. The whole thing is frustrating.”   

Mientkiewicz now plays for the LA Dodgers.

EXHIBIT TWENTY: Reality television was the rage of the decade.  So with no luck drafting pitchers, the Pirates pursued reality game show winners.

The Million Dollar Arm participants had never played baseball before, but that was a small detail… Rinku and Dinesh finished first and second in the Million Dollar Arm contest on Indian TV by displaying awesome arm strength and the former javelin throwers had a strong ’desire’ to become baseball players. A real life Slum Dug Millionare.

When you listen to Neal Huntington painfully explain his reasoning, ‘it’s no different than taking a player from the Dominican or Washington.’ Yeh, same thing Neal.

But from a public relation angle, this was a genius move. It’s been the best PR the team has received. Perhaps, the public relations highlight of the decade? Sigh.

EXHIBIT TWENTY-ONE:  In the spring of 2009, the Pirates reached a new low when the unthinkable happened.  They lost to perhaps their one bitter rival, the hated Manatee CC Lancers.  Yeh, they are a Junior College team whom the Bucs had a ten game winning streak against before the Manatee Lancers defeated the Bucs 6-4.  The rival Lancers used nine different pitchers in doing so. 

EXHIBIT TWENTY-TWO:  In 2009, Starting pitcher Ian Snell sent himself to the minors.  He then held an impromtu press conference where he lashed out at reporters and bloggers because of the negativity in Pittsburgh.  A week later he struck out 17 batters in AAA and said he was so depressed in Pittsburgh that he thought of suicide.

Two years earlier, Snell was leading the team in ERA.  He then started multi-tasking in his kitchen.  He missed a start because he burnt his finger.  Since the cooking accident, Snell has struggled, but of course it was the reporters and bloggers fault not his ballooning walk ratio. 

Major league pitcher.  

Chef. 

Minor League Superstar.  All over it.

EXHIBIT TWENTY-THREE:  The Marlins closer Leo Nunez had 26 saves this season.  Remember in 2004, Nunez was traded by the Pirates for Benito Santiago and cash.  It never ends.

EXHIBIT TWENTY-FOUR:  Jack Wilson nearly made it to the end of the decade despite trade rumors swirling around him after he agreed to waive his no trade clause to get out of Pittsburgh in 2007.    The Pirates with Wilson (2001-2009) at SS lost repeatedly, especially in 2008 when he played just 87 games. 

Wilson would continually change his approach at the plate to improve his offense, but to no avail.  In 2005 his leadership ability was put on display when Wilson called out 2B  Jose Castillo in the press for sucking.   Castillo didn’t take the criticism well.  Freddy Sanchez was eventually moved to 2B and would go on to win a Batting Title, but nonetheless, the losses continued.    But boy could the Pirates turn double plays. 

The moment when Wilson and Sanchez were moved, put an exclamation point on the Pirates of the next decade.  More so than the McLouth and Bay trades, the departure of aging veteran Pirate players made me believe something entirely different was happening in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates, under Neal Huntington and Frank Coonley, made a serious change in their approach.  They put their jobs on the line.  They didn’t care what the fans thought of their plan.  They couldn’t worry about PR or fan favorites.  That doesn’t work.

Gone were aging veterans.  Player value is now stressed.  Players are sold at their highest value, well most of the time.   Major amounts of money were invested in the draft.  Huntington has acquired the bulk of the talent found in the minors

Time will tell how the new decade works out, but it certainly appears brighter than the last one.  

But without owner commitment, can the Pirates return to greatness? 

EXHIBIT TWENTY-FIVE:  Not had enough failure?  The Bucs even failed at their selection of ceremonial first pitch celebrities. In 2006, the Pirates brass ignored picking a player from the recent Super Bowl Champion Steelers organization.  Big Ben Roethlisberger on the mound?  Nah.  MVP Hines Ward, a former baseball player?  Nah.

The Pirates selected Pittsburgh native Micheal Keaton (you remember, Beetlejuice and Batman right?  Ok, maybe you don’t.) 

Keaton had this to say after blasting Pirate ownerships for not paying for talent to win.

“So, is there light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know. … I don’t know.”

He then surveyed the room and said, “I just totally bummed everybody out.”

No, actually you nailed it Batman.  POW!

I’m not quite sure who was relevant last–Keaton or the Pirates?

Regardless, if the Pirates past decade was a Hollywood movie, you would leave saying, crazy movie, but if only they would have made it more realistic or made the ending better.  The movie about the Pirates Decade of Decadence doesn’t have a happy ending. 

Even Batman can’t rescue the Pirates under their current ownership.

Thanks to:

The Best Pirate guy in town, The ‘Roc’ and his hilarious Extra Innings Podcasts.  Yardbarker.com       Pittsburgh City Paper

WHYGAVS.com  Buccofans.comMondesi’s House  Deadspin  NY Times  Post Gazette Dejan Tribune ReviewStarkey Rutter  WDVE.com

Topics: Adam LaRoche, Andrew McCutchen, Aramis Ramirez, Ben Roethlisberger, Brian Giles, Bronson Arroyo, Cam Bonifay, Chris Young, Craig Wilson, Damaso Marte, Dave Williams, David Littlefield, Derek Bell, Doug Mientkiewicz, Freddy Sanchez, Hines Ward, Ian Snell, Jack Wilson, Jason Bay, Jason Kendall, Jason Schmidt, Jeremy Burnitz, Joe Randa, John Russell, Kenny Lofton, Kevin Young, Kip Wells, Leo Nunez, Lloyd McClendon, Matt Herges, Matt Morris, Mike Gonazalez, Nate McLouth, Oliver Perez, Pat Meares, Raul Mondesi, Roberto Hernandez, Sean Casey, Xavier Nady, Zach Duke

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