Sep 22, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips (bottom) slides across home plate to score as Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin (top) takes the throw and home plate umpire Dan Iassogna (right) looks on during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pirates Have Only One Major Hurdle in 2014

I feel so bad for the Cincinnati Reds. Actually, no I don’t, but their off-season sure does stink. Some may argue that losing Dusty Baker is addition by subtraction. I disagree completely. five division titles, 840 career wins and a .540 career winning percentage. Not too shabby.

Baker’s flaws, there weren’t many, never really manifested itself until the post-season. As a regular season manager I think he was good for five extra wins for whatever club he was running. Bryan Price takes over the helm in Cincy and unless he turns into John McGraw this is going to hurt the Reds more than most of us believe. Marry that to the devastating loss of Shin-Soo Choo to the Texas Rangers and the public auctioning of Brandon Phillips and it’s a downright disaster for them.


Sep 20, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo (17) reacts after swinging at a ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Choo hit 21 homers and scored over 100 runs last year. Billy Hamilton isn’t replacing that production I don’t care how fast he is. Brandon Phillips is so unwelcomed in the Queen City that he was, allegedly, offered to the Yankees straight up for Brett Gardner. The fact that the Yankees turned that deal down after losing Robinson Cano speaks volumes. Phillips is aging. The speed is beginning to erode and although he still is a solid stick his glove isn’t what it used to be. Remember the playoff game against the Bucs? He botched a double play ball that cost them a key run. Let us not forget his surly attitude and run-ins with Reds bloggers.

Phillips, when the ship is sailing smooth, is hard to deal with. Imagine how he’ll be if the ship be sinking (Micheal Ray Richardson style). I can see the Reds this year going in the tank and doing it immediately. Yes, they can still pitch and still have a great closer in Aroldis Chapman but their lineup is gutted and the clubhouse may be one of the worst in baseball if things go south.

That’s the Reds story.

As for the Cubs I have nothing to report. They did fire Dale Sveum and replaced him with Rick, used to be Rich, Renteria. A move that should shake things up about as much as it did for the Pirates once upon a time when they fired Jim Tracy and replaced him with John Russell.The North-siders are still a terrible ballclub and they even admit it. You still hear phrases like “progress year” and “part of a process” when it comes to 2014. They arent ready to contend and won’t be until at least 2015. If they don’t lose 90 games it will be a minor miracle.

The Brewers biggest addition this off-season is getting Ryan Braun back from suspension. They lost Corey Hart to the Mariners, although he didn’t play an inning last year, and they also gave up on Norichicka Aoki. I liked Aoki, he was a bargain basement version of Choo. They gave him away to the Royals for a lefty reliever named Will Smith. I’m sure in some universe that trade makes sense from a Milwaukee stand point but not in mine. Unless the Fresh Prince turns into Dan Plesac circa 1987 it’s an awful deal for them. You wanna talk about a hole at first base? At least we have Gaby Sanchez. The Brew-Crew has nothing. They’re as desperate for Ike Davis as we are.

And that leads us to the Cardinals. This team was stacked to begin with. All those great young arms and .300 hitters like Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter. It seemed like their lineup’s only weakness was a struggling David Freese and the shortstop position. Freese is gone to the Angels and the Red Birds inked Jhonny Peralta to a 4 year deal. The plan is to move Carpenter to third, play Kolten Wong to second, and either have Matt Adams or Allen Craig patrol right field now that Carlos Beltran is a Yankee. Some of these moves you can call lateral I tend to think this is a better offensive team than last year’s. Pitching wise the Cardinals might have the best in the game. Rosenthal will be a stud as a closer and Wacha looked like Jim Palmer in the post-season.

With that said, if the Cardinals were to have injuries or underachieve, this division is the Pirates to win going away. The Reds, Cubs and Brewers are going to be awful and the Bucs play them for 57 games total next year. Even if the Cards are as advertised, racking up W’s in this division will help with the wild card.

The NL East and NL West are far superior divisions from top-to-bottom. So let the Nats and Braves and Phillies kill each other.

Let the Dodgers, Giants and D-Backs pound each other. If the Pirates go 37-20 against the Reds, Brewers and Cubs I can’t see why they wouldn’t make the playoffs again. They only thing standing in their way of total domination is those pesky Cardinals.

It’s the only hurdle they have this year aside from the one in the dugout. Who happens to be the best manager in the division if not the entire National League.

Tags: Aoki Brewers Choo Cubs Fresh Prince Hurdle Phillips Pirates Reds Smith

  • Bucsfan2014

    Very nice article.. I thought no one could have had a worse off-season then the bucs, we both lost marquee players (AJ Burnett for us) but at least we retained our coach. I like our chances in this division as well.

  • OVP66223

    The Reds won’t be awful. They weren’t awful before Choo and won’t be now. Stubbs was leading off for a quite a while and Hamilton, even with conservative estimates (poorest showing possible) is better than Stubbs. I think Hamilton will be just good enough to be an average lead off hitter and his speed is disruptive when he does get on…pitchers will lose focus often throw gas on a fire.

    The Reds have the best pitching in the division, in my opinion, though St Louis and Pittsburgh have valid arguments along those lines, the Reds had the 4th best ERA in baseball last year and that was without Cueto for all but a few starts. They are losing Arroyo, their WORST starting pitcher, stat wise (though he did eat innings), so they might gain by having Leake and Cingrani (improving rapidly) taking his starts.

    The loss of Choo hurts, but it isn’t like all that production is gone. Even Heisey can put up half the production in a pinch. We assume Frazier will rebound a bit and Ludwich might produce at least average LF production, unless his shoulder never fully recovers its strength (possible).

    Losing Choo is bad, but overypaying him for a career year would have been a bigger mistake. Now they can resign Latos or Bailey or make a trade-deadline move (with ample pitching to dangle).

    I think the Cards are the likely favorites (till someone proves otherwise) with the Reds and Pittsburgh a hairline close second. Basically, a three team dog race for the division, with each looking like 90 win teams with a few holes on each team. The good news is none of the teams improved themselves (not good for THAT team, but good for the other two), so barring another year of crazy high St. Louis BABIPs, we should see a neck and neck race.

    • OVP66223

      and the Reds had the BEST WHIP in MLB last year. Hardly worthy of “an awful team” as the writer tries to spin it. Sorry, wishing the Reds away because they lost a rental player is way over the top. They also get a couple of players back from injury (or should), including losing Ludwick the first game of the year (and never replacing his production). Lose Choo, gain Ludwich and Hamilton, not nearly as bad as everyone thinks, unless Cosart or Frazier get even worse, which is highly unlikely.

  • OVP66223

    Losing Baker was addition by subtraction. This is the clown that failed to juggle his rotation so that he could start a Bailey or Latos or Arroyo against the Bucs in an elimination game. All he had to do was start a couple of AAA pitchers that final weekend. Instead, he started Cueto, a pitcher that had only made a handful of starts after being injured all year. BRILLIANT!!! If you think the Reds won’t gain from that, you are using clouded, wishful, partisan judgement. I hope Baker is your coach next year so you can watch in horror at the stupid lineups and poor decisions that never end.

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