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.

Good!

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

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