Great Scot: Episode 18 - Pirates: The Game Plan

They say pictures can speak a thousand words, in the picture I’ve chosen to highlight this article, it represents the seemingly game plan the Pirates front office and coaching staff have put in place for this season. It really is quite maddening on how the team starts to build momentum only to have that momentum kicked in reverse and ultimately, they are floating right under the .500 mark. Last season, the Pirates were flying high at this point and led to the magical season but this year’s team, it just seems as though something is missing, something is not quite right and something needs to be done about it or we’ll begin talking about the 2015 season.

I won’t go into the whole off-season, questionable moves, strange draft, lack of pitching, lack of hitting or a lack of common sense but the real problem could be the lack of a sense of urgency and lack of team chemistry. I watched the Pirates 6-3 loss to the Cubs on Friday late afternoon and while the team was down and knocking in out after out without cashing in runs, I noticed they kept showing the dugout and how the team was laughing and smiling and talking as though they were leading 6-3 and to me, this is a HUGE problem.

If you’ve seen the movie ‘Moneyball’, there was a very intriguing scene in which the Athletics were on a pretty good losing streak and the GM Billy Beane stepped into the locker room. The players were smiling, laughing, dancing to loud music and in one instance, Billy took a bat, hit the stereo and asked “Is losing fun?” where the player responded, “No.” and the retort was, “Then why are you having fun for?” EXACTLY!

When a team is lugging around .500 or just below and they are expected to be in contention for the playoffs, how can anyone justify the lack of urgency when they are still clearly in the race. This is kind of where I believe a lack of leadership is missing and a guy like AJ Burnett may vocalize as such. I’m not saying it would be different but I’m starting to wonder about the leadership on the team. Are they happy with finally making the playoffs last season and they feel their job is complete? Do they think that the wins will eventually come?

I’ve said it in an earlier article of mine that this team was at the crossroads for the season and while they are only 1 game down to where I thought they would be at this point, it’s alarming that they don’t seem to want more? It’s frustrating to me to watch Pedro Alvarez strike out and show no emotion as he walks back to the dugout. I know we keep being told that Pedro is working hard everyday and trying to correct the mistakes but what we see shows a lack of urgency to me. Granted, Pedro has hit for a higher average this month and it’s appreciated but in high leverage situations, he is failing almost every single time. Ask Joey Votto what it’s like to strike out in a big at bat, BAT SLAM!

In my head, I keep thinking back to ‘Major League 2’, the next season after their first playoff season in a long time. The Indians were more interested in “the big picture” rather than the little things it takes to actually win games consistently. Then, magically at one point they realize they have to do the things that made them successful the year before and they went on to bigger and better things. Of course, this is the real world and the game doesn’t work that way, however if the Pirates want to be that kind of team, someone needs to step it up and show them the way.

So what does the team do? If I were the GM/Manager, I would start off by benching Alvarez and “unplug him” as Clint Hurdle likes to say. I would also go out and bring in a starting pitcher right away and not go cheap on who I’m looking for. Most people say the Pirates have zero chance of trading for David Price or Jeff Samardjiza and they are probably correct but maybe this is something the team needs to give a try and see how it works out for them. Price may come at a little cheaper cost in terms of prospects but will cost a bit more in terms of actual cash but either would work for me.

Most “experts” say the team may be better off by getting someone like Cubs starter Jason Hammel and that’s the exact kind of move they will probably make if they continue to hover in the race. My worry at this point is that Milwaukee is getting too far ahead at this point to where the Pirates have no chance of winning the division but rather have to cling to a wild card spot. That’s OK but realistically, even if they are 4-5 games out from the wild card, it’s the number of teams they will have to jump over to take the lead.

If these Pirates are going to make a move towards the wild card and/or division lead, they MUST go on a big run of games won and this is the part of their schedule to do it but with the loss to the Cubs, they are not starting off so good but maybe they’ll turn it around but I’m fearful this season is just about lost and we will begin selling off pieces in less than a month. It’s OK and every team has those types of years but it would have been nice for the team to continue their run in this window. Time is being told right now and by the way the team is acting and reacting in the public eye, certainly doesn’t bode well for the fans.

2015, anyone? Not yet but it’s getting much closer.

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