Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What to do with John Russell?

It's at the point of the season where it's getting difficult for me to write about every game. It's frustrating seeing the same mistakes every night. Then again, if the cheap bastards at FSN would travel to LA and cover the games, it would be nice. Instead, I'm just gonna start touching on issues with the Bucco's, so expect a different post about every 2-3 days until the Winter Meetings begin.

I've been asked a lot lately about my opinions of John Russell. After NH said that Russell would be back for 2010, many fans have been in an uproar. I just don't see why. He was already signed anyways. it's not like NH offered him a new deal for a job well done. I still don't know what kind of manager JR really is. Talented players always make a manger look better than he is and bad players always make a manager look worse than he is. Exhibit A- Jim Tracy. With talented teams in LA & now Colorado, Tracy is the best thing since sliced bread. With a horrible Pirates team, Tracy couldn't be run out of town fast enough. fact is, good players win more games then good managers. That's not to say a good manager isn't important, but given the choice, I'd rather have great players. I never like a manager getting fired because of bad players.

On the topic of should he manage the Bucs next season? I say Who cares? Really. The Pirates won't compete next season, so i have no problem with JR being the transition manager for this team. What I mean by that, is JR will take his lumps with a young team next season and as the Pirates begin to become competitive, hopefully in 2011 or 2012, the team will make the transition to a more experienced manager with a track record. At least I would hope so. I don't think it makes much sense to make a change before 2011. In reality, Joe Torre won't win with this young group next season, so let a new manager begin a season later with a chance at hope.

JR has a record of 122-182 with the Pirates. It's not the bad record that bothers me as some of the stuff he says and does at time. One thing I'm tired of hearing is "We are going to start holding players accountable." Really? No your not. Accountable for what exactly? I haven't seen anyone held accountable for swinging at the first pitch all season and bouncing into double plays. I haven't seen Matt Capps or anyone else held accountable for lousy seasons. Other than a 2 game benching of Ryan Doumit, what has JR held anyone accountable for? The answer is nothing, so please quit feeding the public that line of crap.

This team has gotten a little better fundamentally over his 2 seasons, but have regressed mentally. In all sports, I always say that a team usually take on the personality of it's manager (or coach). In this case, the Bucs have zero personality. For 2011, I'd like them to bring in someone that's more of a leader. A guy that that a ball club would run through a wall for.

Now, that's not to say you have to get a fiery, crazy type of manager. Just a good leader. I disagree with people that need to see the manager on the field kicking and screaming at every close call. This is baseball, not football. For every fiery, Lou Pinella, Earl Weaver, Bobby Valentine and Bobby Cox, there is also a calm Joe Torre, Tony Larussa, Mike Scoscia, etc.. Fiery isn't always the answer. Exhibit B- Llyod McClendon. However, it's another thing all together to sit in the dugout while your players take the heat with the umpires. That's being lazy and that's the personality of the Pirates right now.

Is JR the guy to lead the Pirates? I say no, but I also don't see a problem with him at the helm next season. No good up and coming young manger would have any interest in this job. No qualified big league winner would have any interest in this job. The guy I've had my eye on for years now is Bobby Valentine. In 2011, NH should overpay for a Valentine type manager, but in the meantime, we can get used to JR falling asleep in the dugout.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Curse of Francisco Cabrera

Every time I see that picture, I want to throw up. That was the moment, where what I call, "The Curse of Francisco Cabrera," began. At that very moment, every thought of winning baseball in Pittsburgh went away. Who would have thought that after that very moment, we would be here talking about the Pittsburgh Pirates being the losingest franchise in sports history. Seventeen seasons in a row. It's sad, that a seventeen year old kid can drive to a game and buy a ticket to see a team play that has never had a winning season in his/her lifetime. NEVER

That damn, Francisco Cabrera. I've watched that game replayed on ESPN Classic about 20 times. Each time I watch, I keep thinking we're going to win this time. Guess what, we never do. Each time I say to myself, "This time Bonds is going to throw Sid Bream out." He never does.

About the streak, what's to say? It's been bad, but it doesn't effect me. I'm not even upset anymore. I will trade another year or two of losing, if it gets the ship righted. What's another couple years, we have suffered through 17 already. I will trade 18 or 19 years to be consistently a competitive team. We shouldn't have to, but that is where we are with this team..

Back to that damn Francisco Cabrera. If we win that game, would we still be here talking about 17 losing seasons in a row? I believe we would. We may have won the World Series in 92, but things probably would have played out the same. Bonds still would have signed with the Giants. We still would have bad ownership and we more than likely would have sent out bum after bum to play for us.

So who's to blame for the last 17 seasons. I'm not going into huge detail, because if I did, I would be authoring a book and I don't feel like writing all day. It's too easy to point the finger at the ownership groups, but I will, because they deserve it. From Kevin McClatchey to Bob Nutting, they deserve a big part of the blame. As positive as I am about the future, a big part of me still says we will never succeed under the current ownership group. What is sucess? It's not finishing .500 next season. It's not making a run at the Wild Card in two seasons. It's competing for the playoffs every season. I just don't know if the Nutting family will allow that to happen. He is the modern day Rachel Phelps from Major League. I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now, but I'm sure I'm just kidding myself.

Next, the bad General Managers. Not having good baseball people, making key baseball decisions has hurt this team. Anyone else want to point the finger at Dave Littlefield? It will take the team the better part of a decade to make up for some of Littlefield's awful mistakes.

Next let's look at the awful job the scouting department has done, along with the bad drafts. Not one positive draft in 17 seasons. The lack of young talent and bad draft after bad draft after bad draft has crippled this organization. Only recently has the organization taken the right approach to the draft. Why did it take 17 years to simply just draft talented baseball players. Why did it take 17 seasons to not draft with your pocket book in mind? Daniel Moskos instead of Matt Wieters anyone?

Finally, the bad contracts. The Pirates made a habit of giving aged out veterans one last big contact. Derek Bell, Pat Mears, Raul Mondesi, Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, etc. (I'd list more, but I'd be here for a week). The few players they did have, they gave bad deals to as well. Giving Jason Kendall, a singles hitter, a deal worth 60 plus mil, just wasn't smart.

So, what have the Pirates given us in the last 17 seasons? Yeah, we got PNC Park, but try this one, 362 different players. Check out this list. It's great reading some of the bums of this list. It's a must read. http://www.post-gazette.com/downloads/buc_roster_Streak.pdf

Ah the names. let me know which are some of your favorites. By that I mean, which of these bums just make you laugh reading their names. Which of these guys had no business being in the big leagues? believe me there are a lot of them. Let me know what you think. I'm kinda partial to "Steamin" Trey Beamon, J.J. Davis, Will Pennyfeather and Andy Tomberlin. I could really go on all day here, so I will stop.

I also want to know some of your low points during the losing streak. One that sticks out in my mind was the Aramis Rameriz salary dump. Not so much the horrible trade, but Darren Lewis, who was acquired in the deal elected to retire rather than play for the Bucs. Another one was Mondesi, who the Bucs just let quit on them, yet to go sign with a contender 2 months later. Finally, there is good old Operation Shutdown. Enough said.

What else have we seen in 17 seasons? Three ownership groups, six managers and millions and millions of disgruntled Pirates fans. It's got to stop and I think it will eventually. I just want to see Huntington stay the course. Keep acquiring young talent, keep investing in the draft, and when the time is right, start to add to the good young core the Pirates have. At no time in 17 seasons have I had hope for this franchise, but I really do now. At no time in 17 season's, have i had any faith in Pirates managements decisions, I do now. At no point in 17 season's, have I been confident in what some of the players can do on the field, I am now. At no point in 17 seasons have I felt the ownership was interested in winning. I still don't.

Don't blame this group of young Pirates. They aren't the reason we hit 17 seasons in a row of futility. Look at this group as the bunch that will break The Curse of Francisco Cabrera. I can only hope.

For more good reading on the Bucs streak of futility, check out these tow links sent to me by Bill Gorby. Very good articles.