Even Pirates fans have seen enough of the losing ways of their team
Once again the MLB trade deadline has come and gone, and it was not without its share of big moves including Cliff Lee to the Phillies, Victor Martinez to the Red Sox, and Jake Peavy to the White Sox (finally!). Most analysts at this point will explain what this does for the immediate success of your team for the rest of the season. However, what they shy away from is the impact that it has on the team that gives up the big name player to a contender.
Enter the Pittsburgh Pirates. A team with a fairly storied history, playing in the first World Series in 1903 (They lost to the Boston Americans, now the Red Sox) and the home of Hall of Famers including Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. In recent baseball times, however, the Pirates have been nothing more than a doormat for National League teams and a stopping place for young and talented players who go onto bigger and better things, leaving the Pirates fans bewildered as to why that player was ever traded. The 2009 season looked like it could be a turning point for the downtrodden Pirates, though. Playing in a less-than-stellar NL Central, Pittsburgh was managing to hang around in the race through the end of May, which came as a surprise to most. The young talent the Pirates ownership had promised for the last decade was starting to look like it was developing and the Pirates were looking like dark-horse contenders.
On June 4th, Pittsburgh found itself at 25-28, 5.5 games out of 1st place, but playing fairly well. By June 5th, the Pirates season was basically put to an end. GM Neal Huntington accepted a trade from the Braves for All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth, which was the beginning of the selling off of 10 players from Pittsburgh’s opening day roster for prospects or less in some cases. Since June 4th, the Pirates have gone 19-30, fallen to 11 games out, and hold a record that is only better than the Padres and Nationals in the NL.
The question is why? The Pirates basically replicated what they did from the previous year when they traded Jason Bay to the Red Sox and Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees. It gets to the point where it’s an assumed that the Pirates won’t even try to win in a season, instead hiding behind the mask of being a “small-market” team. If we learned anything from the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, it’s that it is hugely important to hold onto those top level prospects when they hit the Major League level and not be tempted to trade them away for anybody. Hopefully someday the Pirates will look at what the Rays did and right their ship because their players, fans, and the city of Pittsburgh deserve far better.
After the McLouth trade, even Pirates players had seen enough. Jack Wilson was vocal in his criticism of the organization and he and Freddy Sanchez’s subsequent refusals to sign extensions led to their own trades. What more will it have to take to make the Pirates front office understand that firesales turn away new players, fans, and ultimately winning baseball from their team?
Here’s a look at some of the names that current Pirates GM Neal Huntington and former GM Dave Littlefield traded away this decade, starting with this year:
2009 – John Grabow (CHC), Tom Gorzelanny (CHC), Freddy Sanchez (SF), Jack Wilson (SEA), Ian Snell (SEA), Adam LaRoche(BOS, now ATL), Nyjer Morgan (WSH), Sean Burnett (WSH), Eric Hinske (NYY), Nate McLouth (ATL)
2008 – Jason Bay, Damaso Marte, Xavier Nady, Salomon Torres
2007 – Rajai Davis, Mike Gonzalez
2006 – Craig Wilson, Oliver Perez, Kip Wells, Sean Casey
2005 – Rob Mackowiak, Dave Williams, Mark Redman, Matt Lawton, David Ross,
2004 – Leo Nunez, Arthur Rhodes, Jason Kendall, Kris Benson, Jeff Keppinger
2003 – Brian Giles, Randall Simon, Jeff Suppan, Brandon Lyon, Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, Mike Gonzalez (again), Mike Williams, John Wasdin
2002 – Chris Young, Mike Fetters, Damaso Marte (again)
2001 – Gary Matthews Jr., Jose Silva, Todd Ritchie, Mike Williams (again), Terry Mulholland, Jason Schmidt, John Vander Wal