OK, it's time for the Green Weenie to dust off one of its' favorite theories. Baseball teams, no matter how awesome, will lose about 1/3 of their games. Baseball teams, no matter how pathetic, will win about 1/3 of their games. The difference between the playoffs and the number one pick in the amateur draft are those 55-65 games that are up for grabs.
And that's where Pittsburgh is hurting right now. They lost tonight because of a five spot the Cubs rang up in the sixth inning. Matt Morris walked his only batter of the night. He scored. A Cub is thrown out at third and Jose Bautista dropped the throw. He scored, and prolonged the inning.
John Russell brought the infield in, and Brian Bixler let a hard hit one hopper get under him. Cubby Reed Johnson not only got an undeserved RBI, but he scored when they hit another home run. Chicago got five outs and scored five runs. Ballgame over.
Call on the bullpen again? Russell opted to give it another day off, even putting Paul Maholm on duty. Sweet Lou Pinella, on the other hand, brought in Jon Leiber in the fourth, who won his second consecutive game against his old team. Manager's decision, and one we won't quibble with. His guys have worked a lot so far.
Teams win those coin toss games by making the key play, throwing the right pitch, or getting the clutch hit. In other words, they play fundamental baseball. Teams lose by doing the opposite, and that's where Pittsburgh is at now.
It's not all negative, though we have been hard on the Pirates. Their eight regular position starters are competitive, especially now that Bay and LaRoche are making some contact. The sorest spot in the everyday lineup is Jose Bautista, who so far shows no signs of going to the next level with his play.
The starting pitching has a track record, albeit not one proven over time, and should straighten out. The bullpen, except for a shaky start at Atlanta, has been better than advertised.
Even Evan Meek got through two innings tonight. Alphonso Soriano apparently didn't read the book on him, went fishing, and struck out. It was like a load dropped off of Meek's shoulders. After that, he kept the pitches down, and suddenly the radar was registering 93-94 MPH instead of 89. The gun even clocked one pitch at 97 MPH when he punched out Derrick Lee.
But the one place the Pirates have no depth has come back to bite it. Our middle infield is bereft after Wilson and Sanchez. Sanchez still isn't throwing crisply, and Jack Wilson on the DL has become a disaster. Shortstop play has been terrible in his absence. Luis Rivas couldn't catch a ball in the spring and still can't.
Bixler hasn't shown anything here, either, although he can be given the benefit of the doubt because of his inexperience. But the stars better get out of his eyes soon. He looks skittish at the plate and in the field. It's obvious why the Bucs wouldn't pull the trigger on a Wilson deal; they couldn't. There's no one else in the system.
Our bench is built for a spot start, not the long term. Those players are at Indianapolis. And none of them are ready to play up the middle at the level of Wilson or Sanchez yet, if ever.
Another ten days and he'll be back. Wilson said on TV that if everything is on schedule, he'll go to Indy after the LA series and get a couple of rehab games under his belt. Let's hope the Pirate's can stay within hailing distance until then, and keep the rest of the club out of the tub.
On the MLB front: The Indians and Fausto Carmona announced on Thursday that they have agreed to a four-year, $15 million pact, through 2011. The deal includes individual club options for 2012, '13 and '14. If the contract maxes out, Carmona will make $43 million, with the potential to make another $5 million in escalators and bonuses.
Not a bad deal for a guy who just reached two years of big league service time this past week. In 2007, he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in 32 starts. The 24-year-old Carmona would have been under the Indians' contractual control through 2012, new contract or not.
As was the case with the Grady Sizemore deal of 2006, the club decided to keep its' core in place and have some cost certainty down the road. We wonder if this kinda move is gonna be in the Pirate playbook?