Tuesday, April 1, 2008

the opener...

x man
Xavier Nady from Pittsburgh Pirates.com

Boy, the Bucs know how to keep it interesting. The team made sure that John Russell will always remember his first win! How like the Pirates to show the best of times and worst of times at the same time. Just a couple of thoughts about the game (OK, we lied about the pitchers being the next post; we'll get to them soon.)

Bay had a tough day in the field, much as he did all spring. That uncaught ball in the ninth was his. But McLouth has to share equally in the blame. Ever since little league, center fielders are taught to grab everything they can unless they're called off.

Bay misplayed it badly, maybe even lost it, and McLouth quit on it. Open your mouths, boys. Someone has to call that ball and make the catch.

And Russell violated our unwritten rule for closers - don't use them unless the game is on the line. As a breed, they're lost without the adrenaline pumping and the pressure to focus them. Capps was in unfamiliar waters and reacted by overthrowing.

He hung on the the pitch too long, throwing across his body, and they were short and away as a result. When he tried to adjust, they were up and in. Capps never looked comfortable. The ol' ball coach shoulda let Grabow finish up. He had tonight to rest. Save the closers for closing.

No such excuse for Marte; he was lucky to get the call from ump Joe West and his tight strike zone on his strikeout. The good news was that his ball was really moving. The bad news is he had no idea where it was going.

Good things - First and foremost, they kept their heads in the game, even after that comical ninth inning. We've heard guys use the term "grinders" to describe the team, and that's what they were yesterday. They kept pluggin' and chuggin' away.

McLouth played like a real center fielder except for that crossed communication with Bay. He needs to take charge and not be deferential to his mates on the corners, even if he is the pup of the trio.

Sanchez looked comfortable at second. Bay ran like it was 2005 (but he hit like 2007.) The Bucs did a pretty fair job with pitch selection and working the count, though they did waste opportunities galore early in the game. We thought moving the runner over was part of the fundamental baseball they worked on all spring at Pirate City.

Doumit caught an OK game. We only noticed a couple of times that he carried the ball out of the strike zone, a big improvement over last year but a capital offense with West behind the plate. He made a nice block or two of pitches in the dirt, too. He does move the mitt around a lot, and that could be a distraction to the pitcher.

We wouldn't count on three error nights by the opposition and three run homers for the good guys every game. Hopefully, the butterflies are done fluttering now.

On the rumor front:
Compliments of MLB Trade Rumors chat board: with the LaRoche contract talks at an impasse, it's possible the Yankees could be tempted by a package of LaRoche/Marte (they've always been hot for Damasco.)

The payback could be 20-year old OF Jose Tabata, who seems to have fallen behind Austin Jackson on their prospect list. There's no chance of getting Melky Cabrera, who seems annointed to be the Yank's next CF.

Ian Kennedy, Jeff Marquez or Daniel McCutcheon, RH starting pitchers, could be on the Pirate shopping list, as the Yanks are loaded with young guns on the hill. Kennedy & Marquez are 23, McCutcheon 25.

The trio had decent springs with the Yanks. Kennedy and McCutcheon are ML ready; Marquez is almost there. A young RH starter would have to high on the Pirate's wish list.

Tabata is a good stick that hasn't shown much power yet, maybe because of his youth, with an average glove and mobility as a corner OF'er. The names, btw, are purely barely informed conjecture, so be forewarned.

The Pirates could, if they liked the deal (and we don't know what stage, if any, that it's at) plug Steve Pearce or Nady into first and bring up Sean Burnett.

The only fly we see in the ointment is whether the Pirates want or need another young outfielder, with Pearce, McCutcheon and McLouth seemingly set as the future Buc OF. And if it leads to Morgan being sent down, the Bucs will only have one CF on the roster, and given Bay's performance, that would a problem.

Other prominent hot stove league names bandied about are Nady and Chris Duffy. Nady would fit in with the Mets (oh, the irony) nicely at first or OF, but what the Mets have to offer doesn't seem to be what the Buc brass has on its' radar.

Maybe the Padres are still interested, too - it's hard to tell with GM Kevin Towers. The SD farm system is strong at catcher and pitching. 3B Chase Headley isn't moving, according to reports, and much to Neil Walker's relief.

Chris Duffy still stirs some interest. Maybe or not with the Braves, who are loaded with LH center field prospects, but several teams are said to be waiting to see how he does when he gets back into action and starts to strut his stuff.

The Bucs will want to make sure McLouth is the real deal in center, though he seems to be the man. We wouldn't expect a lot back, but with McCutch and McLouth, Duffy is definitely available. For that matter, so is Nyjer Morgan. Both will turn 28 this year.

Bay and Matt Morris? They have to show some value to perk up any interest. Jack Wilson could move, with the caveat that Pittsburgh lands a SS somewhere along the line. But several of the teams that wanted him have filled the spot, so...

One Yankee blog daydreamed that the Evil Empire might have its' eyes on Freddie Sanchez at 3B - then they could move Jeter to left and A-Rod back to short. That, we hasten to add, is just bloggers blogging, and has, so far as we know, no basis in reality.

As indeed do any of these rumors. But hey, they sure help the season move along, don't they? And there has to be a deal out there that the Bucs will pull the trigger on sooner or later, giving us a clue as to what direction they're taking with the team.

If they want to compete in the 2010-11 window, they have to start loading up now.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the trade rumors - hope we move Jason Bay along someday soon. As for LaRoche-trade him for Aunt Jemima, she makes a better batter !!! Keep up the good work, hope to bump into you at the opener !!

Beat em Bucs !
Donn Nemchick

Benny Benack's Ghost said...

Donn - The Hot Stove League is fun, no? And it will tell us what the plans are for the current management team and when they expect to be a competitive team again, like back in the early Jimmy Leyland days (if your memory is that good, hehe.) We'll see in 10 or 12 weeks; that's when we suspect the market - and value - for our trade bait will be established a bit better.