Friday, September 11, 2009

Stop Me If You've Heard This Before...

The Bucs fell behind early, tried to come back, and were left in the dust when the bullpen blew up higher than Zambelli fireworks. Such are the Boys of Summer in Pittsburgh, seemingly on a headlong rush to hit 100 losses.

It's pretty much the same ol' - they don't hit when they pitch, they don't pitch when they hit, and some days, they don't do either.

For Charlie Morton, it was a better start - six innings, six hits, three runs. For the offense, it was Andy LaRoche's solo homer. For the bullpen, it was a botched rundown among a barrage of extra-base hits and walks that did them in.

With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, Ryan Doumit blocked a pitch and caught Hunter Pence breaking from third. But LaRoche made a high throw to Doumit, who couldn't glove it. Six runs plated for the Astros before the Bucs could muster three outs, and they were all unearned.

The error hurt, but not as much as the homer, two doubles, and three walks that Joel Hanrahan and Jesse Chavez gave up that frame did. Where are you, John Grabow and Sean Burnett?

And to add a little insult to injury, LaRoche ended the game by taking three straight strikes without once offering a swing. Add it all up, and it's Houston 9, Pittsburgh 1.

That makes for 13 losses in 14 games, 12 consecutive road losses and an 11-27 slate since the Wilson/Sanchez trades, 18-44 since the Morgan trade, and 30-57 since the McLouth deal.

In fact, they're 71-122 since August of 2008, when Nady and Bay went bye-bye, a .367 winning percentage that translates into a 59-102 record over a season.

The question that will be answered in a couple of seasons is whether or not they had to blow up the team in its entirety to reach the Promised Land. Everyone knew the short term would be a hard slog towards respectibility.

Now three points remain: should they have left so many young guys to flounder without any veteran hands on board; did they evaluate the players that they got - and moved - correctly; and is the system strong enough to make the MLB club competitive?

Remember, it was done by Branch Rickey in the '50s. He purged the Pirates' roster of its higher-salaried veterans and flooded the team with young players. Many of those puppies failed, but Vern Law, Bob Friend, Elroy Face, Dick Groat, Bill Mazeroski, and Roberto Clemente became the the nucleus of the Pirates' 1960 World Series club.

But it took the better part of a decade to reach fruition, and lasted longer than Rickey, who became famous for his "Rickey-Dink" teams of the 1950s rather than laying the groundwork for a championship. These Pirates - and their architects - don't have nearly that much time.

No comments: