Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Win Today or Win Tomorrow?

Opening Day has come and gone, and Jeff Samardzija did what Jeff Samardzija does - make fools of the Bucco batters. AJ pitched well; Sam I Am pitched better.

One game doesn't define a season. But it did lead to a perplexing question - why exactly was Garrett Jones batting second and Travis Snider sitting on the bench?

OK, we get that Jones hits better. But basically, it has nothing to do with him; it's a matter of Gaby Sanchez being swapped out for Snider. Neither guy has an edge against righties. Sanchez bats RH, Snider LH, and both are lifetime .250 hitters against RHP. And Samardzija doesn't have a big lefty/righty split; righties actually hit him a tad better (.242/.231). So it's not an entirely outre move.

Here's what we don't get. The Pirates had three guys competing at camp for two spots in the outfield, with a fourth guy, Felix Pie, crashing the party with a hot spring and a young gun they traded for, Jerry Sands, summering at Indy. They sent down the two guys that were playing the best in the spring, Presley and Pie, and kept Snider and JT.

That contest was rigged because of option issues, c'est la vie. But no matter the reason, it seemed predestined that this was the season we would find out if Snider could play or not.

Then come the games that count, and Snider is collecting splinters. Granted, Samardzija made him look sick as a pinchhitter when he came off the bench cold - both figuratively and literally - by blowing 95 MPH heaters past him. Then again, Jones and Sanchez put up 0-fers against him, too.

But here's the point. The Pirate FO loves collecting guys. They also have a manager that is much more comfortable with veteran players. Ergo, a lot of youngsters gather dust and never get the opportunity to show if they do or don't belong in the league. It seems that office management and field management are at cross-purposes in this regard.

The Pirates need to have a franchise commitment to building a sustainable team. If Travis Snider wasn't the option they wanted out of camp, why is he on the roster while guys with MLB pedigrees who outperformed him landed in Indy? The short answer, of course, is that Snider is the guy the FO wanted to play.

He didn't play because the manager thought the team was stronger with Sanchez in the lineup than with Snider. And that may be true in the short term. But to get over the hump, there has to be a master plan. And stockpiling guys at Indy instead of playing them in Pittsburgh isn't it. You can't have a youth movement without playing youth.

So we're hoping this was just a one-time thing with Clint trying to earn Tony LaRussa gold stars by over-managing. But if the lineup indicates a split between the Pirates front-office commitment to a long-term plan and a manager who wants to win today, it's a franchise that's in trouble.

  • Jeff Locke hopped a plane to Florida. He'll work a minor-league game to stay on schedule, as the Bucs won't need a fifth starter until next week.
  • High Class A Bradenton today officially announced its roster. SS Alen Hansen and OF Gregory Polanco are the names you should recognize.
  • April 2, 1963 - The Pirates traded for OF Manny Mota, sending OF Howie Gross to the Astros. Mota spent six years as a Pirate, hitting .297 as a fourth OF’er/pinch hitter.
  • April 2, 1997 - For the first time in major league history, the salary of one player was more than that of an entire team. The Chicago White Sox paid Albert Belle $10M for the season, which was $928,333 more than the entire Pirate payroll.

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