Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

7-19-21 – By Gary Morgan

The draft is over and the Pirates have done a lot of the work already to sign and get these guys a taste of pro ball this year. The goalposts keep moving on what success looks like, first it was the wrong pick, then Baseball America slapped that down. Then it was they won’t sign all those other 1st round talents they picked, now it looks like they’ll get them all, even Bishop is in play. Maybe just sit back and let the process play out, some folks are straight looking silly at this point.

Fun weekend of baseball over at PNC, and as usual I’ve got some thoughts to share about our Buccos.

1. Visiting Fan Takeover

I mean, this has been going on for as long as I’ve been going to baseball games. And since I’m old, that’s a long time. Visiting fans flock to PNC and sometimes like this weekend they are easily 50% of the populous.

I always find them to be polite, and knowledgeable fans who just die hard support their club. No ill will coming from me, in fact, I respect the hell out of it.

It makes you cringe hearing louder cheers for the visitors than the home team, and to the Pirates fans’ credit they tried like hell to rise above it and out cheer them and when Jacob hit that Grand Slam to win the game in walk off fashion Saturday night, they absolutely did.

Pittsburgh has been, and can be a baseball town again. They just need something to root for. For some of us, a team that tries and outkicks their coverage on occasion is enough to get amped. For others, the amps aren’t gonna kick up until such as time as they expect to win on a nightly basis.

But I’ve seen a lot of complaints that PNC was overrun with Mets fans this weekend, and while it is true, most of you weren’t buying tickets right? I mean there were entire sections with ALL Mets fans, doing soccer style chants complete with Fat Heads of their favorite players, and the local economy sure enjoyed the takeover.

We can’t get mad that other people are buying things we didn’t want. I’ll admit, it’s not the scene I want to see when I go to a ballgame, but Lord knows Steeler fans have done it to Cincinnati and Cleveland over the years, man we even did it to LA.

2. Why Would Henry Davis Accept Less Than Slot?

By now you all know the Bucs got their guy for about 2 million under slot. So I’m getting asked, WHY? Why would he take less?

Couple things play in here. First and probably most important, he’s not spoiled for choice. He either has to sign or go back to college, and that’s not as simple as go back to college and try again next year, the likelihood he is again the top pick is slim to none.

Next up is the competition for the first overall pick. With 6 or 7 depending on who you trust competing for the top slot, and only one being hell bent on getting full slot (Leiter) it stands to reason Davis would be up for bargaining. If he wasn’t the first pick chances are he’d have dropped as low as 5th which would have been less than the amount he signed for anyhow.

Imagine you apply for a job and are one of 5 very qualified candidates. The job is posted for 60K and when they call you they offer you 50K instead. You’d buck at that and at least ask or protest that you thought it was higher than that. They’d probably counter with telling you they have other candidates and the conversation would either end with you taking less or potentially not getting the job.

This shouldn’t be seen as a reflection on how good he is, or his deservedness to be the pick, it’s simply fact, and fairness isn’t a thing in baseball, at least not the money aspect.

3. Hug Watch

The West Coast trip right before the deadline is at least in old guy like my eyes a traditional opportune time to make deals. The team is far from home, late games, less fans watching the day to day. This has changed some over the years as the internet has made news cycles 24 hours but this could still be something to look for with the timing.

There hasn’t been much movement league wide as of yet, but some shoes have to start falling soon.

If you’re a Pirates fan, and I’ll go ahead and assume by reading this you are, this really needs to be about getting a worthy return, not just a return. Asking for too much is a relative term, if you aren’t going to get what you consider enough value, consider the value of just keeping the player.

This is exactly what happened with Josh Bell and Joe Musgrove. The Bucs didn’t like the offers at the deadline and instead held their cards. No matter how many times you’ve heard Frazier is getting moved. Hell no matter how many times I’ve told you he’s probably getting moved. If the return isn’t there, they won’t do it.

One thing Cherington has shown us so far, he has zero willingness to move assets for less than he’s looking for.

4. Things We’re Afraid to Expect

When a group of people are beaten down over time they find ways to protect themselves. Pirates fans are no different. We know the system is rigged so we stop expecting certain things that make winning possible. We know the owner has been cheap so we stop expecting them to ever do something to show they’re willing to spend.

It’s not just that we stop expecting it, we stop demanding it, I mean some of us stop even asking for it. We certainly don’t predict it.

For real change, there needs to be a clear expectation from this fan base and no it’s not to reach some arbitrary number on the payroll ranking.

Look, nothing any of us say is going to honestly affect change from the team’s perspective anyhow, but if you ever want to start seeing the negativity surrounding the team to change, those who have hope must stop acting like they don’t.

Oh you’ll be called hopeless, or even a shill. Deal with it.

When there are things that need done to make sure this time is different, yell about it. You’ve been patient as the Pirates started this journey, so don’t be afraid to make sure everyone knows that didn’t come for free.

For me, this is getting something done to keep Reynolds in black and gold. I’m done tempering that expectation, and I’m all done acting like they can’t, or might not, be able to do so. Get this done.

This isn’t to be confused with constantly reminding everyone of the team’s failures, we’re all aware of what has been. It has no bearing on what we should expect, if not demand. Don’t be afraid to expect better, I doubt Ben Cherington and Travis Williams did when they took the gig.

To me, we spend too much time being afraid to be wrong. If you are, just admit it, learn from it and move on. When the error is believing in something and being let down, you aren’t the one who made a mistake anyway.

5. Promotion, Demotion, and Unexpected Contributions

Some of this stuff doesn’t make much sense.

I mean, when you sit there an just see transactions come across the ticker and all you have to go on is the stat line you can just feel lost with confusion.

For a few weeks now Mitch Keller has done well in AAA, leading some to believe he had turned a corner. I’ve told you though, nothing has changed from what he did in MLB. The pitch types were the same, even the misses were the same. This was nothing more than the club letting him see, and experience that at his core he still is a good pitcher.

Then came his last outing yesterday, and man he got shelled. If you’ve been watching him, and I again don’t mean the box scores. This week showed some subtle changes being introduced. His fastball had a tail, subtle movement that he conspicuously missed in MLB. This takes time and practice to master.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you it was a positive step, but it is however a step. In order to get back to MLB and be the impact player the club wants him to be these are things they can’t just skip.

On another side of the spectrum, we all watched Rodolfo Castro have what we felt was a coming out party against the Mets before the break. He has 3 MLB hits, all homeruns, and watching him swing, it sure looks like that’s his goal.

The Pirates have a belief that he is primarily a 2B and 3B, obviously two positions currently on lock down but he has a history of playing corner outfield and SS as well but being as they have a plan for him that requires regular playing time, I get it. I don’t get going back to AA but if I’m honest, I’d have just kept him here so same difference I guess.

Then you have a guy like John Nogowski. I think I wrote in one of these not too long ago I saw no reason for this acquisition. They already had a AAAA scrub named Will Craig for this job, something to that effect.

Look, I’m not willing to claim Nogo has a roster spot all locked up but it’s impossible to argue the Pirates saw something and did the right thing here.

Hey, at the end of the day, I’m an opinion jerk like anyone else, with the possible exception of admitting I was wrong.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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