Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

8-16-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Things haven’t been going well. To be blunt, everyone should have expected a weak performance down the stretch, but it’s all worth it if they come out of the rest of this season with answers. I think that’s why it gets so frustrating when they don’t give the appearance they’re looking for answers with every lineup they put together. Speaking of answers, as predicted the Pirates activated then immediately DFA’d Ka’ai Tom today.

1. Honesty is Key

There are a lot of you that want to dismiss every criticism of the team or how they’re approaching this rebuild as ‘haters’ or worse, ‘uneducated’.

Take an honest look at what they’re doing, and more importantly, what you really believe they will do.

Step one, trade anyone close to an expiring contract, not the same as ‘everyone as soon as they get good’.

Step two, build up the system through trades, drafts, signings and supposedly improve the talent that remains.

After that, It’ll be signing a few guys strategically and we’ve been led to believe spend some money. But trades aren’t going to stop.

People are never going to lose that argument, and it doesn’t make them dumb for suggesting it. You may not like the snark they use, or they might be put off by predicting someone the club will be moved, but this is reality. Truthfully, that doesn’t change much even with a different owner.

The Pirates can operate under this system better than they have, their baseline for low end of the payroll can be higher, for a couple seasons their top end could be much higher, but at some point trades will again happen. The hope is they have more coming when that arises.

Baseball itself created this, and teams like Tampa and Oakland have mastered working under it. Now, quick, name a Rays or A’s player who has spent a decade with the club.

Long way of saying, don’t fight with people that say the Pirates will trade guys because they most assuredly will, it just isn’t the mindless and uniform occurrence some tend to simplify it to.

2. Arm Fatigue

Bryse Wilson was placed on the 10-Day IL yesterday with arm fatigue. It makes sense, last season he threw all of 15.2 innings and this year between AAA, Atlanta and Pittsburgh, he’s sitting at 102 for 2021.

So, I’m not saying this is fake, but I am saying I don’t think this is what the IL was intended to handle.

It’s not like this just started, for as long as I can remember guys wound up on the IL with, um, shoulder discomfort, or back pain. We all knew what was going on, but I do think it’s being abused more flagrantly by every team in the last couple years.

There used to be one main reason to take all these things at face value, players want to play. You’d see some guys accept it after really struggling, knowing the alternative might very well be their roster spot being no more. But for the most part, guys wouldn’t just accept a trip to the IL and give someone else a chance to take their spot.

Hey, again maybe Bryse himself is totally on board with some down time here, I just have to wonder how the league feels about some of these fairly obvious designations. Nobody likes any rule being abused.

3. Why Are the Coaches Not Expected to Perform?

I was recording my podcast for DK Pittsburgh Sports Podcasting Network with my friends Graves and Jim Stamm last week and one of our big topics was who on this club has really improved? I ask the question because even if the players aren’t answers, the job of coaching is to help even lesser talents find something.

I don’t want to get derailed here, the point of this entry is how strange it is to me there is a large contingent who believe you can’t criticize coaching at all.

Why?

They’re part of the team too. Plenty of you are ready to say former number one pick Kevin Newman should be done getting playing time, why isn’t it ok to ask what the coaches have done to help him improve?

Why can’t I ask about Derek Shelton refusing to have anything close to a consistent lineup and what effect that might have on players trying to find their way? That isn’t exactly a picket sign on Federal Street calling for his head, it’s a question.

If you aren’t asking questions, you aren’t learning. If you don’t challenge, why would anyone feel the need to improve. This whole environment we’ve boxed ourselves into where you can’t question anyone without being a hater is just silly.

Listen, I’ve got no personal grudge against any of the coaches, but I’m not just going to sit here until 2024 acting like they’re untouchable then run around with my hair on fire pretending I didn’t think about it prior. That’s not how it works, that’s not how honest coverage works. You want that, I’m afraid you’ll have to check out some of my competitors.

4. Speaking of Kevin…

Newman has played solid defense all season, and nothing he does for the rest of this season is going to erase nearly 4 months of ineptitude. That said, he is starting to hit, and yes, I said it before his 4 for 4 with 4 doubles in game one of Saturday’s double header.

He may wind up being nothing more than a bench player, he may wind up being someone else’s problem before too long, but he also isn’t someone I’d recommend giving up on just yet.

I get it, you think you’ve watched baseball for 30, 40 years and you can identify a player long before these clowns. Not likely.

Again, he may turn out to be nothing, but he has something a ton of players don’t, he’s done it already. That means something. Especially for a team still in a position where they’re bringing in guys who have “done it” in AAA and failed to ever have it translate to MLB.

Oh, I know, his secondary numbers are bad. Yup, sure were. He doesn’t have enough range! Well, he sure didn’t. Guys improve sometimes, and guys with pedigree get that opportunity especially when nobody is pushing him. Hoy Park can play SS we’ve seen that and he’ll eat into Kevin’s playing time a bit, but Hoy can play all over the diamond so its not Kevin or Hoy,

People were ready to flush him after a terrible September call up in 2018. His numbers in 2019 were met with examinations of how bad he should have been based on analytics. 2020 was awful, for a bunch of guys, Kevin included. Finally 2021 has been terrible with the bat. Up and down.

Some see that as a culmination of what they discovered in 2019, some see it as proof he’ll always stink. I see it as a guy who has shown he has a MLB glove, and as of right now, a AAA bat. There was a time that was enough at short stop, today it’s maybe enough to keep you on a roster until something better comes along.

5. Yay, the Pirates System is Ranked 4th by Baseball America

Hey, it’s great. You don’t go get all these prospects and get upset when your farm system is recognized.

That said, spare me that it directly means a championship is all but assured. Baltimore and Detroit have been near the top for years.

The Pirates are continuing to tick boxes in the rebuild and getting to this point with the system was one very important step. Now the development needs to take over and make it count.

Lately most of the comments about prospects have touched on that, development is after all the final piece of the puzzle and until they show us they’re better at it than the previous crew all anyone serious can say is they’ve made a ton of changes and upgrades.

If you want to sell your house and decide to remodel your kitchen to improve the value but don’t do it well, all you’ve done is spent money on something that isn’t going to make you any.

I’m not trying to be pessimistic and I’m certainly not telling you this ranking means nothing, but it certainly doesn’t mean mission accomplished.

At this point I should just take any enthusiasm as a welcome sight, but I just can’t help but remind everyone just how these lists often don’t translate. Many of these are based on potential ceilings, but everyone reaching those projections is implausible. Don’t be shocked when they still pursue more.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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