9-5-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Good afternoon and Happy Labor Day to everyone out there.
The Pirates are a bad team, playing an extra tough portion of their schedule. That would be hard enough, but lets add in mismanagement and a total lack of awareness and you have a recipe for a whole bunch of gross.
1. Goals Matter
The Pirates have 29 games left.
Out of those games the Pirates can only lose 15 more if they are to avoid 100 losses. Now, don’t get me wrong, they stink one way or another, but if I’m this coach, and this management team, I gather everyone around and I challenge the team to go out and get those 14 more wins, hell I challenge them to get 15 for good measure.
I’d love to see Ben Cherington sit down with Shelton, and ask who’s helping and who’s not. Coaching, players, everyone.
Make the requested changes, and in exchange, tell him to go get those 15 wins. If he doesn’t he’s done. If he does, he avoids lame duck status by popping an extra year on his deal.
Put some damn stakes on this thing. More than anything, tell him you and your entire management group is going to be out of his ear. No more at bat requirements. No more needing to see so and so get this many innings. Every decision is Shelton’s and Shelton’s alone.
And don’t come crying later that your hitting coach or pitching coach were a problem. If you chose to keep them for this 29 game stretch, tough. If you chose to move on and you succeed, you get to pick the next completely on your own.
Challenge the players. Shelton will be playing who he sees fit, not who the team told him to. Performance matters, results matter, not some predetermined number of at bats you get regardless of how you do.
I’m not asking for a Rachel Phelps style countdown, but I do think there must be a reason to finish this thing out strong. Something must be at some point on the line. Maybe I’ve taken it too far here, maybe, but I just don’t care.
The time for fairness is over. The time for patience is over. It’s time for something that all good baseball players, or minimally people who play this game the right way thrive under. Pressure.
Kids. Show us something or understand that the next wave is coming. Coaches. Show us something or your replacements will be interviewed. Enough is enough, time for the pressure and hopefully scraping this season off the floor.
After all, most of this roster is returning, if he can’t manage them down the stretch, why should he manage them next year?
2. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
All three of these things live in one player, Oneil Cruz. Oneil struggles with off speed pitches, consistently throwing the baseball to first base, especially when he has time, and even with all of that, he has 12 homeruns in 225 at bats. Struck out 91 times too of course, but I don’t need to tell you, that kind of homerun production adds up to 36 or so in a full slate of playing time.
Yeah, he’s batting .200 ish. Yeah he has a long way to go yet. Know what though, he has some tremendous talent, and that’s why it’s worth getting excited over him.
That’s why the exit velocity is important too. Yes it’s added up to that batting average so far, but when you hit the ball hard, good things happen.
I know, I know, you still don’t care.
Listen, it matters. And so do the results that he’s not yet getting, yet.
There is a whole list of things to hate about this team, an even bigger list of things to be irritated by, if the way Oneil Cruz has played as a rookie in his 62 games this year is among either of those lists for you, I don’t blame you, I blame the Pirates. Since Barry friggin’ Bonds the Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a player with this many tools. No, not even Andrew. Not Polanco, not Marte, nobody since Barry Lamar Bonds.
That is a track record of ineptitude beyond measure. Especially considering in the first 20 years of this decade nobody, and I mean NOBODY spent as much on the draft and scouting.
I’m telling you the Pirates have never put someone like this in front of you, no wonder you don’t know what it looks like. When you see other players come up on other teams you largely get to miss this part. You see them pop up, know the name, realize they’re supposed to be decent, maybe see them hit a ball hard and then they’re out of your way for a couple more months. Suddenly they just appear looking super great and your jealous ass says why can’t my team develop like that? Me too for that matter.
Baseball is hard. Cruz may never get to the point where his tools all reach their peak. I’m certainly not saying Cruz is as good as Bonds or that he ever will be. I’m saying you know special when you see it, you just maybe can’t recognize it until matures a bit more.
Don’t be discouraged, the talent is very real, and if you’re worried about who’s coaching him, you should be.
3. This Club Has No Choice but to Get 2 Starters
This team has needs, but starters are chief among them. JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, and Roansy Contreras will be the only starters we’ll be able to write in pen next to starter on the roster. They have other options but the Pirates must show improvement next year and that’s going to require an investment right here.
They have Johan Oviedo, and he’ll get a shot. They have Mike Burrows and Cody Bolton, but neither of them can be expected to start immediately. Maybe Quinn Priester will make his way to Pittsburgh next year, but it won’t be immediate either.
Even if they were considered ready, the Pirates need to build in resistance for their arrival. Create a wall, ask the to climb over it or wait for an injury to create opportunity. From here on out, that’s the way this team needs to think. Kids need to play, but kids need to find their way to the league on their own. No more propping the door open, instead, give them the ability to unlock the door themselves with milestones and goals baked in. Building with kids is a must, but relying on them, well that isn’t going to be a winning strategy.
4. Arms are Currency, But They Need to Be Pitchers
The Pirates have spent 3 years buying arms. Their main goal has been innings, but at some point they need to be quality innings. The pitching depth will improve as the farm system gets closer to MLB but until that time, waiting for whomever happens to appear on the waiver wire isn’t enough.
Sign those two starters up there I mentioned, but then do more. Get more options in AAA to fill the top end of the system with as many pitchers as you can sign. Baseball isn’t a forgiving game, even the Dodgers are short on pitching, but when they call someone up, someone they had in their system, they tend to be worth the trouble.
I personally like guys like Cam Vieaux and Cal Aldred, but if the Pirates don’t, perhaps they shouldn’t be in their system any longer.
Increase the quality of your depth pool and increase the chances that when you inevitably have to dip into that pool you might actually want them to do well and stick around.
5. Endy Has to Have a Chance Next Spring
I’m not crazy, of course they’ll want to manipulate his time, even if that BS has long since run it’s course, but Endy Rodriguez is a player hitting better than anyone in the system, and at a position of need.
He can handle being the catcher, and he can add offense from a position that has provided little. They should still sign a veteran, but Rodriguez has simply been rising so quickly I’m not sure even this team can truly keep him from winning the job outright.
This doesn’t need to be a Henry vs Endy thing, there is room for both to be on this team, and the bats matter much more than where they play.