Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

10-31-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Five Pirates Thoughts at Five. Before I start today, I wanted to just note, all this Pirates stuff is not my primary job, so I apologize for how few pieces I’ve been able to put out recently. It’ll pick up soon, and in the background we’re researching and preparing to tackle all the issues.

I’d also be remiss to not wish all of you a Happy Halloween! Really hope those of you who have little buggers out there Trick or Treating have a wonderful and precipitation free event.

Let’s get into an extra spooky edition of the thoughts…

1. A Real Slasher

It’s almost time, the 40 man protection game is important if only because we’re at the stage now where the Pirates have far more prospects close to the league than spots to protect them. Time to really discuss this a bit. I’ll dig in deeper soon, but let this serve as a starting point.

These are the players I’m most concerned about ensuring they protect.
Endy Rodriguez
Matt Gorski
Mike Burrows

Now the guys they need to consider.
Malcom Nunez
Cody Bolton

Now this is a gross oversimplification of this subject. There are a ton of decisions upstream that have to take place to make the room, and a bunch of snubs down steam too. At the end of the day, these 5 are the ones I’m most concerned about.

Endy, and Burrows are simply no brainers. If they aren’t protected, they’ll be taken, and there’s little doubt about it. Gorski showed incredible power last year, and I could see someone taking a swing at him.

Bolton, I keep him in the consider range if only because he’s at least borderline to be selected, Malcom Nunez because you have 2 first base prospects and I have to think they’ll protect the one they just acquired, or at least think about it.

Still a bunch to think about here, but this is my starting point, at most they need 5 holes. Keep in mind too, they will leave some of these holes open for free agents, fortunately the cut options are plentiful if you ask me, but that’s for another time.

2. The Ring

For the first time since 1950, the World Series doesn’t feature a single American born, African American player.

Now, I’ll be honest, I had no idea until I saw it reported, then saw Dusty Baker’s comments when he was informed, and asked for comment.

“Nah, don’t tell me that,’’ Baker says. “That’s terrible for the state of the game. Wow! Terrible. I’m ashamed of the game. 

“Quote me. I am ashamed of the game.’’

My initial reaction was that too. Hard to believe that we’re here after decades of attempts to diversify the sport, but baseball has some hurdles other sports don’t encounter today.

I’m not someone who believes I understand every subject from all sides, sure I have opinions but I’m not capable of truly understanding everything if for only having different life experiences than others.

So I reached out to someone I banter with on Twitter quite a bit, Wayne Moody, author of the book The Real Story of the Negro Leagues, which is a really good read if you get the opportunity.

Here’s what he had to say…

“The first problem is organized travel Leagues starting in Little League. The cost of participating in these leagues often leaves inner city kids out. Also, you need a bat, glove, spikes, etc. to participate, as opposed to just a ball for basketball, and provided equipment for football. The second factor is, you no longer see kids playing pick up baseball. When I was coming up you had to race to the field to get an opportunity to play. The third factor is, in high school, kids want to play in front of crowds. Basketball and football provide big crowds, while the crowds are sparse in baseball. Finally, Sabermetrics is selectively taking Black players out the game. You no longer see speedy outfields. Balls dropping in that used to be caught, because you have players like Kyle Schwarber in the outfield, because Sabermetrics values guys that hit 40 home runs and strikeout 250 times. All these are reasons baseball has become boring. It’s just a different game, and not for the better.”

Now, I have to say, the first part of his statement, is exactly where my head went. Baseball has become almost as hart to break into as hockey. It’s become a game that you have to start young and almost have to have a champion to push you through. Travel teams, equipment expenses, independent training, and even if you overcome all that, most scouts aren’t scheduling trips to inner city fields looking for that nugget of talent.

I’d also add that the NFL and NBA are an arguably richer, and at least faster to a payday option for a young athlete. Even if going pro isn’t in the stars, college teams in baseball don’t have nearly the same amount of scholarships to offer.

So how do Latin players get around the barrier to entry that money causes here in the states? Well, for the most part it’s Soccer and Baseball. If you show half an ounce of ability there are 20 drooling scouts there waiting with a pen.

I asked Wayne a follow up, how could this be addressed. “Need more people in the communities to step up. A lot of talent in inner city communities”, Wayne Said.

Over the years we’ve seen every MLB team launch some sort of city outreach program to get more kids playing the game, and while that effort is appreciated, unfortunately those programs simply aren’t going to keep up with the extra effort it takes to shepherd a kid from introduction to advanced level baseball.

Baseball has always been proud of breaking the color barrier, but now they need to find a way to make baseball more attractive to the communities that all these teams play in. When a sports starts to become primarily seen as one that requires resources to really advance, interest tends to wain, and I think that’s where we are.

Jackie Robinson once said “I don’t like needing anyone for anything”, but if this game is to attract more American born African Americans to the game, I think we need more from everyone.

3. The Federal Street Horror

For some, the simple fact that your favorite baseball team isn’t playing on Halloween is a horror in and of itself, but for me, another year of letting it play out is potentially an unforced error.

This team will go and buy some help, I just don’t think it’s going to be enough, mainly because they won’t aim high enough.

To me, a minimal investment could potentially get the Pirates into .500 territory, and .500 territory get’s you into the post season conversation.

It’s 100% fine to understand that 2024 is much more likely, but deciding 2023 is out of the question before you even start it, well that’s not in the spirit of competition. I feel this club faced largely the same setup in 2012.

The talent was starting to make it’s way to the big club. They needed some veteran leadership, and more than anything they needed to feel like the team believed in them. The team left gaping holes in their roster. Not trusting the makeup of the team enough to build on it, and caught with their pants down when the team overperformed out of the gate.

I’d love to not look back on 2023 as a missed opportunity to pry the window open, even if it’s nothing more than flirting with the playoffs, and in order for that to be the case, they have to invest some capital instead of crossing their fingers and hoping things will fall into place.

A solid starting pitcher from the left side, a solid catcher who ensures even if Davis and Endy aren’t ready they’re covered, a professional first baseman, and a corner outfielder who has 2 WAR in his game minimally and this team is likely in the hunt for .500. That’s not a lot when your payroll is this small, and none of it would block a single prospect.

The only reason not to do it is to not spend money, plain and simple.

What separates this site from many others is I won’t allow this belief to color everything I write the rest of the year. In other words, once they decide to go in a direction, I’ll mention what I’d have done different, but then it will move toward chronicling how it goes. The alternative is just finger wagging, and honestly, it’s boring.

4. Rocky Horror Awards Season Show

Bryan Reynolds is a finalist for Silver Slugger, and Ke’Bryan Hayes is a finalist for the Gold Glove.

The horror part comes in when you know one of them should win and probably won’t.

Let’s start with Reynolds, it’s his second consecutive nomination for the award and his competition is Mookie Betts, Hunter Renfroe, Kyle Schwarber, Starling Marte, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Soto. His slash line of .262/.345/.461 with 27 bombs an .806 OPS and only 62 RBI is going to undoubtedly leave him short, but congrats for being nominated.

Hayes on the other hand, numerically is superior in every major defensive statistic to his closest competition Nolan Arenado. He legitimately should win this award, but I have my doubts. First off, Arenado has won the award nine years running, and while it shouldn’t be this way, historically this is an award that reputation wins out more often than not.

Hayes and Arenado had the same amount of errors. Hayes led all of major league third basemen in Defensive runs saved at +24, Arenado had +19. Hayes had +18 Outs above average, Nolan had +15.

Look, it’s unquestionably in Hayes’ favor here, but it’s close enough that I could easily see Arenado getting his 10th consecutive Gold Glove.

Offensive acumen shouldn’t play a role, but it often does. And don’t get this confused, who should win the gold glove doesn’t have to be the same answer to which player you’d rather have on your team. All it should mean is which guy was the better defender. That answer is unquestionably and statistically proven mind you, Ke’Bryan Hayes.

5. The Walking Dread

Not trusting this offense to produce led Pirates management to dream up an offensive philosophy of drawing walks being the best method at their disposal to increase on base percentage for a team they saw really struggling to do so naturally.

The Pirates tied for 17th in the league with 476 walks, and it led to one of the worst on base percentages in their history. Good for 28th in the league the Pirates OBP sat at .291 only beaten by the Oakland A’s and the Detroit Tigers.

The philosophy led to taking pitches, a bunch of them, and the Pirates finished 3rd in all of MLB with 1,497 strikeouts. Only bested by the LA Dodgers with 1,539 and the Braves with 1,498.

Clearly those two clubs had several other avenues to create offense.

On base percentage is of course important, but this team sacrificed a whole lot of offensive potential by trying to force it up with one metric. It’s something that has to change, and part of why it’s so unfathomable they’re returning the same exact offensive staff.

It wouldn’t be the first time a coach reinvented himself and his style if he manages to get better out of this club by changing his philosophy, but since his has spanned multiple teams and years, I’m not sure I’m holding my breath that this leopard is changing his spots.


Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

2 thoughts on “Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

  1. Great comments! I completely agree “the cost of participating in these leagues often leaves inner city kids out” is a great point. This, and many other factors, are major barriers for kids and sometimes adults to be able to take part in sports. That why I think sponsorship is so important. Now “we” as a society needs to figure out a way to bring these talented kids in the public eye.

    Liked by 1 person

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