Monday, May 08, 2006

Why the Pirates are driving me insane

I started hinting on this in my post from late last night, but watching Tracy, Littlefield and co. shuffle players around the last couple days is starting to drive me absolutely nuts. It's not that I don't want to see Bautista or Doumit in the lineup, because I do. But the way this whole thing has been executed thus far has made little to no sense, and it's made me pretty much give up on the little hope I had left that Jim Tracy might be a competent manner. Let's analyze some of these situations.

First off, you've got Doumit. I agree with Joe Sheehan's answer to Charlie in a BP chat that Doumit's greatest value is at catcher. He may not be a Gold Glover behind the plate, but everything in his minor league history would indicate that he's better than he showed us at the beginning of the year (see WTM's profile of Doumit) and a good hit/adequate field catcher is more valuable than a good field/no hit catcher, simply because it's tougher to find bats behind the plate than it is in right field or first base (Doumit's other two options). Still, I'm not sure I agree with the assessment of Paulino as a career backup. With Casey hurt, now is a great time to get a look at both of them, to see how Doumit's bat plays in right field or at first and how he handles one of those positions, as well as seeing how Paulino's bat will shake out over a decent period of time in the bigs (the fact that he's drawn zero walks and has zero XBH is rather concerning, still, he's got way more upside than Cota at this point). The problem comes, of course, in that it would appear Doumit will get ABs at first base at the expense of Craig Wilson rather than Jeromy Burnitz. This is inexplicably stupid. Burnitz offers nothing to this team in 2006 or beyond. Not one thing Burnitz does at this point will make himself valuable at the deadline in July, nor can he do anything to endear himself to the fans at this point. He's hopelessly marked as DL's Derek Bell at this point (in that he's a lavishly overpaid and unnecessary signing that was supposed to bring us respectability, not in that he steals money, lives on a boat, and smokes rocks), and I doubt much can change that. I understand that he's a good guy, I know that it's not his fault that DL made him that huge contract offer, but he's not of any use to the current or future Pittsburgh Pirates. Craig Wilson, on the other hand, may have some value at the deadline and honestly, might be willing to stay in Pittsburgh as it seems that he likes the guys on the team and he seems to keep asking for an extension. Keeping him on the bench makes no sense, especially give that he's hitting .266/.355/.574 and Burnitz is hitting .191/.238/.365. Instead of getting Doumit at bats, getting him comfortable in the field, and giving Paulino some more time to prove he can be a big league hitter while still putting our best offensive lineup on the field, we've basically handed Paulino the job behind the plate (based mostly on his catcher's ERA, which while better than Cota or Doumit's is probably mostly based on two facts that he took over a very talented young pitching staff as they started to get comfortable with Colborn's adjustments and that he doesn't have to catch Oliver Perez), panicked on the Eldred situation and stuck Doumit in a position he's never played before, and stuck with a dead end in right field. I may be overreacting to the situation after only a couple games, but given Tracy's quotes and the Bucs prior treatment of Craig Wilson, I don't think I am.

So that leaves us with the Bautista situation. Here we've got a guy that can play a ton of positions, but is a natural third baseman. Since Freddy Sanchez is playing pretty well at third, the Duffy and McLouth look completely lost, and Bautista has played quite a bit of center (and looked good) since the spring, it would make sense to get Bautista some ABs in center. If Jack Wilson's hammy is bad (and indications are that it might be), Bautista plays third and Freddy, a very good defensive shortstop in the minors, can take over for Jack. So what do we do? Call Bautista up, stick him in right (where we won't play Craig Wilson), leave Freddy at third, and start Jose Hernandez at short. Are we serious? I understand that it's only May 8th, I do. I know that it's too soon for Tracy and DL to drop everything with the vets and just put out a lineup of young guys hoping that it'll make us better in 2007, mostly because it will cost Littlefield his job. The problem is, playing Jose Hernandez and Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa doesn't give us a better chance to win. There's no redeeming baseball value in these guys, we have better players at all of their positions.

Instead of simply putting the best baseball team on the field, one which also helps us get better in the future, we're blindly staying with veterans while throwing the young guys at the wall and hoping something sticks. We're already irrationally playing favorites with some of the young guys, while we're setting other guys up for the Craig Wilson career path. You can literally watch it happen before your eyes. Again, maybe I'm being too reactionary. Maybe I shouldn't be judging their long term plans based on a couple games and some quotes in the paper. It just seems to me that the Pirates are currently at a fork in the road and despite the fact that one path is lit up with neon lights screaming "GO THIS WAY! GO THIS WAY!" it would appear that we're leaning in the wrong direction.