Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Giles Trade Revisited

Baseball Prospectus has a look at last year's Brian Giles trade.

I'm usually pretty critical of the Pirates' recent management - they haven't had a winning season in over a decade and they haven't deserved to. Just in the three years Dave Littlefield has been the team's general manager, the Pirates have traded two of their top players (Aramis Ramirez and Jason Schmidt) for next to nothing; traded real prospects (Chris Young, Kody Kirkland) for mediocre veterans they didn't need; lost enormous amounts of young talent via waivers and the Rule 5 draft while protecting worthless veterans; bent over backwards to re-acquire a player lost in that draft, costing them even more talent; blocked talented young players (Craig Wilson, J.J. Davis) for no good reason; and had drafts that appear so far to have been very poor.

Honest Wagner writes, "Knee-jerk negativity about the players, the owners, the GM, or the scouting people will not help to arouse the legion of dormant Pirate fans and point them in the direction of beautiful PNC Park."

I really want to see the Pirates win. But it is not my duty to cheerlead for a front office that has a long history of not taking winning as seriously as I do. And hey, maybe if I criticize enough, someone in the front office will notice and change some policies, or hire a better GM.

If the Pirates want more fans to come through the turnstiles, they need to make decisions that are geared toward helping the team contend. More ticket sales and more money would help them, but they don't need those things to win. What they need more than anything else is a good general manager and an owner that plans for the future rather than the present. Right now, they simply don't have either of those things.

Despite all that, I've got to give credit where credit is due: the Giles trade is looking like a great one for the Pirates. Unlike Baseball Prospectus, I thought it was a pretty good deal at the time - everyone knew Jason Bay would hit, Cory Stewart's strikeout numbers showed potential, and I was a big fan of Oliver Perez, who put up excellent strikeout numbers in the minors and then was great in 2002 for the Padres. I didn't think he'd be this good this soon, but young players with high upsides will sometimes surprise you by being better than expected.

But problems can arise when we view this trade (and the Kip Wells for Todd Ritchie deal, which is about the only other good trade Littlefield has made) as an excuse for the zillions of transactions the Pirates have lost. In a recent comment to this site, a reader wrote, "Win big, lose small. Oliver Perez and Jason Bay are going to cover a lot of minor mistakes for a long time."

This might be a good argument if the Pirates were the Yankees, but they're not, and this is where the Pirates' small-market status is a major disadvantage. The Pirates have very little margin for error. They've got to come out way ahead in their transactions and drafts, or else they'll continue to lose. So it's not enough for Bay and Perez to merely offset dozens of smaller mistakes; for the Pirates to maximize their meager resources, they've got to win most of those smaller deals too. If Littlefield deserves a tip of the cap for the Giles trade - and I think most would agree that he does - he also deserves a number of kicks in the shins* for the number of moves he's made that have set the Pirates back.

*Please do not actually kick Dave Littlefield in the shins. And if you do, don't blame me.


Blogger Rowdy said...

Context, brother. That post is not about how all Pirate fans have a duty to be cheerleaders. Not at all.

My bitch with BP is that they promote themselves as objective and impartial, and then they go and make a running joke of a small-market team. It's petty of them and, as I think we saw in that article, they've thought twice about it. As Pirate fans we don't have to sit back and let writers who claim to be objective and impartial make ill-informed comments about the team. If they want to slam the Bucs, let them tell the truth. Otherwise, no more of this made-up bullshit.

That post was not to make fans like you feel bad about speaking your mind about the team. Hell, no. That post was directed at the BP guys. If it would have any effect on Bucco fans, it would be, I hope, that they'd get pissed off the next time some jackass on Baseball Tonight says they are one of the two worst teams in baseball. If it was true, they could get pissed off at the team. Since it's not true, they should be pissed off at BBTN.

I think the people at outlets like BP and BBTN don't mean much ill will towards the Pirates. It's just they've gotten into bad habits. They aren't paying attention and they're in a rut. As a Pirate fan, I think we should jaw back at them for that. What happens when we do that? We get more coverage like that BP mea culpa. Will that help the team? You bet it will help the team.

55,000 fans turned out to watch the Steelers play an exhibition game. Let them say all the bullshit they want about the Steelers. The Pirates are in a different situation. All we're asking for, from the writers who want to make a living covering all of baseball, from the writers who want to have a reputation for being impartial, objective, and professional, is that they pay attention and report the truth. There's been enough true badness. They don't need to be making up new bad shit that's not true. I think they'd appreciate it if we sent them a wake-up call every time they do something like that.

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