Wednesday, January 12, 2005

New Pirates Q+A!!!

I give you exclamation points because I finally have something nice to say.

I've read the Post-Gazette's Pirates Q+A for several years now and contributed to it a few times. It was never any good - the questions were fraught with small-market Pirate-pity, and the answers might as well have been written from someone inside the Pirates organization rather than an objective observer.

It looks like things are going to change now that Dejan Kovacevic controls the conch. Not only are his contributions this week mostly very fair and reasonable, the contributions from readers are much better than they've ever been, and not just because Primer regulars Wilbur Miller and Stephen Zielinski wrote in.

Here are some choice excerpts:

Reader: I think the success of the 1997 team is the root of why the Pirates were bad when PNC Park opened. That was supposed to be the first year a five-year rebuilding plan. The team was supposed to lose 100 games, finish in last place by a mile, and no one was going to complain. But something happened. The whole division stunk and the Pirates overachieved, keeping them in the division race until the last week of the season. So, the Pirates entered 1998 with a weaker roster in a stronger division. When the 1998 team failed to perform, Bonifay decided to abandon the plan.

There's nothing I can add to that but a nod.

Kovacevic: The unspoken question here is this: Why is third base seen as so secure? Anytime the Pirates discuss their options for improving the offense, the outfield and first base are mentioned, but never third base.

Anyone feel like looking up the numbers to compare the Pirates' production from third base to the rest of the National League in 2004? I am guessing that it is not favorable.

Okay. This is a great question. The reason third base is seen as secure is because Dave Littlefield traded his best trading chip at the time for Ty Wigginton and a couple of B-grade prospects. In order to make the trade look good, Littlefield now has to spend the next year or so pretending that Wigginton is a good baseball player. That's not a good reason why Wigginton's job is secure for now, but it's a reason.

The Pirates finished dead last in the NL with a .646 OPS from third base in 2004. A lot of that was the fault of Chris Stynes, but Wigginton also added to the stink - he also had a .646 OPS for the Pirates. In fact, the only Pirate who hit like a real third baseman while playing third base last year was Rob Mackowiak.

Rowdy wrote a really nice post about Mackowiak and Wigginton a couple of days ago that I've been meaning to mention. Rowdy wonders why Wigginton should be handed the job, especially since Mackowiak bats left-handed and Wigginton is a righty. I think platooning them is a good idea, at least until the Pirates acquire a better option or Freddy Sanchez plays circles around them both. Wigginton probably will hit better than a .646 OPS in 2005, but not that much better, and his fielding is a mess. Sanchez is supposed to be an adequate shortstop, so he should make a good third baseman, and his hitting could be much better than Wigginton's.

Back to Kovacevic:

There also was a near-universal call to challenge the Pirates' decisions, to scrutinize the team's finances, to keep a constant tally of payroll and expenditures, to interview Nutting, to wiretap McClatchy's phone, to rip through his bank records and many other suggestions in a similar vein. As one reader put it, "Question everything!"

I'm happy to know that other readers are as dissatisfied as I am. This Q+A is really encouraging. Keep it up, Mr. Kovacevic - and question everything!


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