Every day, I will be presenting a season preview for individual MLB teams. Today we look at the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates may take the title for worst professional sports team of the last 15 years. The Andy Van Slyke, Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds years, which seem a lifetime ago, gave them three division titles from '90-'92. Right around that time, free agency was implemented and this spelled doom for the financially challenged Buccos. Bonds left after the '92 season and the rest is history. Eighteen years later, the Pirates still haven't been back to the postseason. Youth movement after youth movement came and went. Players who were supposed to be the future were traded for more and more prospects as they matured. Recently names like Nate McClouth, Jason Bay, Ian Snell, Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson. Go a few more years back and you'll remember names like Kris Benson, Jason Kendall, Brian Giles and Aramis Ramirez. Notice a pattern here? The Pirates have never been able to stick with their core. All players stated above were traded while still within the prime of their careers.
So here we are again. A lineup full of promising young players, but a lineup that won't be consistent enough. Way too many question marks. Andrew McCutcheon looks like a star in the making...
But that's just it. The Pirates are always "in the making." When they traded McClouth, a 27-year-old coming off an All-Star appearance and a Gold Glove, I was awestruck. It became clear to me that the Pirates just don't care about money, only the bottom line. They have what is regarded as the most beautiful ballpark in all of baseball, yet they were 2nd to last in attendance last season in the NL, which is really a shame. Ownership deserves this. They deserve having no fans because they never pay anyone. They never pay their young developing players after they reach free agency and they never bring in high priced free agents. The onset of free agency killed this team, in a town with rich baseball history. It sucks, but better days don't even seem to be ahead for this franchise.
...Traded for late in the 2009, Lastings Milledge will now get his third chance to live up to the hype that surrounded him during his minor league days. I remember when he first came up and he was running around Shea Stadium slapping hands with all the Mets fans. He has had a lot to live up to and so far has not done so. Love Ryan Doumit too. Had a tough injury last year, but in a league where catchers are scarce, Doumit will be an All-Star this season. He's got pop. Their infield is laughable. Where is the offense going to come from?
The Starters are solid. Ross Ohlendorf is a guy I really like. Imposing size and solid control. Needs to strike out more hitters to truly become a star. Paul Maholm is also very solid. I can see him being a good number 4 for a playoff club, look for him to be moved for more prospects as usual at the deadline. Zach Duke is average. Way overhyped. At 27, one would expect this to be his breakout season. He lost 16 games last year.
This team sucks. Until they get some owner like Arte Moreno (LAA) or Michael Illitch (DET), the Pirates will be garbage. They have no long term goals. They ship out their stars to avoid paying them. Truly the sorriest franchise of the last 15 years in all of professional sports. 6th in the NL Central.
By Erik Lambertsen