Monday, January 7, 2008

Nepotism is the new black

Remember when the Tracy-led Pirates seemed to be trying to pick up every known Tracy-era Dodger? Mike Edwards and Cesar Izturis and Giovanni Carrara and Jose Hernandez, that whole fun crew? How much fun was that?

Not fun at all, you say? Then why are we reconstructing scouting director Greg Smith's 2002 Detroit Tigers, a team that lost 106 games? So far we've got minor-league deals for Adam Bernero and Jose Macias, along with a Rule 5 selection of Corey Hamman and (old) rumors of trade interest in Brandon and the Angry Inge.

Who will be the next player to swap his faded stripes for an eyepatch? Jeff Weaver is still out there as a free agent, but deep down in your heart I bet you know the real answer.

History is just one big circle.


WTM said...

Let's hope Bobby Higginson doesn't announce a comeback bid.

Grayscale ~ "Your Color Choice" said...

I still like Inges D-fense and motor,he's a gamer, I just don't like his contract. Thanks for the info, you really do a great job. You even inspireded me to set up a blog for my painting company check it out sometime.

WilliamJPellas said...

Count me as another one who would gladly take Inge, even with his below-average-for-his-position stick. His defense, his professionalism, and his competitiveness would all look very good in black and gold.

Regarding Smith and his drafts, it's true that the Tigers lost 106 games in '02, but of course they got a lot better very quickly soon after that. Was any of that improvement the result of Smith's players reaching the majors? Does he deserve no credit whatsoever for Detroit's resurgence?

Also, let's not forget that whatever else is/was true of Tracy's Scrubeenies, not all of them stunk. Carrara in particular was a very effective reliever for several seasons before signing here, Jose Hernandez was just fine as our 25th man, and Izturis didn't look terrible in '07 and might have lit a fire under Jack Wilson. A lot of managers/coaches like to bring in a handful of "their" guys---loyal soldiers---from their previous stop as a way to more quickly change the culture in the locker room.

WTM said...

Smith drafted Verlander, Granderson and Zumaya. Those are the only draftees of his who made any meaningful contribution to the Tigers' improvement. For the length of time he was running their drafts, that's neither terrible nor good, just mediocre.

Acquiring Inge for his "intangibles" would be exactly what the Pirates did with Randa and Casey. That sure worked out well.

Hernandez sucked with the Pirates. A .678 OPS from a guy who could no longer play anywhere effectively except 1B is crap, whether he's the 15th man or the 25th.

Izturis also sucked. A .643 OPS is putrid and he's not the defensive player he used to be, certainly not in Wilson's class. What lit a fire under Wilson was the prospect of getting traded to a major league team.

WilliamJPellas said...

Casey was coming off a series of significant injuries and is a bit (though not much) older than Inge, and so was a much bigger risk than Inge would be. Casey was also a consistent .300-plus hitter for several years. Seems to me that hitting over .300 is generally not considered "an intangible". Also, last time I checked, Gold Glove-caliber defense such as Inge can play is likewise NOT "an intangible".

Jose Hernandez was the 25th man on the roster, the utilityman who gets maybe 150 at bats per year and is otherwise on the team as a defensive replacement and pinch-hitter and injury insurance. Definitely NOT the role in which you want a rookie or young guy. Meanwhile, I don't know that there were or are a lot of other, similar guys who would have wanted to play for Pittsburgh, and no, Yurendell DeCaster was NOT the answer.

As for Izturis, again, the main value in bringing in one or two (but no more than one or two) "good soldier" types has to do with clubhouse management and team chemistry. I'm not saying that Jim Tracy was or ever will be Walter Alston or even Tommy Lasorda. I'm merely pointing out the rationale behind the move. Certainly Izturis is not any kind of long term answer, though he had a very good year for LA once upon a time before he got hurt. As I've said elsewhere, Bill Parcells does this sort of thing all the time in the NFL, and nobody says a word because he is successful and bringing in "his guys" is of course his prerogative as the head man. Obviously Tracy is not and will never be Bill Parcells, and in any case we're now on to the, er, John Russell Era.

Certainly the Pirates' problems run far deeper and are much more comprehensive and systemic in nature than Tracy's Scrubeenies. If you want to carp about how such moves as Izturis were indicative of the bigger problems, okay. I'm speaking about them merely on the surface of things, at face value.

WTM said...

That's pretty funny. Casey hit .300 despite his injuries, while the healthy Inge has gone from decent to awful with the bat over the last several years, but Casey was the bigger risk? And Casey also was supposed to upgrade the defense.

By all accounts, clubhouse chemistry under Tracy was terrible. Izzy and Jose obviously worked wonders there.

Personally, I'd prefer they get good players first, then worry about professionalism and chemistry. Burnitz, Casey and Randa were all classy, professional guys. What that amounted to was that they were good losers.

WilliamJPellas said...

Obviously Casey had a long and catastrophic injury history prior to coming here, a history that has in all probability now ended his career. Inge's struggles with the bat are not due to injury, so I submit that we are much more likely to get career average performance from Inge than we were from Casey---much as I like Casey as a person, and much as I admired Casey's early career performance.

Meanwhile, the Tigers are---if recent Detroit News reports are any indication---about ready to trade Inge for a bucket of baseballs. If he can be had on the cheap, and if the Tigers would be willing to defray, say, a third of his salary, absolutely: I'd take him in a heartbeat. We could then move Jose Bautista to a super-utility role, which in my view would give us a stronger team in the short term. IMO, it would also make it easier to deal Jason Bay, though it remains to be seen if Neil Huntington has the chops to maximize Bay's value in trade.

WilliamJPellas said...

BTW, you're right in principle about Randa, et al. While intangibles such as professionalism are certainly important, on field performance is still the most important consideration, obviously. I'll quibble a tad about "The Joker" because he could still play, he just got hurt and while he was recovering, Freddy Sanchez emerged as a legitimate All-Star. Burnitz, unfortunately, proved to be used up, and Casey---again---just couldn't stay healthy.

I don't think there's much, if any, debate among most serious Pirates fans and observers about what is needed here. Obviously, a substantial if not total teardown-rebuild of the major league roster is mandatory, along with a complete overhaul of, and re-investment in, our entire player acquisition and minor league systems. Whether any of that will occur under new management depends mostly on what old ownership decides. I think Huntington and Coonelly are at least fairly capable, but whether they have the mandate from Bob Nutting is the question that remains to be answered.