Sunday, April 20, 2008

Today's secret word is "Surreal"

Sometimes, when I'm hauling my nets across the web in search of a fresh catch of links for my readers, the stories of the day will all seem to cluster around a theme. It is, of course, just an example of the human brain playing tricks on its owner/operartor, but if you'd still like to take today's false pattern recognition for a test drive, read on:

*This isn't really a new story, but it was new to me, and since I managed to miss it despite a pretty substantial interest in both baseball and politics, I figured I might as well repost it here anyway in case it slipped past any of you guys, too. In the early 1950s, Honus Wagner was living in Carnegie, winding down his career as hitting coach for the Pirates. At that time, he had his milk delivered by a teenager from Greentree, the fifth son of a German immigrant who opened a dairy farm. And that young milkman grew up to be... Texas congressman and fringe presidential candidate Ron Paul. Huh.

*It's been a while since we've seen a good trade rumor, and while this next item isn't a rumor (or, for that matter, good), it's still kind of entertaining. Belleville News-Democrat writer Scott Wuertz thinks that it'd make sense for the Pirates to trade Bay to the Cardinals for Chris Duncan or Skip Schumaker, Anthony Reyes, and either catching prospect Bryan Anderson or a "prospect pitcher", because such a move "would give the Pirates an infusion of young talent". For the record, Reyes is 26, Duncan is 27 (and in his final pre-arb year), and Schumaker is 28. Bay is 29. When you're trying to make a package of young talent, I've generally found that it makes sense to focus on players that are actually, y'know, young. And in the case of Schumaker, some talent wouldn't hurt, either.

*From the mouths of babes:
A few days ago, Gunnar came home from kindergarten and had this conversation with his mother:

Gunnar: "Mom, Josh said something mean today."

Mom: "What did he say?"

Gunnar: "He said the Pirates stink."

Mom: "Well, honey, they do."

Gunnar: "They do?

Mom: "Yep."

Gunnar: "Oh."

-John Steigerwald, The Observer-Reporter

*The previous three items were kind of funny. This one isn't funny at all. Remember what I said about MLB slamming Forbes's numbers without ever providing any of their own? Right on cue, here's Frank Coonelly providing the requisite lies-and-slander quote (via Rob Biertempfel at the Trib). He also spun out a pretty bizarre explanation for the team's planned use of their annual welfare check:
The Pirates expect to receive about $35 million this year through Major League Baseball's revenue-sharing system, Coonelly said, adding that it's incorrect to believe that money must be used only to increase player payroll.

"The revenue-sharing plan says you have to use those proceeds to improve your performance on the field," Coonelly said. "That's written extraordinarily broadly, and we did that on purpose. Paying down debt can help you improve on the field. You can't get any better while you're taking a (huge) interest hit on all the debt you have."

I'm sure that Coonelly's process interpretation is probably correct - if there's one guy you can trust on the rules of baseball, it's probably a lawyer who's the former VP of MLB. Still, any standard that includes debt service as an approved use for the money is so vague as to be completely meaningless.

Jayson Stark at ESPN wrote a column during the labor troubles a couple of years ago that does a really nice job of addressing some of the same issues addressed by Coonelly's quote. I'd like to crib a bit of Stark's work here:
[T]he only meaningful issue in this labor tug of war is competitive balance. And any attempt to harp on anything else is, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, an indication that the competitive-balance talk is nothing but a smokescreen.

"What you're seeing," says one longtime baseball man, "is inconsistent messages. On the one hand, Bud's saying, 'We need more revenue sharing so we can have competitive balance.' On the other hand, you're hearing him talk about all this debt.

"But if these clubs are going to spend that revenue-sharing money on their debt, how does it allow them to spend money on players? If it's about competitive balance, the money has to be spent on the players. And if it's not, what this really is all about is increasing franchise value."

If the industry as a whole is losing money, says another baseball person with no ties to the union, then more revenue sharing doesn't solve that problem. It only changes the problem -- because it doesn't bring any more money in. It just redistributes the money that has already come in.

Emphasis mine. So, like J. Wellington Wimpy, the Pirates will gladly give you a competitive club on Tuesday for another $5 today. It's just a con game. Don't be the mark.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I did not know that

This an' that:

*Mariners pitcher Miguel Batista is an unusual dude. Lots of players write columns or diaries for newspapers, but Batista has a sideline as an honest-to-God professional writer: he's penned two Spanish-language books, a collection of poems (Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro) and a crime novel (Ante Los Ojos De La Ley). We selected Batista in the 1992 Rule 5 draft, and returned him shortly thereafter when our attempt to hide him at the back of the pen Meek-style proved unsuccessful. Apparently, however, we were interested in him a long time before that:
Dominican native Batista says it's nothing new for players from his country to lie about their age, something the sport has cracked down on in recent years as U.S. immigration laws became tougher. He says today's younger players from his country face pressures to lie because scouts have unrealistic expectations of them.

"They expect a kid who's 16 or 17 years of age to have a 95 mph fastball," he said. "How many Americans can do that? They're forcing kids to lie."

Batista says it wasn't the same way when he was coming up in the early 1980s. Back then, at age 15, he had only a 79 mph fastball but couldn't sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates because he was too young. He waited another year and landed a professional contract. -Geoff Baker, Seattle Times

If his dates on B-R are correct, we were looking at him in late '86 or early '87. He signed with the Expos ten days after his 17th birthday. He bounced around a fair bet after we sent him back, but he did eventually turn into a pretty good pitcher.

*Congratulations to longtime Pirate minor leaguer (and Altoona fan favorite) Josh Bonifay, who's in line to graduate with honors next month from UNC-Wilmington. A 33rd-round pick in 1999 (and the son of then-Bucs GM Cam), Bonifay had a pretty good bat, but medical issues gave him trouble on defense, and eventually led to his retirement in the spring of 2007. After Bonifay graduates, he's going to join the coaching staff at Hickory.

Back when Bonifay was still playing, he used to keep a player diary on the web, which I enjoyed reading. This 2003 interview in the much-missed Pirate Report is pretty good, too.

*In an interview about pitcher Brian Bannister, former Pirate coach Rusty Kuntz had an interesting observation about Matt Capps's approach:
Royals coach Rusty Kuntz told McClure that when he was with Pittsburgh, Pirates closer Matt Capps had the ability to decipher an opposing hitter's swing pattern and be able to pitch above or below it. That's one of the traits that so far has set Bannister apart, too. -Scott Miller, CBS Sportsline

Not sure whether it's true or not, but Capps certainly does get plenty of swings-and-misses.

*Jonesin' for a Clemente fix? You're in luck. PBS is going to show a new one-hour documentary on Senor Roberto this Monday night at 9, as part of their "American Experience" series. If you miss the broadcast, there's a webcast available here. On the downside, the director interviews George Will, but on the upside, it's narrated by Jimmy Smits, so that probably cancels out. If your tastes run more toward children's theater, and you're willing to take a road trip, there's a new play in DC called "Looking for Roberto Clemente" that's getting pretty good reviews.

*This isn't strictly Pirate-related, but I wanted to link to it anyway, so I am. A lot of good info there about the pay scale for minor-league players. Seriously, take a minute and look it over.

*Congrats to Charlie at Bucs Dugout, whose site just got linked (in an article about someone else) by the Washington Post.

*Another month, another new Pirates blog. Our army grows! Certainly can't argue with the title of this one...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Morris question

The Trib published an article today about Matt Morris's struggles this year, along with Jeff Andrews's efforts to fix him. I've excerpted a bit for your consideration here:
Morris' latest outing Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers was an eerie repeat of the other two times he stepped on the hill. Morris pitched well the first time through the lineup, then Dodgers batters started hitting the ball like it was batting practice in the Pirates' 11-2 loss at Chavez Ravine.
"It's not puzzling. It doesn't matter what pitch you throw, it's just location and how sharp it is," Morris said. "The second time around and the third time around, my location has been off, so that's where the trouble has been."

Morris battled with the same problems throughout spring training, but shrugged off most of his performances as preparatory work. But those same problems that troubled him throughout seven weeks of workouts and Grapefruit League games -- he had an 0-3 record and 8.32 earned run average in the spring -- followed him north to become a major issue.
"You've just got to continue with what you're doing in the first," Morris said. "I don't know why I'm not as sharp later on, but obviously them seeing more pitches as the game goes on gives them an advantage, so the location's really important at that point." -Keith Barnes, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The cheap and easy answer would be to say that Morris is just washed up, and indeed that may turn out to be the case. His peripherals (particularly K/9) have been in slow-but-steady decline for more than five years now, and when I went to his second start of the year last week, his fastball was sitting in the mid-80s. If you go out and hunt rhinos with a popgun, it shouldn't be any surprise if you end up getting trampled.

That said, I was intrigued by the piece's implication that Morris's struggles don't start until the second or third time through a batting order. If that's true, then the simplest solution might be to take him out before he has a chance to face hitters for the second or third time, by moving him into Dumatrait's role as the team's long reliever. Three games isn't much of a sample, so I went back and looked at Morris's performace in the first two innings of all of his Pirate starts in 2007 and 2008, a grouping of 14 mostly-poor games. If this is a real, potentially-exploitable trend, I figured, it'd probably have started to show up in his games last year as well.

How big was the difference? Pretty huge, it turns out. In Morris's 14 starts in black and gold, he had a RA of 4.82 in the first and second innings. In all other innings combined, he had a RA of 8.17. (I used straight runs allowed rather than earned runs because it helped with a potential source of error - scorers' error/hit calls can vary widely from stadium to stadium, and Morris would've had substantially the same defense backing him in both samples from any given game anyway). I'm not sure what the normal split is for pitchers, but 3.5 runs per nine sure feels like a lot, doesn't it?

That doesn't necessarily mean that I want to see Morris shifted to the pen; there are a lot of potential caveats to my little look at things. The manager's decision tree is a big contaminating factor on inning-by-inning samples (for example, a starter usually won't get pulled until he's tired or pitching badly, which badly skews his aggregate performance in later innings). There are also questions about how well he'd handle an irregular workload or deal with runners inherited from other pitchers, and logistical issues like which of the varying unappetizing candidates would take his rotation spot, or whether the team would do better to give those innings to someone like Dumatrait or Taubenheim in the hope of mining some future value from those guys. There's even a question of whether a middle reliever with a 4.80-ish ERA is something worth having. Still, it might be worth keeping this idea in mind in case Morris is still getting smacked around at the end of May.

$292 million

That's how much R Buccos are worth, according to Forbes Magazine's annual writeup. If that sounds like a lot of money, it's actually not. We rank 28th out of the 30 teams in MLB, ranking ahead of only the two beleaguered Florida squads (and we're only $2M ahead of the Devil Rays), while the average team is worth $472M. Before you start feeling sorry for the team, the current "low" price tag is still a lot more than the $92M the Nutting-McClatchy group paid for the franchise in 1996.

This subpage breaks down Forbes's valuation estimate. They credit us with $146M in value for our share of communal money across MLB (merchandise and the national TV deals and such), $74M in value based on our position in the Pittsburgh market, $48M in value from our stadium deal, and only $23M from the value of the Pirates brand itself. It seems pretty clear that the last number is a reflection of the relentless losing and the general aura of hopelessness that engulfs the franchise. Advertisers aren't going to rush to associate themselves with a perennial punchline.

Forbes also guesstimates our operating income for this year at $18M on revenues of $139M. This is interesting not only because it's a good profit for a team that likes to cry poverty, but also because the operating income has increased dramatically since the Nuttings started to assume a more prominent role in the franchise's operation over the last few years. It's traditional for MLB clubs to condemn these estimates as hideous, inaccurate distortions, but you'll notice that they never actually open their books to provide evidence of this. Regardless, it's one more piece of evidence for fans to use when agitating for the team to pick and sign top-dollar talent in the draft this year.

There's a lot more interesting stuff in there, so make sure you set aside some time to play with it over the next day or two.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Things that make you go "Aaargh!"

There's a new book out about baseball scouting in Venezuala (Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom by Milton H. Jamail), focusing on the work of scout Andres Renier. Renier is currently a special assistant for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a position he's held since 2006. Before that, he worked for the Houston Astros, founding their Venezuelan baseball academy, a facility that produced Bobby Abreu, Richard Hidalgo, Melvin Mora, Carlos Guillen, Freddy Garcia and Johan Santana, among others. Why should you care?

From Kevin Baxter's LA Times review of the book:
During the 1970s and early '80s, oil-rich Venezuela was the wealthiest country in Latin America. More than 75% of the population was middle class and rising, thanks in part to a government that spent lavishly, sending thousands of students abroad to study.

As a result, baseball was considered a game, not a career, and parents weren't beyond hiding a son's glove should he ever get the two confused. The major leagues paid the country little notice.

Then came Black Friday, Feb. 18, 1983 -- the bust in the book's subtitle -- when a steep drop in oil prices led to a devaluation of the bolivar. Before long, more than half of all Venezuelans were considered poor and baseball suddenly was seen as a way to escape poverty, just as it is in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America.

Timing was on Reiner's side then when, less than a year later, the longtime Venezuelan resident approached the Astros, San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates with his idea of a Dominican-style training academy, where Venezuelan prospects could be scouted, signed and developed.

All three turned him down.

Reiner was undeterred, telling everyone that Venezuela could produce as many major leaguers in the next five years as it had in the last 40.

He was wrong, of course. It took eight years.

During that period, Reiner had persuaded new Houston General Manager Bill Wood to spend $60,000 to fund his proposed academy, and in August 1989 the Astros' Venezuelan facility opened in Valencia. And Reiner wasted little time proving his seemingly preposterous projections right: Eight of the first 14 players he signed went on to play in the majors, a ridiculously high success rate.

It's easy to play the "what if" game, but wow, that was a pretty big mistake by Galbreath and Co. How much would we be willing to pay for that kind of exclusive access to a prime talent market now? I guess the take-home lesson is that we need to be open to the long view about similar opportunities in the future.

If you're interested in reading more, this 2005 article from the SF Chronicle is pretty good.

Friday night fights

I have a birthday coming up in a few weeks, and I hope that when I go out for mine, I have a better time than ex-Buc Al Reyes did on his.
According to a report in the St. Petersburg Times, Reyes "fell against a ceramic pot inside the bar," and apparently thought he had been pushed. The 38-year-old then began exchanging words with bar patron Eduardo Mora, who punched Reyes in the face. The paper reported that Reyes then "began to spit blood on the people in the area and began to swing his arms about."

Tampa Police Lieutenant William Ferguson wrote in the official release that Reyes "continued spitting blood and thrashing about," despite frequent attempts by the police to contain the 230-pound right-hander.

Reyes was Tasered twice after refusing command from police authorities to stay down. -Bill Chastain,

Reyes is an interesting case, in that he's been consistently productive throughout an eighteen-year pro career, but hasn't ever had any real job security. You'd think that a guy with a career ERA of 3.79 across 12 seasons would've had at least a few big contracts, but for whatever reason he's never nailed that one big payday (and at this point, he probably never will). He was a pretty good reliever during his time here (2.65 ERA and a 3/1 K/BB in 17 IP), and was equally good during spring training in 2003, but we cut him anyway, in a decision that seemed questionable at the time. It seemed even more questionable after Mike Williams and Brian Boehringer graduated from fighting fires to lighting them (check out the the carnage here). You may also recall that as the spring where we traded Chris Young for Matt Herges, then cut Herges to clear roster space for the impressively portly Dennys Reyes.

I think it's clear who's ultimately to blame for Reyes's troubles: current Devil Rays backup catcher Mike DiFelice, who set a bad example by starting a notable nightclub brawl in the Strip during a road trip with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. A blow-by-blow rundown of the jackassery:
In his report on yesterday's incident, Officer Robert Thomas, who was working an off-duty detail outside Area 51, 2106 Penn Ave., said he was called inside the club about 1:25 a.m. to help remove a "very disorderly person."

Inside, Thomas said, he saw security personnel trying to remove a "wild and unruly" man, later identified as DiFelice. He said he helped security by grabbing DiFelice's legs and pulling him outside.

Once outside, DiFelice got to his feet and punched parking valet James Tramonte, 24, in the face "for no apparent reason," Thomas reported.
According to Thomas, the trouble began when DiFelice began rubbing the arms of a stranger, a 28-year-old Tarentum woman who is a body-builder. Her name is being withheld because the Post-Gazette does not identify accusers or victims in sex-related cases.

DiFelice told the woman he liked her arms but the woman told him to stop. DiFelice then reached down and grabbed the woman's buttocks, police were told. A 35-year-old woman, also from Tarentum, told DiFelice to stop bothering her friend but he responded by putting a lighter to her buttocks, police reported.

The first woman then pushed DiFelice away and he punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground. Security personnel grabbed DiFelice but he broke loose and ran back to the woman, who was still on the floor, and started beating her again. That's when Thomas was summoned. -Michael A. Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By that standard, maybe Reyes doesn't look so bad.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Coming clean

Another Pirate from the '90s went on the record about PED use this week. Ed Sprague, a third baseman who was the Pirates' All-Star representative in 1999, admitted in an interview with the Stockton Record on Thursday that he used amphetamines (against the law then and now) and androstenedione (legal at the time, but since banned) during his playing career, and that he also used a corked bat during a game. I don't want to excerpt it, because the whole thing is worth reading.

I'm pretty impressed by Sprague's frankness here. Nothing is going to help people come to terms with the PED issue in baseball more than honest dialog, and Sprague is one of only a few guys to talk about using PEDs who wasn't either confessing after being caught or throwing someone else under a bus to avoid some type of sanction. It doesn't seem like he had any ulterior motive for speaking out right now; he just gave honest answers to whatever questions a local reporter felt like asking him. Similarly, he didn't try to abrogate the moral authority for his decision by blaming someone else. He's currently a coach at the University of the Pacific, and I hope he doesn't get in trouble for doing the right thing here. His players can learn a lot more from someone willing to be up-front about the pros and cons of PEDs than from someone who'd rather pretend that the issue doesn't exist.

This is also another blow against the errant notion that only huge stars use PEDs. Before the Mitchell Report came out, I lost track of the number of Pittsburgh fans who jumped to the conclusion that our players were axiomatically clean because the teams they played on were too bad to have been chemically enhanced. In reality, mid-level players and scrubs have just as much incentive to use PEDs as stars, if not more.

On the lighter side of PED use, I thought that this article from the Huntsville Times about Braves prospect Jordan Schafer, recently suspended for using HGH, was pretty funny when viewed selectively in the light of recent events:
Jordan Schafer was muddling in mediocrity in 2005, struggling to reach base as a first-year minor leaguer.

That's when the Atlanta Braves prospect made an $80,000 investment he called "the best thing I've ever spent my money on."
"I wouldn't be where I am today without it," he said. "At first, I just went up there and swung."

He went from a moderate prospect to leading all of minor-league baseball with 176 hits last season. Already a talented defensive center fielder, he torched Single-A pitching, rising from the 27th-rated prospect in Atlanta's system to No. 1, according to Baseball America.

Now 21, he was among the top players in the Arizona Fall League this offseason and hit over .300 this spring with the big-league Braves before being joining Double-A Mississippi.

"He's electric," said Mississippi manager Phillip Wellman. "He's got all the tools."
After an adaptation period, Schafer believes he has found the formula to reach the majors."

He's actually talking about a ProBatter pitching simulator (like the one the Pirates bought this spring), but I still thought it was pretty funny.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Welcome back, Craig

I would've posted about this earlier, but the news apparently overloaded some vital structure of my brain, and I collapsed into a twitching heap on the ground, rendered insensate by pure, unadulterated joy. The fan part of me doesn't care that he struggled last year, or that he failed a physical only a few months ago. Watching Craig succeed despite the best efforts of the Littlefield regime was inspirational, and seeing him return to the organization is like having a favorite cousin return from the war. Who cares if he's missing a few toes? He's back where he belongs.

It doesn't hurt that the move makes sense for the organization, either. We've been using the immortal Matt Kata to man first base at AAA Indianaopolis, and you'd have to think that even a diminished Craig would be able to beat that standard. If he's able to prove that he's healthy, he'd presumably put himself into consideration for a spot on the ML roster, which is good because doing so would help remedy one of the biggest flaws on the current team: A complete and utter lack of bench power.

The Pirates' current roster was constructed through a series of small decisions that all made sense in isolation, but when viewed in aggregate didn't exactly come together like Voltron. We weren't able to find a Nady trade over the offseason, and then elected to keep him as the RF starter rather than a primary 1B/LF/RF backup, which in turn shunted Pearce back to AAA. We entered camp with two positions up for grabs (catcher and CF), and in both cases the power-hitting player won the job, taking Nate and Doumit out of the running for the role of bench thumper. We non-tendred Phelps, since we were unwilling to risk paying him $1M+ in arbitration, and then we didn't attract any of the top NRI power threats (like John Rodriguez or Dallas McPherson). We signed Doug Mientkiewicz to be the backup 1B; while a decent player, he's no power threat. We signed Chris Gomez to be a UT IF, and then apparently concluded that he can't handle shortstop at this point in his career; this gave us a backup 2B/3B with no power and required us to set aside another roster spot for a backup SS, who would also have little power. We stayed committed to Morris in the rotation, necessitating a seven-man pen to help pick up the slack from his frequent early departures, eating up another roster spot. And here we are. We've got five bench bats, and none of 'em have ever hit even 20 homers in any professional season, majors or minors.

If Craig is healthy and productive, he should be an effective remedy for our ills. If not, we could spend a large slice of this year waiting in vain for a rally that'll never come.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Slaughter of the innocents

Baseball America just posted their latest minor league transaction log today. It includes some names on the cut list that should be familiar to anyone who's followed our minor league system over the last few years:

*Jason Sharber, a good-looking righty who hasn't been able to pitch since early 2004 due to a series of arm problems. He was trying a comeback this spring, but things apparently didn't work out, and this is likely the end of his pro career. A look back at Lynchburg's 2002 roster is a good reminder of the inherent instability of young pitching. Every starter on that team looked like one variety or another of prospect, but Burnett and Sharber got hurt, and Jacobsen, Connolly, and Borner were finesse guys who apparently didn't have the stuff to handle the transition to the upper minors. Bennett looks like he's finally establishing himself with the Braves, but even he didn't exactly have a smooth ride to the bigs: He got picked in the Rule 5 draft, had Tommy John surgery, got released, missed the entire 2006 season, and gained more than 50 pounds.

*Cameron Blair, a sixth-round pick from 2005. Blair had the misfortune of being an offensively-minded second baseman whose bat didn't translate to the bigs. He looked pretty lost from day one, and also spent part of 2006 on the restricted list for reasons that have never really become clear. I don't think he'll be missed, but it's a pretty strong indictment of your scouts when they miss this badly on a fairly high pick, and our success rate on middle infielders in particular has been low in recent years. Which brings us to our next guy...

*Taber Lee, the brother of former ML 1B Travis Lee. Taber was our third-round pick in 2002. The selection was pretty roundly criticized in the fan community at the time, as a microcosm for the Creech/Littlefield/McClatchy drafting preferences for gloves over bats, ML proximity over ceiling, and signability over everything else. Regarded as a future utility infielder, Lee was unable to reach even that modest ceiling, as his glove was not as strong as had been previously assumed.

*Mauricio Mendez, one of the three guys we took in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft this year. His stat line was interesting, and I wonder why they didn't take a longer look at him. He's actually the second of our Rule 5 picks this year to depart before suiting up in a game; we also sent Rafael Cruz Chavez to a Mexican team a few months ago.

*Vic Buttler, one of the longest-tenured players in the organization. Part of Mickey White's insanely productive 2000 draft, Buttler joined the franchise in the 14th round as a 19-year-old outfielder from El Camino College. Over eight years, he played at every level of the farm system, making league All-Star teams in 2002 and 2006. If you've seriously followed any of our affiliates for a few years, you've probably seen him play at least once or twice.

Those may be the big names (for varying values of "big"), but there were a lot of other cuts as well. Fairly anonymous guys, drafted in the 30th round, or the 40th, or not at all, who pitched a dozen innings in the GCL, or sat on the bench at State College. They all knew that the odds were long, but they've played baseball all their lives, and they wanted to believe that they'd be the next Mike Piazza (62nd round, '88) or Rob Mackowiak (53rd round, '96). Now, they'll try to catch on with an indy league team, or settle into that sales job. Maybe give coaching a try.

From an institutional standpoint, it's a good thing that the Pirates won't need to fill their short season team with late-round college players anymore, but there's still a certain pathos in watching the guys who didn't have The Right Stuff pack up their gear and go. That's baseball, red in tooth and claw. Every shiny new draft pick is taking someone else's job, and even if you are one of the lucky chosen few with an arm or a bat touched by God, you aren't going to be able to make it to MLB without stepping over the bodies of a dozen other guys who had the same hopes and dreams.