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.


dps569 said...

Thrilled to see Craig back in the org. So far, judging by AAA numbers, it looks like he's still working out the kinks. I hope he can find his way back to Pittsburgh.

One minor typo to note: you said we non tendered Pearce but certainly meant Phelps.

Vlad said...

Yeah, Freudian slip, fixed now. Thanks for pointing it out.