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Why the Pirates lose

Sep 22, 2010, 11:30 AM EDT

One of the only redeeming things about the Pirates’ abysmal season is that Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette has been on a roll lately. Rather than just trot out the tired old “the Pirates are really, really bad” columns, he’s been exploring why they’re bad, oftentimes in interesting ways.

Today is a good example. Kovacevic explains why the Pirates got rid of Jose Bautista. Seems that when they decided he was a platoon player — which may have been a defensible decision when it happened — they took his displeasure with that as disloyalty and a bad attitude. Kovacevic debunks that, however:

Athletes always see themselves as better than they are. That’s how a Don Kelly gets to the majors. That’s how a Jay Bell becomes a Gold Glover. That’s how a Doug Mientkiewicz carved out 400 at-bats here a couple years ago. That’s even how an Albert Pujols  goes from being someone who could be really good without trying to maybe the best hitter of his generation. Thinking big. Talking big. It’s part of sports.

When players say that they do not see themselves as bench guys or minor-league guys, even if it goes against the evaluation of management, it is not insubordination to express that. This is the major leagues. It is not the utopian order found in the minor leagues, where all the socks are pulled high and all the buzzcut coaches are barking out orders. Players here speak their minds.

Absolutely. There’s a difference between a clubhouse cancer and a competitive player. The good organizations understand that difference. The bad ones — the ones who worry about insubordination all the time — don’t.  Until the Pirates figure that kind of thing out, they’ll continue to make bad choices.

  1. Trevor B - Sep 22, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Really though, this all boils down to the owner of the Pirates. He is essentially OK with a losing team. He says he doesn’t like it but the team makes money and still sells tickets. You could say he really only cares %70 or %80 percent. Most people will only give 70 or 80 percent if their boss cares 70 or 80 percent.

  2. mattjg - Sep 22, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Dejan takes two isolated incidents and attempts to find a pattern. Why are the Pirates so bad? Because the previous regime was one of the most inept in baseball history and traded away all the Pirates assets for just about nothing. No one thought Neil Walker would play as well as he has. When he showed he could hit Major League pitching this year, the Pirates made him their full-time second baseman. Taking one or two incidents and extrapolating those into an explanation of why a team loses is just lazy, bad journalism.

  3. Tdk - Sep 22, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    This is patently ridiculous.
    Jose Bautista in 2006 (with Pirates) – 235/335/420 in 400 AB’s. 16 HR.
    Jose Bautista in 2007 (with Pirates) – 254/339/414 in 614 AB’s. 15 HR.
    Jose Bautista in 2008 (with Pirates and Blue Jays) – Around 224/237/411 with 15 HR’s.
    And you really think the Pirates were out of line with not putting up with crap from him after they finally platoon him after around 2 years of this guy? Jose Bautista was a bad baseball player until 2010. Even in 2009 he hit 235/349/408 with 13 HRs.
    Would you believe this guy if he thought he was the best ever? I hope you’re prepared to take gambles on everyone who puts up mediocre 700ish OPS from premium offensive spots and have mediocre to poor defense, on the off chance one of them breaks out in a way no one could have predicted. Let’s think about this please.
    I’m a Pirates fan. I know they’ve been bad – who doesn’t know it? And they’ve made some terrible personnel decisions on all levels over the course of their losing streak. But I really think there’s hope in Pittsburgh, and I wish the media would refrain from the standard knock on the Pirates, at least in the unreasonable fashion shown in cases like this. DK is a good reporter, but he was off the mark here.

  4. mattjg - Sep 22, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    Where is the evidence that Nutting doesn’t care about winning? The Pirates are among the top spenders on the draft, international signings and building foreign baseball academies since Nutting took over less than four years ago. Signing expensive free agents at this point in the team’s rebuilding process would just be stupid.

  5. JBerardi - Sep 22, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    Honestly. Did anyone anywhere second-guess the Pirates ditching Bautista at the time it happened? Was Bautista considered to be some sort of vast, untapped well of talent?

  6. Craig Calcaterra - Sep 22, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    I don’t read Kovacevic saying that they were wrong to platoon Bautista and ultimately dump him if it was a talent consideration. He’s saying that the decision to dump was made after Bautista said he thought he could be an everyday player. If what he’s saying is true, and the primary reason for getting rid of Bautista was that he was “insubordinate” that is a problem.

  7. carbon14 - Sep 22, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    Its not just a sports thing… the higher you set your sites, the higher you’re likely to go. If the Pie-Rats think that’s ‘insubordination,’ well, let’s just say I’m glad I’m from Philthadelphia

  8. Giant Space Ants - Sep 22, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    Surprised they didn’t make him walk the plank.
    Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

  9. Tdk - Sep 22, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    How could it not be a talent consideration though? He was platooned BECAUSE he didn’t put up the numbers showing he could be an every day player. To complain after lackluster performance (and who knows how insubordinate he was) would probably lead most to conclude he’s a bad apple, and dump him. I don’t think that’s bad.

  10. The Real Shuxion - Sep 22, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    Encore! Encore!

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