Pirates fans - you have so much to live for. Yes, I know Xavier Nady had 6 RBIs today. I understand that you can't turn on SportsCenter without seeing a Fenway standing O for Jason Bay. I realize that the Pirates dropped the past two games to the Cubs.
BUT...the trades over the past week made by the Pirates show a fundamental difference between this Pirates front office and those that came before it: mainly, an understanding of the term "value".
Consider: when the Pirates traded Aramis Ramirez on July 23, 2003, he was coming off a season in which he batted .234 with 18 home runs (and also was suspended for throwing a batting helmet at Ben Sheets). At the time of the trade, his fielding percentage was an almost career low .924 and his slugging percentage was down almost 20 points from the year before (BaseballReference.com).
Consider: Jason Schmidt won 10, 11, and 13 games in '97, '98, and '99 for the Pirates. In 2000, he was hurt, seeing his record finish at 2-5 and his ERA blimp from the 4 and change territory to 5.40. In 2001, Schmidt had a 6-6 record with a 4.61 ERA and the Pirates traded him. OK numbers considering the talent on those Pirates teams, but dropoffs compared to his earlier numbers (BR.com again).
Now, the decisions to trade Schmidt and Ramirez are perhaps worth defending to some degree. While both had looked like potential key players for the future of the Buccos, their play had fallen off due to perceived laziness in one case and injury in another. If players aren't performing well, there are obviously plenty of other ones who would love a chance to play on any MLB team, even if it is the Pirates.
But considering the observable talent of Ramirez and Schmidt, it would have been wise for any other team to pluck them off the Pirates. Struggling in Pittsburgh? Everyone struggles there. Low risk move for us. I'm sure many GMs were quick to make such low risk moves with the Pirates during those years of ineptitude.
Flash forward to the future. Marte, Bay, and Nady are all enjoying career years, the two outfielders in particular. Their stock has never been (and may never again be) higher. When you are a struggling team small market team, what other choice do you have than to use the only leverage you have, in this case being the trade-ability of high performing players like Nady and Bay? You don't have any other choices. You bring back quantity and quality to the furthest extent you can.
Ramirez and Schmidt were sold low, Bay and Nady were sold high. The quantity of the return on the former was questionable, the quantity of the latter is diverse and large. I had grown to love and respect Jason Bay this year more than any other, but it is simple economics/mathematics/Brittle-Bonics: if your back has been against a wall for almost two decades, you sell high, spread your investments, and go from there. It's hard to concretely say that Neil Huntington has accomplished much in his new role as GM, but at the very least, he has shown some aptitude for assessing "value" within a ball club. And for that, there is reason to hold on and see what happens.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Posted by Pat at 5:12 PM