I take a certain amount of pride in writing about the Pirates in what I hope is a well-reasoned, nuanced way, and so to me (and many others) a complex event like the Nate McLouth deal presents an interesting opportunity to examine something from a lot of different angles, place it in context going back and forward several years, and try to make points that no one else has made yet. Yes, there are emotions involved, and I don't like the idea of watching McLouth play for another team, but one would hope that everyone blathering about the deal would take at least a few minutes to figure out what's really going on. Apparently, though, that's too much to ask, and the Pirates and the chattering class that surrounds them have become stars in the world's most ridiculous melodrama.
The Post-Gazette's editorial page, for example, slams team president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington for "breaking faith" with the fans--as if signing McLouth to a long-term deal meant the Pirates forfeited the right to trade him if they received an offer they deemed too good to pass up. The editorial describes the trade as a "salary dump," a totally unsubstantiated charge that is very unlikely to be true. Since Kevin McClatchy disappeared from view, the Pirates have spent tens of millions of dollars on the draft and in Latin America, which are good places to spend if you actually want to win rather than just creating the appearance of wanting to win. Also, McLouth's contract contained a $1.5 million signing bonus that the Pirates already paid--if they approached the contract with the intention of dumping the salary later, the inclusion of the bonus was certainly an odd choice. The Post-Gazette editorial, which is supposed to be the voice of reason for the entire paper, could have bothered to figure out who the prospects were, whether they were worth trading McLouth for, and what they really meant in terms of the future of the ballclub. They might have even bothered to figure out how good McLouth actually is before deciding that losing him broke this sacred fan covenant, but their mention of his absurd Gold Glove in the second paragraph suggests they didn't really worry about that. Instead, the Post-Gazette just decided to accuse the Pirates of lying and dumping salary.
Oh, and then there's this:
In one corner of the Pirates' clubhouse at PNC Park, the small, circular metal table between the stalls of relievers Sean Burnett and Jesse Chavez had a candle lit atop it, adorned by the No. 13 of Nate McLouth and an accompanying photo of him in full uniform.
You'd think McLouth died. If the players didn't want him to be traded, perhaps they could've, y'know, played better. Or picked a line of work where players didn't get traded all the time.
Adam LaRoche on the trade:
"It's kind of like being with your platoon in a battle, and guys keep dropping around you. You keep hanging on, hanging on, and you've got to figure: How much longer till you sink?"
Uh, Adam? You've sunk. You're playing on a team that loses 95 games every year, and you're currently a half game out of last place.
The article reports that some players took issue with the quality of prospects the Pirates received. That, to me, is totally legitimate criticism. But to build a McLouth shrine, or complain about players being traded when you can't even get out of fifth place, is ridiculous.
At the end of the article:
McLouth was asked if he could understand how some in the Pirates' fan base question whether the team is serious about winning.
"I think so," he replied. "I don't think that's an illogical thing for people to be thinking based on some of the things that have happened. It's ... it's just a tough day."
I get the sense that the management's seriousness about winning is pretty much inversely proportional to their willingness to prove to "the fanbase" how serious about winning they are. The facts that the 2009 team is going nowhere and that minor leaguers can become good players in the future just never seem to make it through to some people.
Oh, and continuing in the soap-opera vein, there's also this:
"I think it shows zero class and zero professionalism," the Pirates' first baseman said yesterday at Minute Maid Park.
Well, actually, LaRoche might have a point there.