Chris Kucharski's "blog" for the Tribune-Review offers some... interesting ideas on how the Pirates can get ready for 2006. I agree with the first two no-brainer suggestions - keep Zach Duke and Ian Snell in the rotation, and trade some veterans - but I must take issue with two of the others.
First, "Play Bobby Hill, Mike Restovich, Ryan Doumit, Humberto Cota as much as possible." This statement is really unfair to Doumit, who's actually young and actually talented.
Kucharski writes, "All four of these players are young and we really don't know how effective they can be in big leagues because of lack of experience." But Hill, Restovich and Cota are not particularly young. I like having all three players around, but none should be given starting roles. It's not for nothing that they lack experience - they've all struggled through big chunks of their minor league careers.
The idea that the Pirates should give playing time to youngsters is the right idea; but guys should not get playing time just because they're young. That has happened before, and players like Tike Redman, Joe Beimel and Jimmy Anderson were allowed to lose games for the Bucs, when anyone who understood minor league stats could have looked at their numbers and seen that those players could only help in limited contexts (or, in Beimel's case, probably not at all). Restovich, Hill and Cota all did some interesting things in the minors, but none were particularly inspiring in their last years there. Minor league performance matters. Those three have played enough baseball for everyone to know that Cota can't hit and Hill and Restovich can't field. All three are useful role players, but Hill should not be a starter, and Cota and Restovich almost certainly shouldn't be either.
Then there's the doozy: "Sign Daryle Ward now - Ward has proven he can help this team when he is healthy. If you sign him now for a reasonable two-year deal, you can get him at a fairly reasonable price."
Now, I'm an amateur - an actual blogger - and so sometimes I make mistakes and write stupid things. But even I try to avoid using the word "reasonable" twice in the same sentence, unless I absolutely have to. Whoever wrote that sentence probably didn't think too much about it.
Ward has an .828 OPS this season, which is only really impressive in a Wendy's Junior Bacon Cheeseburger sort of way - you only pay ninety-nine cents for it, and you're kind of surprised when it's actually pretty filling, even though you weren't that hungry and it wasn't at all nutritious. But if Wendy's started charging $5 for that crap, you'd be like hell no, I'm getting some real food.
Ward contributes less than nothing on defense. He's 30, and that .828 towers above his OPS for any of the three previous seasons, and for his career as a whole. So the basis for this proposed two-year contract would be one lukewarm half-season at the plate.
Last time I wrote about Ward, a poster wrote a well-reasoned argument that a lot of Ward's past troubles were the result of another team's management trying to get him to slim down. This may or may not be true, but if I'm the Pirates, I just can't dismiss many years of poor performance and offer a real contract to a player who suddenly has half a half-decent season when he's 30.
Also, one of the Pirates' best prospects, Brad Eldred, plays first base. Eldred's no sure thing, but why would you want to commit to a known mediocrity through 2007 when Eldred might be a serious power threat by then?
It's a shame that Kucharski didn't decide to write more than two sentences on this topic. If he had, his argument would've fallen apart before him. One nice thing about blogging is that there aren't space constraints, so you can give complex arguments the space they deserve. That's one advantage it has over newspaper journalism. If the Trib's going to have this "blog," they should do it right. They can't go thinking that people will enjoy reading them if they just string a bunch of poorly worded, half-baked ideas into a "post." And anyway, that's my job.