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Ron Cook on Doumit

Here's an article on Ryan Doumit. Doumit needs to play every day. Having him sit on the bench does no good, and the Pirates can't send him back to the minors, since he has already dominated AAA hitting and Ronny Paulino is having the month of his life right now as Indianapolis' new catcher. Doumit has received thirteen at bats in July, including four last night. That's not nearly enough.

The reasons Ron Cook gives in the article above for the Pirates' unwillingness to play Doumit aren't encouraging. Cook cites the fact that the Pirates have a long streak of losing seasons behind them. This is true, but refusing to play youngsters who might one day turn into serious contributors only worsens this problem.

Cook also suggests that Lloyd McClendon is worried about his job. But Pirates' managers have been worried about their jobs in nearly every season the past several years. That's an occupational hazard when you work for a perpetually crappy team. You can't solve a long-term problem if you can't think past next week. (And giving McClendon an extension doesn't strike me as a good solution to the problem. The best solution would be for him to do his job properly.)

Cook claims that the Pirates aren't convinced by Doumit's defense. That's funny, because Doumit's defense was highly regarded when he was in the minors. The Pirates' apparent solution to this "problem" is to let Doumit play right field occasionally. But if Doumit has the bat to play right field and he can play catcher at all - and, the Pirates' doubts aside, there is every reason to believe that he can - this would represent an enormous competitive advantage for the Pirates. If Doumit is good enough to hit as a right fielder and you put him at catcher, it's like you get to have two right fielders and no catchers in your batting order. The improvement on offense more than makes up for the loss on defense. On the other hand, if Doumit isn't good enough to hit as a right fielder, why play him there?

Finally, Cook says that Doumit has not done enough to earn more regular playing time. But Doumit has had sixty-eight at-bats this year. That's not nearly enough to make much of a judgment. Also, let's not forget that Doumit's not exactly competing with Mike Piazza. He's competing with Humberto Cota, who's 26 and has a career .295 OBP. Cota's a nice guy to have around as a backup, but the Pirates shouldn't be using him as a starter when there are other, higher-upside players available.

This problem may get worse in the near future, with Paulino killing the ball in the high minors and Doumit out of options next year. What will the Pirates do when Paulino is also ready for the big leagues? The Pirates can't possibly get much of a read on Doumit unless they let him play now, while Paulino can still use the development time. Otherwise, this problem could turn into a full-blown fiasco.