The nuance in John Perrotto's new column is welcome, and he's right to point out that there's a lot of blame to go around for the Pirates' miserable start. Jim Tracy has been, if anything, worse at his job than most of the players, so his attempts to distance himself from the Pirates' performance are misguided as well as cowardly.
Perrotto places the blame for the Pirates' start on the players, the manager and the GM. The manager and particularly the GM certainly deserve their fair share of the blame, as does Pirates ownership.
However, I think even giving one third of the blame to the players is too much. Perrotto is simply echoing the sort of talk that's been on message boards for weeks in blaming the Pirates for making stupid plays and failing to execute sacrifices, for example.
I disagree with this argument for several reasons:
- Other than the time that Jeromy Burnitz failed to run out a grounder, I haven't seen any evidence that the players aren't trying.
- All teams botch bunts sometimes. The Bucs may or may not do it more often than most; I'm not sure there's any way of checking. But it looks a whole lot worse to fail to lay down a bunt when your entire team has been failing to hit for weeks on end.
- In the grand scheme, bunting and situational hitting are just not all that important. They are not "fundamentals." The Pirates might or might not have won an extra game or two if their situational hitting and bunting skills were those of an average team. But the fact is that they are simply not good at the real fundamentals, like recognizing pitches, hitting for power, and throwing the ball over the plate. Anyone who was paying attention knew that about these players before the season started. It's not their fault they can't really do these things. A team cannot make up for glaring deficiencies in these areas by bunting better. It's impossible.
- Therefore, most of the blame goes not to the players, but to the people that assembled this team - the management and the ownership. The players are simply not good enough.