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Pirates vs. Giants, 27 July 2009

Paul Maholm vs. Tim Lincecum, 10:15 PM.

Regular posting will resume Tuesday, although there's a theoretical chance I'll be back in California to watch the end of this one.

This is neither good nor bad, but thanks to Neal Huntington, I'm no longer particularly titillated by Pirates-related trade rumors. Huntington makes enough moves, and enough provocative moves, that just following the trades that actually take place is enough.

That said, the Twins and Red Sox appear to be interested in some Pirate or other, perhaps Freddy Sanchez or Jack Wilson. Also, the Cubs and Pirates have talked about John Grabow.

On a related note, this morning's post in the PBC Blog strikes me as odd:

[Kent Tekulve] basically said, and I paraphrase here, that it is not good enough for the Pirates to blame youth because they struggle in this area or that area, primarily because this is how -- even if the accrue more talent someday -- they are going to be structured indefinitely.

An outstanding observation, if I might say.

And it will interesting to see how this set of teachers -- at the major and minor league levels -- handle getting the best out of young talent without having to wait too long a time. Otherwise, one might argue, the Pirates will be accomplishing nothing more than preparing players for their next destination.

Say what you want about the levels of preparedness of various Pirates teams the past decade or so--they probably deserve it, although I'd argue that this one really doesn't. But the idea that the Pirates' have merely been preparing players for stardom in other organizations without getting to enjoy those players themselves is a meme that needs to die. True, Aramis Ramirez fits that category, but there hasn't been a pure salary dump like that for years. And guys like Chris Young and Bronson Arroyo blossomed elsewhere, but that was because Dave Littlefield was too stupid to keep them, and not because of anything having to do with the way the Pirates do business or anything having to do with the team's current management.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of trades of veterans the Pirates--even when still run by Littlefield--have made over the past several years have occurred after the players in question already peaked. Brian Giles went from a great player in Pittsburgh to a good one in San Diego. Jason Kendall went from a good player in Pittsburgh to a mediocre one in Oakland. Craig Wilson, Kip Wells and Kris Benson practically fell off the face of the earth after leaving Pittsburgh--of the three, only Benson had one decent year left in him. Salomon Torres had one good year in Milwaukee, then retired after spending his peak in Pittsburgh. Matt Lawton vanished. Xavier Nady disappeared in a mess of injuries. Damaso Marte did nothing.

The two clear exceptions to the rule here are Ramirez and Jason Bay. And even in Bay's case, his performance in Boston has actually been a bit wose than in his peak years in Pittsburgh, when he hit a bit better relative to the rest of the league and played better defense.

People who claim that the Pirates are simply preparing players for other teams just don't know what they're talking about. By the time the Pirates trade most veterans, they've wrung most of their best years out of them, and keeping them around while they get expensive and start declining doesn't do any rebuilding team any good. The problem is that the Pirates haven't done a good job acquiring and developing players, and haven't put together the core of talent necessary to win lots of ballgames.

Keep this in mind when you hear trade rumors about Wilson, Sanchez or Grabow this week. It's very likely these players have already peaked. The Pirates surely endured some growing pains from each of them, but they probably also got their best years, too. Keeping them around for their sunset years may win the Pirates some praise from folks who don't think too hard about it, but it wouldn't be nearly as good a bet for the Bucs as just trading them for prospects in the hopes that those prospects might finally contribute to a contending core.

Also, it's surely right of Tekulve to say the Pirates shouldn't blame youth for their troubles, but maybe not for the reasons he thinks. Some of the Bucs' veteran players over the past several years have been hideous. Randall Simon, anyone? Matt Morris? Pat Meares? Chris Stynes? Heck--Craig Monroe? Ramon Vazquez? The Pirates' veteran players over the past several years have been just as bad, if not worse, than the youngsters. Tekulve's right--youth isn't the problem. A lack of talent is.

Consider this the game thread for today.