Don’t blame Spikes for split with Pirates


CHICAGO — Wins and losses had nothing to do with why State College is no longer the Pirates’ short-season Class A affiliate. Still, it is true the Pirates gave the Spikes some rosters that were … um, talent-challenged. In 2008, the Spikes went 18-56, the fourth-worst record in New York-Penn League history. In six seasons as a Pirates feeder team, State College never posted a winning mark.

The real problem, though, was a lack of communication between the parent organization and its minor league club. State College executives tell tales of phone calls, texts and emails that were never returned. Sources say the Pirates accepted very little feedback from the Spikes on things such as how to market the club.

Despite the friction, the Pirates two weeks ago offered State College a four-year extension. Spikes ownership countered with a two-year offer. Spikes owner Chuck Greenberg is a Pittsburgh native who named a son after Roberto Clemente. Greenberg dearly wanted to remain with his hometown team. Last Monday, Greenberg and Pirates president Frank Coonelly appeared to reach an agreement. Coonelly said he’d get back to Greenberg with final details, but Greenberg never received a return call. No one from the Pirates — not owner Bob Nutting, nor Coonelly, nor GM Neal Huntington — touched base over the past week with State College.

The Spikes became a free-agent franchise at midnight Saturday. A couple of minutes after that, the St. Louis Cardinals called Greenberg, and a two-year deal was quickly in place. The Spikes were affiliated with the Cards in 2006. “The Spikes are pleased to rekindle our partnership with one of the most well-respected and successful franchises in professional sports,” Greenberg said in a release. “The Cardinals were wonderful partners during our inaugural season.”

The Pirates now will look hook up with one of the two remaining free-agent NYPL clubs, Jamestown and Batavia. Both of those franchises have facilities that could be called decrepit and lagging attendance. I’ve heard that the Pirates would like to relocate a NYPL team to Morgantown, W.Va., near the WVU campus. The setup would be similar to what the Spikes have with Penn State. But, for now, the Pirates are looking around for somewhere to play in 2013.

Folks have asked me why the Pirates don’t move their short-season A team to Washington and “take over” the Wild Things. That cannot happen. The Wild Things are not a MLB-affiliated, minor league team; they’re an independent league team. The Pirates must connect with an existing NYPL franchise. Think of it as a game of musical chairs.

UPDATE 5:50 pm (CT): I’m hearing the Pirates have a deal in place with Jamestown and will announce details soon. Also, as Jamestown already has applied with the NYPL for permission to relocate, the new Pirates’ affiliate will be playing in Morgantown, W.Va., perhaps as soon as 2014.

»»» The Pirates’ first Instructional League workout is today in Bradenton, Fla. Games will run from Sept. 24 through Oct. 19. Among the notable players who will attend: pitchers Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, Victor Black, Luis Heredia, Zach Von Rosenberg, Nick Kingman, Tyler Glasnow and Colton Brewer; infielders Alex Dickerson, Alen Hanson and Gift Ngoepe; and outfielders Josh Bell, Adalberto Santos, Gregory Polanco and Mel Rojas Jr.

»»» Evan Meek cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis. I can’t imagine he’s part of the Pirates short- or long-term plans anymore.

Game 146: Pirates @ Cubs, 8:05 p.m. ET

Pirates (73-72): 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Jose Tabata rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Michael McKenry c, 7. Clint Barmes ss, 8. Brock Holt 2b, 9. Kevin Correia rhp (10-9, 4.29)

Cubs (58-88): 1. David DeJesus rf, 2. Luis Valbuena 3b, 3. Anthony Rizzo 1b, 4. Alfonso Soriano lf, 5. Starlin Castro ss, 6. Wellington Castillo c, 7. Brett Jackson cf, 8. Darwin Barney 2b, 9. Travis Wood lhp (6-11, 4.23)