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Wakeup Call: Liftoff in Houston for Part II

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My Friday column lists 10 steps the Pirates must take to be successful in the second half. I’m open to your additional suggestions, as well.

By the way, I didn’t number those entries, but my top priority would be the one describe in the Pedro Alvarez item near the end.

>> Trades or not, all kinds of change is coming to the Pirates’ roster very soon, as Rob Biertempfel lays out this morning. That started already with Daniel Moskos getting optioned back last night for a healthy Joe Beimel, and more is around the corner. Even Ross Ohlendorf – remember him? — was finally cleared to begin a rehab stint.

>> This means close to nothing, but I couldn’t help but be amused yesterday at seeing a Michael McKenry player banner hanging outside PNC Park on the Federal Street side. Usually, only the longer-term guys are out there. Just saying.

>> James Harrison apologized. I’ll share my views on that at some other point, but let me just say this today: No, of course he didn’t write it. It’s very rare that the athletes or even team executives write these things from scratch. But that doesn’t change much about the final product. The signee does read what’s there, approve it and, in most cases of which I’ve been told, usually makes changes.

>> Best news for the Penguins all summer. And who’s talking about it?

>> We will have our weekly chat – for real this time — today at noon. My Internet issue was resolved by late afternoon yesterday.

Comments

  1. dschomburg says:

    Good column, Dejan. I, for one really hope the Pirates step up and keep Maholm. He has really turned into a reliable stopper. It would send a good message to the younger Buccos that it is, indeed, possible to be a Pirate long term.

  2. Jim English says:

    I see John Russell is zero for one as a manager this year.He piloted the Orioles to a loss to the Indians Thursday. Showalter was suspended for the game.

  3. Naje says:

    DK – nice assessment of the Bucs in your 10 things list. While you mention that the Pirates NEED Alvarez, what does Alvarez NEED to do? He was pathetically underprepared and overmatched before his injury. And an 0-4 with a walk and 3 K’s last night at Indy is just another indication that he’s got major problems.

    Apparently, he’s looking at strikes and swinging at balls. Is he afraid to pull the trigger to swing at strikes? Can someone corner the guy and figure out just what is going on between his ears? Is he not seeing the ball?

    Right now, he seems to be extremely disconnected to this team, this organization. As if he is in Pedro’s world, rather than the reality of major league baseball. That doesn’t bode well for any type of meaningful contribution to the organization this year.

    Does he have Steve Blass disease in reverse? Blass couldn’t throw strikes and Alvarez won’t swing at them…

  4. Thundercrack says:

    I liked management’s move to leave him in Indianapolis to get right, but it would be a mistake to block his path back to Pittsburgh, even for a short spell.
    ———————————————————————————————————-
    HI DK,
    I enjoyed your article this morning. I agree with all of your points, but did have a question about the comment above about Pedro.
    What do you mean by “block his path back”? Are you saying that they may trade for another third baseman? Other than that I don’t see how his path is blocked…especially if he plays well.

  5. JAL says:

    Some The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Morning Links

    Pirates Prospects

    Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Watch 7/14/11

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/07/pittsburgh-pirates-prospect-watch-71411.html

    Prospect Primer for Trade Partners – Relievers

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/07/prospect-primer-for-trade-partners-relievers.html

    Prospect Primer for Trade Partners – Hitters

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/07/prospect-primer-for-trade-partners-hitters.html

  6. JAL says:

    Bucs Dugout

    Comprehensive Guide To Creating The Ultimate Pirates Twitter

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2011/7/15/2276850/comprehensive-guide-to-creating-the-ultimate-buccos-twitter-read-even

    <bRumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates Trade Deadline: Starting Pitching

    http://rumbunter.com/2011/07/14/pittsburgh-pirates-trade-deadline-starting-pitching/

  7. JAL says:

    –Houston Chronicle

    Pirates are proof to Astros that there’s life after dormancy

    http://blog.chron.com/ultimateastros/2011/07/15/pirates-are-proof-to-astros-that-theres-life-after-dormancy/

    USA Today

    Pirates, Astros open 2nd half on different paths

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/2011-07-14-3860660863_x.htm

  8. JAL says:

    Sports Illustrated

    McCutchen tops list of most intriguing players for second half

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/albert_chen/07/14/andrew.mccutchen.intriguing.players/

    Second-half storylines: Pirates, Reyes, Dontrelle, much more

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/dan_shaughnessy/07/13/2nd.half/

  9. JAL says:

    Beaver County Times

    Are Pirates contenders? We’ll know by Aug. 1

    http://www.timesonline.com/sports/pirates/are-pirates-contenders-we-ll-know-by-aug/article_cf4797f1-53ac-51b1-8714-3c10e67cc752.html

    York Daily Record

    Van Benschoten signs deal with San Diego Padres

    http://www.ydr.com/revolution/ci_18479771

  10. JAL says:

    SBR Forum

    Pittsburgh Pirates shocking and Cincinnati Red disappointing in NL Central

    http://www.sbrforum.com/mlb-baseball/news/pittsburgh-pirates-shocking-cincinnati-red-disappointing-nl-central-a-20638/

  11. ddom says:

    If anyone forgets what Pedro can bring to the table, here’s a reminder.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?affiliateId=facebook_share&content_id=10740021

    @DK – I remember you stating at the time that this felt like a turning point for the Pirates. Then they went on a horrendous skid to end the season. But, I still think it had an impact on what we’ve seen this year.

  12. Curt says:

    I for one think Pedro will get it right and be back by the end of July. I also think they will not block him at third. I see the Pirates going after a 1B as their top priority.
    And it could be a nice start for the Pirates playing in Houston. Just picture them 6 or 7 games over .500 with the homestand next week! Let’s Go Bucs!

  13. sms says:

    here’s to hoping the bucs come out of houston with at least 2 out of three and hunter pence………..regarless what it costs.

  14. Bdubb says:

    Just a couple thoughts about the potential roster changes that could be in the near future. Think about the depth the Pirates have shown this year. All these injuries and they have held strong. Sure the replacements aren’t 5star but they are pretty good and have held their own. What was last Pirates team to have so many replaceable parts?

    And please PBC, stick with Pressley and d’Arnoud. I really like what they bring to the top of the order. I would even move Tabata down when he comes back just b/c those 2 have something going at the top

  15. Arriba Wilver says:

    I’m with TC about your Pedro comment. Seems like if we only have so many chances to win a division that moving up Pedro before he was ready would be counter-productive to that goal. Or are you just saying, don’t bring in another 3B that could “block” him, or allow Harrison/Wood to “block” him?

  16. cfjohnsn says:

    I’m wondering if everyone has caught on to their own contradiction of proclaiming that management has no real choice but to stick with Presley and let him play RF full time when Tabata gets back and in the same breath is clamoring for the PBC to trade anyone but the Holy Trinity of pitching prospects to Houston to get Hunter Pence who also plays RF on a full time basis.

    Can Pence move to 1B? :)

  17. sms says:

    @cfjohnsn

    get pence (maybe a pipefream) and worry about all that later – nice problem to have….

  18. Karen22 says:

    Absolutely agree with all of your points, Dejan. As to Charlie Morton—WHY has he somewhat abandoned his best pitch when early in the season it defined his successful turnaround? I just don’t get it with the ultra-talented Charlie…

    And with all of the pressure on Pedro since his drafting as THE power savior of the Pirates, can’t we see that he likely needs more than physical work to right himself? I believe his problem is 90% mental, and I hope he is working with a sports psychologist, too. Before he went down, he appeared completely out of sync with himself on the field and at bat.

  19. Drew71 says:

    Dejan – Interesting, well written article. As usual.

    So rather than playing the Ditto game, agreeing with the vast majority of your points that I agree with (including the Alvarez emphasis), I’ll just point out my disagreements…

    - Is it really that simple for Morton? Just throw more sinkers? I cannot articulate a better response – and nothing more than gut feel here – but it just sounds too simple for something as complex as trying to get good hitters out at the major league level. This is a half-hearted disagreement, in part because i HOPE that is all it is. But i’m just saying, my sounds-too-good-to-be-true voice is drowning out the other voices inside my head.

    - I thought just some of us unrealistic fans would have to get over their unrealistic hopes that Hunter Pence would or remotely might have a chance to become a Pirate. Not gonna happen for a number of reasons having to do with both the Astros and the Pirates.

    “le·thar·gic/ləˈTHärjik/; Adjective: Affected by lethargy; sluggish and apathetic.”

    - I don’t think it’s fair to call Overbay’s defense “lethargic.” The man is aging and fading right in front of us. This is a guy who’s ability to hit for contact faded in his three PRIOR seasons, and can no longer put the bat on the ball consistently. This is a man who had decent power who can no longer run into many balls with authority. This is a man who was a solid defensive player who is getting older. This is a man who has ALWAYS been known as a great…not good but great…clubhouse guy and teammate…labeled as a guy who would make a great coach. NOTHING in his history indicates a lethargic-sluggish-apathetic response. EVERYTHING in his history indicates he would give everything he is capable of giving to help his team. CAPABLE of. Capability, or lack thereof, have nothing to do with lethargy. His fading performance is probably eating at him, with exactly the opposite reaction to lethargy. YES…sit him down. It is time. His past season numbers indicate it may be PAST time, and an ill-conceived signing. Which is not HIS fault; nonetheless… SIT HIM DOWN NOW. But please don’t use words of intent, such as lethargy, to imply fading physical skills are anything more than what they are…or worse yet anything indicating lack of effort or care. Speaking myself as an old guy who USED to be able to hit a golf ball much farther than I can now, there is NOTHING lethargic about my fading performance…or Overbay’s.

  20. TheFlick says:

    @cfjohnsn

    You beat me to it. If you the Pirates really do go after Pence (which I doubt) then what do you do with Tabata/Presley? Platoon in LF? It would make sense to me that IF management was going after Pence either Tabata or Presley and a prospect or two would be part of the trade. Starling Marte should be ready soon anyway.

    Problem is, should the Pirates make a huge splash like that THIS year? What happens if the pitching falls apart? Not going to matter if the offense can knock in a few more runs if the pitching is giving up a ton. I think they should add a bat but going after Pence seems to risky for what the team has this year.

  21. sms says:

    should the Pirates make a huge splash like that THIS year………

    the pirates know what they have this year – who knows what transpires next year. maybe the division is stronger, maybe the pitchers all tank, maybe the “chemistry” is all gone, maybe hurdles command slips a little, maybe hanrahan is a fluke, maybe we unload maholm and regret it………..maybe

    as much as a pence may never occur – why not at least give it a shot at this point…..we may never see this again or having a player of his caliber might just keep it going for a while.

  22. JAL says:

    cfj

    Noticed the same thing, move Presley t right, drop Overbay (which would probably move Jones to first) , get Pence and play him where? Guess could move Tabata in a trade for Pence. Really doubt the Astros are going trade Pence.

  23. David says:

    I read your column and I am a little bit confused. You talk about adding a power bat, like Pence, getting Tabata back on track and committing to Alex Presley. If you do all 3 of those, Andrew McCutchen is out of a job. Surely you are not implying the Pirates bench or trade him. So are you suggesting going with a man 4 man OF or trying to teach one of these guys a new position?

  24. Naje says:

    Drew – maybe lethargic is the way the man’s actions appear to everyone… slowed-down, sluggish, incapable maybe? The man’s skills have deteriorated tremendously… and it looks to many like he’s not trying on some plays. Perhaps that is because his talent has diminished so badly.

    As for these Pence trade rumors… wake me when it’s over. Friends, you’ve got some seriously unrealistic thoughts flying around here… those thoughts are now turning to expectations… it is out of control. Not one shred of evidence that Pence will be moved yet the fantasy-land thoughts continue.

    @ DK – Still would like to know what is going on with Alvarez… does he understand that he’s a professional and NEEDS to play better for his TEAM? You claim that the Pirates NEED him… well, looks to me like he’s failing to live up to the standards the team has set. Failing miserably. And for all of his hard work and desire to be great, it first starts with putting a bat on a ball… something that he’s currently incapable of doing. Especially when he looks at so many strikes. It’s as if he stands in the box like the pitcher owes HIM something. He’s disconnected from the game and the team and that, to me, says that the Pirates DON’T NEED him… at least right now.

    Looks like Pearce will be starting at 3B sometime soon….until Alvarez gets his bat on some baseballs.

  25. Bizrow says:

    Good news signing Dickerson, question I have is does this have any impact on getting Josh Bell under contract? Just looking for signs as to whether or not we will have the $$ to sign both No 1 and No 2 picks.

  26. JMB says:

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/odds/

    Updated baseball prospectus odds

    2.8% chance of making the playoffs, but 78-83 would still be an awesome turnaround.

    Of course, I will still complain ;-) about it since being that close to breaking the streak and failing will make me KRAZZZY!.

  27. dcpinpgh says:

    Would the Dodgers overpay for a hispanic player? They need a bump in popularity.

  28. Naje says:

    @ DK –

    Please contact Mr. Shaughnessy and correct his misguided writing. He writes that dreaded Steeltown word as well as downtrodden… please send him your links about Pittsburgh…

    A division championship for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh is an underrated American city that’s been without a winning baseball team for too long. The Bucs haven’t been over .500 since 1992, which is the last year they made it to the postseason. Now they’re 47-43 at the break, a mere one game out of first place in the National League Central. Good for Clint Hurdle. Good for Steeltown. Getting Pittsburgh back in the playoffs would be good for baseball.
    • The Indians or the Tigers in the playoffs. I can’t decide who I’m rooting for in the American League Central. I love Cleveland and Detroit.
    Like Pittsburgh, they are downtrodden, rust belt cites and they have fans who would love to return to the postseason.

    Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/dan_shaughnessy/07/13/2nd.half/index.html#ixzz1SBO6MgS4

  29. Baywatch says:

    @Drew71 – That was VERY, VERY well put about Overbay!

  30. JAL says:

    Signing Dickerson can only affect signing Bell positively. No money issue. Bell could look and feel the Pirates are signing some good players and feel better about joining the club. Not likely but only possible effect. If Bell doesn’t sign it will because he doesn’t want to sign. In other words, he will stick to what he has said.

  31. JAL says:

    When I say money is not the issue I mean Dickerson will affect what they offer Bell. Certainly there is, as there should be, a cap to how much that offer will be.

  32. rwshelton2 says:

    Maybe it speaks to a bit of ‘real’ depth in the system, but Rob’s article about the 9 players returning – GEEZ – who is going to be sent packing?

    Jaramillo = Fryer
    Doumit = McKenry
    Cedeno = Ciriaco
    Tabata = Presley? Diaz?
    Ohlendorf = Leroux
    Beimel = Moskos
    Meek = Watson
    Alvarez = D’Arnaud
    Pearce = Harrison

    Who is playing for Indianapolis right now?? They’re all here!

    The only real tough one I see is what outfielder goes to make room for Tabata. I agree with DK that Presley should stick, so do they DFA or PTBNL trade Diaz?

  33. Drew71 says:

    I just popped back on for a minute because I think my Morton comment was poorly posed. It should have been a question, not a matter of disagreement, as follows:

    Has Morton been ineffective lately because he is throwing fewer sinkers?

    – or –

    Has Morton’s sinker become ineffective (or less effective) causing him to throw fewer sinkers?

    I really have no opinion on this because I’m not capable of answering the second question. I’m just asking.

  34. Naje says:

    Drew – he’s become less effective because he’s not throwing his sinker enough, nor is he throwing it very well.

    In the 6th inning of his last outing v. Houston, his sinker registered between 89-91mph and was not sinking at all… very flat. He gave up all of those hits in a row. Early in that game, as DK pointed out DURING the game, he was relying too much on his curveball. Looks like he’s lost a little confidence out there with his sinker… but early in the game, it was 93-95mph with good movement.

    It’s a delicate line with him… operative word: delicate.

  35. Drew71 says:

    If the sinker is, as you say, occasionally flattening out and getting clobbered when it does, isn’t it logical to throw some other types of pitches, at least then? Wouldn’t that imply that the issue is: His sinker is occasionally flattening out and getting clobbered?

    I’m still just asking. I understand the magical world of pitching far LESS than any other aspect of baseball.

  36. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    @David: The Pence point is purely hypothetical. Unrelated at all to the ones about Presley or the outfield.

  37. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    @Drew: It was exactly that simple for Morton for two months.

    I also have no issue with the adjective used to describe Overbay’s defense, in general. I think you make very fair points regarding the word overall. I’m applying it strictly to this defense.

  38. SRC22 says:

    Dejan,
    I totally agree with the Alex Presley assessment and I also am in complete agreement with the fact that this team is based on speed right now. With Presley, Cutch, Tabata and even Walker we can really do some damage on the base paths. One point I disagree with you on is Ronny Cedeno. I feel that Chase has given us such an improvement not only in that speed based lineup but also in regards to athleticism. Although he has been very shaky with the glove I feel he could settle in nicely there at short and be a very athletic combo with Walker for years to come. Plus the combo of Presley and Chase at the top has really caused some havoc for teams. Their aggressiveness can be contagious and continue to spark this offense.

  39. Fat Jimmy says:

    I still don’t think Dejan has any evidence to suggest that Morton’s pitch selection is the reason he has been less effective.

    As Naje and I worked through after his last start, Morton was dominant through 5 innings — in which he was mixing a 91-93 MPH sinker with a HAMMER curve ball (that he was locating extremely well … which Bob Walk took notice of, too). All of the hits he gave up in the 6th inning came off of sinkers — most of which were registering 89 on the gun.

    I know Dejan gets on these kicks from time to time, but he is absolutely wrong about Charlie Morton’s pitch selection.

    In order for Morton to be his best (and his best is capable of being one of the 5 best pitchers in the NL), he needs to be able to mix up his pitches. Early in the season, when his pitch selection was nearly 80% sinkers, there were many experts who suggested that Morton could not continue his success as long as he was a one trick/pitch pony.

    His last few starts have been less than stellar because he is tiring, his sinker has been less effective (especially in the later innings) and he remains a pretty unlucky pitcher.

    I’ll add one more suggestion for getting Charlie Morton back on track — don’t listen to any advice from COLUMNISTS!!!!

  40. Fat Jimmy says:

    And I want to follow up on my Morton comments:

    The comparisons to Morton’s curve last year vs. this year couldn’t be any more apples & oranges if it had been authored by a old woman named Granny Smith-Sunkist.

    Morton’s curveball last year was wild. He was obsessed with it yet he couldn’t locate it at all. A curveball can be quite detrimental if all it accomplishes is putting you behind in the count.

    But Morton’s curveball this year — and especially in his last start — is good. He’s locating it well and it is an out pitch. I counted at least 3 strikeouts in his last start off of the curve.

  41. Bizrow says:

    @JAL

    I’m just saying with the draft choice signings, even Bob Nutting doesn’t have a bottomless pit in his wallet. Last year we spent big bucks on No.s 1 and 2, signed No. 3 but not a heck of a lot else in the top 10 draft choices. There is a budget, I’m glad to see Dickerson is signed, again, there is just not a bottomless pit of pennies at Federal Street.

  42. Drew71 says:

    Add to that sentiment…there probably shouldn’t be a bottomless pit.

    If they “value” a top prospect at, say, $6MM, going to $7MM rather than losing him is maybe prudent for a team like PBC that cannot get the same guy as a free agent in 6 years when he costs 10 TIMES that. Or more.

    But going to, for instance, $10MM for the same prospect who threatens to go the JD Drew independent league route if not signed? I have to think there is a better use of the extra 3-4$MM. (See also: J.D Drew, Scott Boras, Philadelphia Phillies, $10MM demand, a year playing for the St. Paul Saints.)

  43. Drew71 says:

    Re the other stuff some of us have talked about…

    - I haven’t made up my mind on the issues with Morton, and I hope he makes them moot by regaining his form. Both Dejan and Jimmy have made some good points. Me – not so much. Still scratching my head and asking questions.

    - Dejan and I disagree with the use of the term lethargic in this case. Fine. I think we each made our points so we can move on. It is worth noting that we agree in the ultimate outcome…that the Overbay needs to be bench bound. I’ll just continue to stick up for us old guys. SOMEONE has to have our (bent) backs. Right Baywatch? And Biz? And anyone else who thinks Dejan’s picture looks a lot like their son? Or grandson?

  44. JAL says:

    @Biz

    The money is not that much. Not like Bell is going to get $30 million over 5 years. They signed Pedro for $8.5 million for 4 years and was a 1st round pick. Signed Allie last year for $2,250,000. Drafted players are not break trhe bank types like free agents.

  45. JAL says:

    Also, for Allie that is signing bonus. He is a base salary right now for where he is in the system.

  46. Baywatch says:

    I’m givin’ a mixed review on Luis Heredia’s outing today (game still in progress, GCL Bucs knotted at 5 with the Tigers). He pitched 1.1 innings, gave up two runs on but one hit. BUT walked 3 … and struck out 4 … in 1.1 innings. Sounds like a kid to me … TALENTED kid! P.S. Jaramillo with 2 hits, including an RBI double in that one.

  47. Baywatch says:

    Heredia faced 8 batters, striking out 4 of them, walking three of them and giving up a hit to one of them … RIGHT, BAY, WE CAN DO THE MATH! :-)

  48. JAL says:

    Bay

    For 16 that is pretty good

  49. Double-D says:

    @ rwshelton2

    I agree with most of your roster moves. I have two differences:

    Jaramillo replaces Fryer when he’s ready, but then Doubmit replaces Jaramillo. JJ hasn’t faced MLB pitching for a long time, I’ll take my chances with McKenry backing up Doumit. The Fort’s defense has been excellent and hitting has been adequate. Games will be too important for JJ to be shaking off rust, and we can’t expect Doumit to play every day, or even close to it.

    Tabata replaces Overbay, who gets DFA’d. Pearce & GFJ platoon at 1st. I’d rather have Diaz’s RH bat available – and he has been hitting better lately (.333 average, .796 OPS since June 1).

    Just my opinion.

  50. Baywatch says:

    They’re in the 14th inning down in GCL Pirates Land, still knotted at 5 with the Tigers!

 
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