By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media
Brief and to the Point …
If anyone can come up with a fairer, more accurate way of describing the Pirates’ effort yesterday against the Astros — their worst all summer long — I’m all ears.
And yeah, the key word there is effort.
That’s not one you’ve heard me raise much, except to laugh off when people applied it incorrectly. Baseball isn’t a run-through-the-wall kind of sport. (Except for the great Turner Ward.) But it is about applying yourself to the task at hand. This group has, for the most part, given its all. Even when it’s struggled, you didn’t question the effort.
With apologies to Garrett Jones, who looks like the Pirates’ only everyday player not gasping for air, the effort just wasn’t there. The competitive at-bats weren’t there. The hustle wasn’t there. The focus wasn’t there. The emotion wasn’t there.
Sure, blame Clint Hurdle for that. If the manager’s going to get credit when the team is all energized and doing the Z thing, he’s got to hear it when things sour. I’ll say it plainly: He’s not doing enough right now. Not in lighting a fire. Not strategically. If this keeps going like this, Hurdle will have not one but two collapses to his name.
That fire needs to come from within, too. I’ve praised A.J. Burnett, Rod Barajas, Neil Walker for the team’s leadership, so let’s pin blame on them, too. Whatever they’re doing behind the scenes right now, it evidently isn’t enough.
Overall, though, a game like this is on the athletes involved.
Andrew McCutchen, having an overall MVP-type season but nothing of the sort the past five weeks, went 0 for 4 and saw 10 total pitches.
He wasn’t alone. This lineup allowed Edgar Gonzalez, who hadn’t started in the majors since 2009 and had pitched most of this year in Mexico, to go on cruise control. Hack, hack, hack.
When Brock Holt worked a walk in his first big-league at-bat the other night, Hurdle spoke of it as if Holt had uncovered a solution to future meteor strikes. All he did was see a pitcher struggling with command, then take a few pitches.
Wow. Someone alert Tom Emanski.
Better yet, alert some of Holt’s new teammates.
There was no such thing in this game. Guys strolled in and out of that box like they were paying Turnpike tolls. If not for Jones’ three hits, the Pirates would have had two against a team that gives them out by the bushels.
I saw at least some of this second-half comeuppeance coming. The pitching was due to step back. The hitting was due for for a bigger step back.
Man, that word shouldn’t even come into play this time of year.
>> There is no earthly reason for Barajas to keep playing.
I could elaborate, but it would feel like I’m explaining that the sky is blue.
>> Mike Wallace returning to practice for the Steelers yesterday was big on multiple levels, not least of which is that it forces the Broncos to game-plan for him.
Don’t underestimate that. I spent the week leading up that playoff game in Denver with the Broncos, and you couldn’t raise any topic with anyone on their defense without it turning to Wallace. And Wallace wasn’t even playing well going into that game. (Nor did he play well that day, for that matter.)
Players fear the film room. And nothing looks worse in the film room than the big play, than being beaten over the top.
>> My weekly appearance on TribLIVE Radio was pushed back to later in the week, when we’ll do a segment from that same Denver practice facility.
Tonight, I’m heading back over to the yard.