Monday, August 4, 2008


Another example of fun times looking back through the history books at the Pirates Error... err Era of the post Bonds Bucs.

With the Pirates well on their way to a 16th consecutive losing season, I thought it would be a fun idea (fun? No that’s certainly not the word. Let’s go with interesting) for a column. I picked one moment from each year to represent the team’s pathetic performance, with the goal of making Pirates fans reading this either shake their head in shame, smash their hand into their disk in fury, or cry in shame. Sounds like fun, right? Yeah, something like that. Without further ado…

1993: The Pirates hire Cam Bonifay to rebuild the team.

Does this require actual explanation, or can I just start weeping right now? Bonifay was unequivocally the worst GM of his era, that is, of course until Dave Littlefield took the job over in 2001 and made the Camster look like Billy Beane by comparison

1994: The Pirates team leader in home runs hits a whopping 11 in the strike-shortened season.

Brian Hunter was that superstar leader, and although it was a strike year, the team still played 114 games, meaning the pace of this star leader would have been a monster 16 dingers. Of course, Hunter was dealt just before the trade deadline for something called a Micah Franklin, who would end up with 34 career at-bats before it was all said and done. But, hey, at least Bonifay didn’t take on 10 million in salary in the process, so, I guess he’s got that going for him.

1995: Chad Hermansen is drafted 10th overall

No one epitomizes these Succo teams more so than the Herminator. Every year from ’95 until he was unceremoniously dumped on the Cubs in 2002 we heard the annual spiel about how talented the Chad really was and how his breakout year was on the way, and yet, the apparent second-coming of Willie Mays didn’t even amass an entire season’s worth of statistics over his illustrious career, with just 492 At-Bats over six different years with a .195 average and 13 home runs. In other words, he’s the poor man’s Tike Redman, who is the poor man’s Adrian Brown, who is the poor man’s Chris Duffy, who is the incredibly poor man’s Nate McLouth, and yet McLouth was by far the least heralded of this bunch, and now he’s an all-star.

1996: The Pirates start a staggering 18 pitchers, only 1 gets more then 20 starts.

While searching for something to adequately represent this season, I stumbled across this fun statistic which nearly made me throw up in my mouth. 18 different starting pitchers in one season? How is that even remotely possible? I tried (quite briefly I might add) to find out what the all time record is, but to no avail. Still, I have to believe that this is at least in the ballpark.

1997: The Pirates actually contend… and in the process set themselves back several years.

Yes, everyone looks fondly on the “Freak Show” team with the spectacular “Let’s Go To Work” and the 9 million dollar payroll. What no one remembers, though, is that this team was set back big time by this half a step forward only to full backward 10 steps the next year due to some of their moves. Rushing Jose Guillen up when he clearly wasn’t ready (more on that in a bit), being under the woefully mistaken impression that Kevin Polcovich was a starter, signing a handful of underwhelming free agents the following season, making a trade for Shawon Dunston, and several other strange moves set this team up worse for the future as it went after what would have been one of the most shameful division crowns in MLB history.

1998: Traded Jon Lieber to the Chicago Cubs for Brant Brown

In and of itself, this trade was bad, but it wasn’t a defining moment of the season or anything. However, look down the line, and you just may end up throwing up a bit in your mouth. Lieber was dealt in the offseason of ’98, and would continue developing into one of the best southpaw starters in the NL over the next handful of years. Meanwhile, Brown would put up one decent, if underachieving, season for the Bucs before being dealt to Florida 364 days later for the wildly underwhelming Bruce Aven. Aven would play a half season for the Pirates as a reserve before being dumped to the Dodgers as part of a “conditional deal”, that never really ended up netting them anything except for a trading partner two times in the next season after that. Way to get good value guys.

1999: Traded Jose Guillen and Jeff Sparks to Tampa Bay for Joe Oliver and Humberto Cota

After Jason Kendall’s nauseating ankle injury that nearly ended his career, the Pirates were incredibly desperate for a catcher and ended up giving up on Guillen way too soon even though his growth had been stunted in the majors and his talent was still evident to anyone who watched him. Sure, Guillen has hopped around for years in the bigs, but he certainly is starter caliber, especially for a bunch of stiffs like this team.

2000: Signing Jason Kendall to a 6 year 60 million dollar contract

I’m not entirely certain that I can rationally discuss this one right now. I mean, I literally might have a stroke at any minutes, that’s how bad this one is. In fact, before something awful happens to me or the things around me, can we please move on? Thanks for understanding.

2001: Two Words: Operation Shutdown

Granted, this one really wasn’t the Pirates fault that much, but it’s still one of the most memorable moments of the past 16 seasons and shows that, while the Pirates may have made many bad choices, they also have been snake-bitten by people like Derek Bell, Raul Mondesi, and Jason Kendall, among many others.

2002: Drafting Brian Bullington in front of B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Jeff Francis, Khalil Greene, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher and others.

Again, I may start into some kind of irrational behavior here, but here goes anyway. Bullington, even back then, projected as a number 3 starter (at best!) and likely would be at least 24-25 or so before he would reach the major leagues. WONDERFUL! Yet, high ceiling high talent guys like Upton, the Prince, even Greinke, and Jeffy Francise were passed on for this abomination. Seriously, how have Pirate fans stayed sane this long? It really is a miracle that ANYONE goes to their games anymore because of their atrocious moves. Hey, did someone say atrocious moves? Well no list is complete without…

2003: Trading Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton for a bag of garbage, a few spare fungos, and a career minor leaguer with arm problems to be named later.

This might have been the worst trade in the history of the major leagues. In fact, it’s stunning that more wasn’t made of this at the time given how much of a sham it was that the Pirates were allowed to complete this trade. This move made the much-maligned Pau Gasol trade in the NBA look like a push by comparison. GOD HOW AM I STILL AN EFFING PIRATES FAN??? HOW???

2004: The Rule 5 Debacle

Yes, this absolutely happened in 2003, technically, but it was the ultimate running subplot of the 2004 season. Chris Shelton, Jose Bautista, Frank Brooks, Jeff Bennett, and Rich Thompson were all selected in the 2003 Rule 5 Draft. Of course, it did provide us with the humiliation of Dave Littlefield in front of all of his peers, so that was fun, and while none of these guys went on to make much of an impact with the teams that selected them (Shelton was a scorching hot starter but is currently seen only on the backs of milk cartons, Bautista came back to the Pirates and has been a decent player, Bennett has been a serviceable reliever for Atlanta and Milwaukee, Thompson and Brooks never amounted to much), it served as the beginning of the end for Littlefield and was a clear sign that he was most assuredly not a good GM.

2005: Tike Redman bats 3rd on Opening Day… and then just twice more the rest of the season.

In one of the all-time strange moves, the Pirates ran their lineup through some kind of a computer simulator (because, you know, the game is played on computers after all), and discovered that Redman in the 3 hole gave them the best lineup. Evidently the computer was brimming with viruses and was in bad need of Norton Anti Virus.

2006: Oliver Perez is used as a throw-in to the Xavier Nady- Robert Hernandez

By all accounts, this deal was about the Metropolitans getting Bob Hernandez. The Mets wanted a little more and the Pirates threw Perez onto the table to even things a little bit and the Mets responded with a “YES” in about .05 seconds. Sure, Perez was in AAA at the time and looked lost as all hell on the mound, but the guy was arguably the most talented pitcher the Pirates had seen since Doug Drabek, and they were tossing him into a deal instead of letting him figure his issues out in the minors? Of course, a few months later, Ollie had it all figured out, and was starting in the NLCS for the Mets.

2007: Taking on Matt Morris’ lifeless corpse and its 10 million dollar salary

Again, it’s somewhat difficult for me to discuss this rationally without throwing things, but let’s just say that Dunce Littlefield was in full panic mode and desperate for anything to save his job. The Giants likely would have given us other players in exchange for nothing for him, but, true to his word as the worst GM in the history of professional sports, Littlefield insisted on throwing the mildly promising Rajai Davis into the deal from the Pirates end. AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Of course, nothing beats the tragic comedy that was the Pirates releasing Morris and agreeing to pay his entire salary just so he’d go away for this season.

2008: Demoting Tom Gorzelanny and Ronny Paulino to AAA Indianapolis

Two key cogs from the ’06 and ’07 squads regress to an almost unfathomable amount, especially Gorzo, who many thought of as one of the best young lefties in the NL. This had been a long time coming for Ronny the Fat, quite possibly the least enthusiastic ballplayer in the entire major leagues, but Gorzo stunned even me, and I still can’t figure how things got so bad.

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