Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #21

Question #1:
Which move would mean more to the Pirates: Mark Cuban’s replacing the current ownership group (and upping the payroll to $80-100 million for the long term) or Doug Melvin’s replacing Dave Littlefield (and operating on the same $50-60m payroll consistently)?

Tony from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
It’s gotta be Cuban. I don’t care if you’re the best GM in the history of baseball, having the payroll of a small market team only gives you so many options. Having a small payroll makes you pay dearly for the smallest of mistakes. You give the Pirates a payroll that Cuban would provide, then you can make Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano mistakes without as much of a hit. Plus, if you start throwing competitive-type money around, then those free agents who didn’t even return Pittsburgh’s phone calls all of a sudden may sign on the dotted line.
Wilbur from Pirate Player Profiles:
I have trouble with the premise here, because I don’t see the payroll as the current problem. It’s more of a symptom. The real problem is ownership’s aim-for-mediocrity strategy: its determination to keep profits up by just not losing too much and its unwillingness to commit to a real rebuilding program, resulting in an unwillingness to spend money in Latin America (given the long lead time to get any results) and to take chances on high-risk, high-reward young players, in the draft or otherwise. As long as this approach doesn’t change, the payroll won’t matter even if it wasn’t in the hands of Baseball’s Worst GM, and even if premier free agents didn’t have Baseball’s Worst GM on call blocking. Getting a decent GM wouldn’t matter, either, given what his marching orders would be. The payroll will only matter when the strategy changes and the team becomes good enough that signing a couple second-tier free agents can put it into the playoffs. (Repeat after me: “First-tier free agents will never, ever sign with the Pirates.”) They’re not at that point yet.
I also have trouble with the notion of a $80-100M payroll. The Pirates could afford a much higher payroll now, but not that high. There’s no way Cuban or any other owner will come to Pittsburgh and spend way beyond his means simply out of sympathy for the long-suffering fans. Even if a new owner did fund a payroll that high and take the losses, it’d just hurt the franchise in the long term anyway.

Randy from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:

Cuban. I’m not going to argue that payroll is everything. But I think somebody who shows an interest in winning above profitability will get both good results on the field and money in their bank account. Mark Cuban is one of my financial heroes.
Nicolas from “82”:
Seems like a simple question to answer–Melvin, twenty times over. I would much rather have Melvin come in–with, as you describe, the intent of better spending the money we already have–than to bring in double the payroll and give Littlefield more money to spend poorly. Everyone knows the best way to run a business is to get the most bang for your buck, so bring in a guy who can better spend what you’ve already got before you increase what you’ve got to give him. That said, Mark Cuban isn’t stupid enough to buy the team and keep Littlefield around. That’s like trading in your Ford Windstar for a Porsche, then gutting it and putting the Windstar interior back in.
Bones from Honest Wagner:
Cuban, of course, because the first thing he’d do is can DL and Creech. If the question is Cuban/DL or Nutting/Melvin, we’d probably still take Cuban. While DL shoulders much of the blame for the poor drafting and player development that has created this ongoing disaster, the failure to commit to long-term improvement is Nutting’s as well. Bob can bang his fist on the table and insist he wants to win all day, but without providing tangible evidence that he’s making an honest effort, his rhetoric means nothing. For once, DL wasn’t the laughingstock of the off-season. Cuban would have DL on a short leash, insist upon handing out lavish Latin American signing bonuses, buy a new international academy or two, and wouldn’t hesitate to push DL off the plank at the first sign of relapse.
Question #2:
Which Pirate has caught your eye in Spring Training so far? Who has had a disappointing camp?

Nicolas from “82”:
I will preface this with a disclaimer: Spring Training Means Dick. Okay, that’s probably a bit blunt, but there are a litany of players whose spring performances were nothing like their regular season ones (for better or worse). That said, this question is a bit difficult to answer five games into spring training. It’s great to see Eldred slugging 1.625, which puts him on pace for a mild improvement of 206 home runs this season. Watch out Adam LaRoche. Luis Matos is right behind him at about 100 HRs. Boy, this Bucco offense is certainly shaping up to be a slobberknocker. Honestly though, Eldred’s 4 for 8 and Paulino’s 0 for 8 are equally irrelevant right now. Ask again in two or three weeks.
Randy from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
Xavier Nady and his colon caught my eye. Glad it is just a virus. In terms of performance, Brad Eldred stands out, though the thought of him in the outfield makes me shudder. Think Greg Luzinski. Brian Bixler has also hit well. In terms of disappointments, as if it weren’t official already, Rajai Davis is no longer a prospect.
Bones from Honest Wagner:
Eldred’s four day moon shot derby was hard to ignore. McCutchen and Bixler have looked promising. None of these guys will likely make the roster this year though, and Eldred might never. I try not to pay too much attention to Spring Training performances as they usually signify little (e.g. Ryan Vogelsong broke out in ST 2004). There haven’t been enough games to warrant disappointment yet. Bautista and Duffy haven’t come charging out of the gate. I’d like to see Gorzelanny throw more strikes before the end of camp.
Tony from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
I’m not following ST as closely as some people do (not mentioning any names, but his name starts with a “C” and ends with a “ory”) but you have to be impressed with the determination that Brad Eldred is showing. He knows he won’t be on the Opening Day roster, that much was cemented when the LaRoche trade was announced. But if he keeps having a strong spring, not only will it make Littlefield’s decision a difficult one, but it will make a possible summer trade that much more profitable for Eldred.
Wilbur from Pirate Player Profiles:
This is a tough one to answer until late March, and I haven’t actually seen any of the players yet. Javier Guzman sounds like he’s showing he has no business on a 40-man roster. Eldred seems to be the attention-getter so far, but nobody’s throwing breaking balls yet.

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Randy Linville

Randy is currently living and thriving in suburban Dayton, OH with his wife and two kids. He was raised in Cincinnati, OH and attended Anderson High School. He went to Miami University (Ohio) and received a degree in Paper Science Engineering from MU. He is a devout Christian and a pop culture buff. He coaches his son’s baseball and basketball teams and his daughters softball and basketball teams. Randy has been a Pirates fan since the late 1970s and has fond memories of the 1979 World Series team. He began blogging for Most Valuable Network in 5/2004 after stumbling across a help-wanted sign for a Pirates blogger. He wrote for Pittsburgh Lumber Co. until the site merged with Pirates Prospects in 2/2011.

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