Pedro Alvarez
Pedro Alvarez moments before his major league debut - Matt Bandi/PLC
Please allow me to go on a brief rant. On Thursday, June 10th, the morning after Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata made their major league debuts, Dejan Kovacevic wrote the following on the PBC Blog:

Why the secret?

So, the Pirates promote Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata, and they do so without so much as a day’s advance notice to generate some interest in Pittsburgh. The Lincoln announcement was made formal late yesterday morning, and Tabata’s came in the afternoon.

No headline, no hype.

Again, these players debuted on a Wednesday. The previous Sunday, Neal Huntington acknowledged that Lincoln was “definitely a candidate” to start this game. That is three days in advance. Unconfirmed reports that Tabata would be coming with him surfaced the night before the game.

Anyway, accusations of unnecessary secrecy have run rampant since the promotion of Pedro Alvarez on Wednesday. Colin Dunlap broke the news that Alvarez was coming after the Indianapolis Indians game on Tuesday evening. Later that night, the Pirates confirmed that they “intended” to bring Alvarez up in time for Wednesday’s game. This should not have been a surprise for anyone who listened to Huntington’s radio show the previous Sunday.

No, I won’t rule [out an Alvarez promotion this week]. Our feel was closer to the end of the month, but Pedro’s responded well to the challenge of these other two guys going up. It’s something we’ve got to talk about more internally. Sometimes, players can push those timetables forward because of adjustments they make.

So the world knew the night before that Alvarez was debuting. Top Indians prospect Carlos Santana made his debut on June 11th. News of that promotion came out about 19 hours beforehand. The promotion of Rangers’ top prospect Justin Smoak became public less than 24 hours before his debut on April 23rd. The Cubs did not announce the promotion of 20-year-old Starlin Castro until that day. The Nationals announced Stephen Strasburg’s debut about a week beforehand, but Strasburg is an outlier. He is arguably the best pitching prospect ever, and he is certainly the most hyped. It has been pretty obvious for months that he would join the Nationals’ rotation as soon as the Super 2 date had passed. From what I can tell, there was nothing unusual about Alvarez’s debut. The extreme backlash has been bizarre.

Dejan has mentioned the late notice several times, at least in an off-hand manner.

The crowd of 15,218 was barely bigger than usual. The team did not divulge game-day ticket sales, describing them only as “well above average.” This comes with the asterisk that news of Alvarez’s arrival broke late Tuesday night, limiting the publicity, but the low total still reminds that 17-plus years of relentless losing are not easily overcome.

Trib beat reporter Rob Biertempfel tweeted the following last night:

#Pirates attendance tonite: 15,218. I’d expected at least a half-full park, but then again Pedro essentially came up under cover of darkness

As I was driving home from work this afternoon, I turned on 93.7 The Fan for a moment. John Seibel and Joe Starkey were fuming about the Alvarez debut, claiming the Pirates “completely butchered” it. Later, they referred to it as the “Alvarez debacle.”

Can someone please explain to me why this is such a major issue? It’s not like Alvarez just suddenly showed up in the clubhouse a few hours before Wednesday’s game. As we saw earlier, the promotion was not unusual in any way. Considering the team is constantly bashed for over-hyping prospects for PR purposes, this reaction is amazing to me.

Regarding the poor attendance for Wednesday’s game, it is pretty silly to blame a lack of hype. Maybe, just maybe, nobody showed up because the Pirates are awful right now. They made six errors on Wednesday night. I repeat…they made six errors in a single game. After 17 years of losing, few casual fans are going to show up just to see the newest top prospect. Casual fans will not come back until the team starts winning consistently, regardless of Alvarez’s presence on the roster.

Finally, who knows whether publicizing the hell out of this game would have been wise? Before last night’s game, as the lineups were being announced, Alvarez was throwing with Neil Walker in left field. When Alvarez’s spot arrived, Walker stopped to enjoy the moment. He playfully raised his arms to encourage the crowd’s enthusiastic cheers as Pedro’s name was announced. Alvarez anxiously motioned for the ball, then bashfully looked to the ground. I am not a body language expert, but he had the look of a young guy who just wanted to blend in and treat it like another game.

There are plenty of legitimate and relevant reasons to criticize the Pirates’ front office. This is not one of them.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Matt, well written. Seems that fans are more ready to believe the next conspiracy than ever, and consistently over-value the players on the team. I’m not ready to jump onto any bandwagon for conspiracies against the Bucs – they’re bad enough I don’t need to make anything up to criticize them.

  2. Matt,

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m convinced that everything the Pirates do will get criticized. The radio guys were at it yesterday again after the extensions were announced. These are not big deals. Let it go!

  3. But Matt! This is OUR Strasburg! Don’t you understand??? What’s wrong with Pittsburgh having a Strasburg moment?

    This is basically the media’s take on this. Like the whole of the MLB world should be looking at Pittsburgh because we debuted THE BEST PROSPECT PITTSBURGH HAS HAD SINCE BARRY BONDS.

    No matter that Pedro is not even the best position prospect to debut in MLB this year. I mean, Hello…anyone among Pittsburgh sports personalities remember Jason Heyward?

    I mean, there are probably a dozen teams that debut their #1 prospect every year. And yet, Cook was audibly disappointed when asking Trenni Kusnierek if there was “national buzz” about Pedro’s debut and hearing that people weren’t taking much notice.

    It once again just shows the kind of bubble that those people live in when they can somehow in their mind think that if the Pirates FO had just “handled” this situation right, then the whole world’s attention would be on Pittsburgh in a positive way again.

    Never mind that their expectation of excitement is akin to a parent who attempts to show all his coworkers pictures of their little boy’s first BM all by himself. Please…

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