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Thursday, December 8, 2022

First Pitch: The Pirates Need a Change in Their Clubhouse

What is happening inside the Pirates’ clubhouse this year?

I can’t remember a season that had so many team-issued suspensions and fines to the players, and even coaches. I can’t remember a season where there were so many fights between the players.

The latest was Kyle Crick getting into a fight with Felipe Vazquez, leading to fines for both players, and Crick ending his season with finger surgery. This isn’t the first time Crick has been reportedly involved in an altercation. It’s not even the first time he’s been reportedly involved in an altercation over Vazquez.

Clearly something needs to change. It would be easy to say that Crick is the one who needs to go, and that’s probably true. But I think an obvious case needs to be made for Clint Hurdle to also go.

From everything we’ve heard, the issues between Crick and Vazquez involve Crick being upset over Vazquez getting special treatment, not having to participate in the same workouts as the other relievers, and so on. I’m not sure if this latest incident was over that same issue, but that has been an issue in the past.

It reminds me of a lot of the complaints I heard following the 2017 season. If you recall, during the Spring of 2018 there were several veteran players who spoke out about the atmosphere in the clubhouse, and how there was a disconnect between what management was saying and what they were showing to the clubhouse regarding their intentions to compete.

It went a bit beyond that. We heard from several players providing background quotes only that a big issue was that some players were held to a different standard than others. Some players could get no punishment for an action that would result in another player being sent down to Triple-A. And it didn’t matter if the player was performing well or not, which led to issues where some players were held accountable for their performance, while other players weren’t.

That’s going to be a reality in any clubhouse. There are some players who get special privileges due to their contract or status on the team. But when that happens to the extent that it causes clubhouse problems, then it’s obvious a change is needed.

The Pirates had an issue in 2017 with their clubhouse. The veteran players spoke out. None of those players are actually in the organization anymore — though I’m not going to say it’s because they spoke out. I will point out that the exact same problems are happening now, and the Pirates clearly haven’t learned from their mistakes that season.

I’ve seen that clubhouse when things were going great under Hurdle. Things were relaxed, fun, and there was definitely a team atmosphere. You had players bonding, welcoming new players, and the whole team having fun and being relaxed before the game, during the game, and after the game. You don’t see that anymore, and I don’t think it’s just because of the losing.

It’s become clear that Clint Hurdle has lost the clubhouse, and it’s not the first time this has happened. It has now reached a point where it is leading to fights, injuries, and impacting the performance on the field. That doesn’t matter in 2019, when the Pirates would be better off losing and getting a better draft position. It does matter in 2020 and beyond, when the Pirates still hope to contend.

They can’t contend with these issues taking place. Considering this isn’t the first time these types of issues have taken place inside the clubhouse, the only way to avoid this in the future is to completely change the clubhouse atmosphere, starting from the top down.

TODAY’S ARTICLES

Today is the Dominican Winter League draft. Players will get selected by winter league teams, and will only be eligible to play for those teams in the future. These players are younger prospects who have yet to play winter ball in the past. It’s always an interesting draft, as it shows how the winter league teams feel of the upside of certain players.

DAILY QUIZ

Today’s quiz is the Opening Day roster for the current season. That seems like an eternity ago.


PIRATES HISTORY

By John Dreker

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two who played for World Series winners. We start with Don Slaught, catcher from 1990 until 1995. The Pirates won the NL East during the first three years Slaught was in Pittsburgh, serving in a platoon role with Mike LaValliere. Slaught hit .305 in 475 games with the Pirates, including a .345 average in 1992. That year he also hit .333 in the playoffs, driving in five runs.

Dave Roberts, 1979-80 pitcher. Came over in the Bill Madlock trade from the Giants. Roberts had a 3.26 ERA in 21 appearances in 1979 for the Pirates. After two appearances in 1980, he was sold to the Mariners. Roberts was also in the minors for the Pirates after they picked him up on waivers in 1964 and then again when he was returned to the team following the 1967 rule 5 draft.

Jackie Hernandez, shortstop from 1971 until 1973. For the 1971 World Series champs, he hit .206 in 88 games, seeing some time at third base, along with 65 starts at shortstop. He went 7-for-31 and drove in two runs during the postseason.

Glenn Spencer, pitcher in 1928, then again from 1930 until 1932. He went 23-29. 4.48 in 42 starts and 80 relief appearances with the Pirates.

Frank Moore, Pirates pitcher on June 14, 1905. Threw three shutout innings in his only Major League appearance. At 6’4″ back in 1905, he got the nickname “Giant”. His only game included one odd occurrence rarely seen in baseball. His catcher was lefty Homer Hillebrand, who caught three times for the Pirates.

Steve Brodie, center fielder for the 1897-98 Pirates. The Pirates thought so highly of Brodie, that they gave up Jake Stenzel to get him. Stenzel would be the franchise’s all-time leader with a .360 batting average, so if you didn’t know by name, that should explain how much they gave up. Brodie hit .283 with 74 RBIs in 142 games for the Pirates. He was released during the 1898 season due to financial reasons. While modern day stats seem to disagree, giving him a career -3.9 WAR for his defense, Brodie was widely considered to be one of the best defensive center fielders of his time.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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