Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Seeing the Pirates and Joe Mauer

The NBA is nothing compared to Major League Baseball. If you watched the conference finals, you will now understand that the NBA is rigged or at least it is attempted. LeBron got every call he could possibly get and the Lakers did as well. That along with the Puppet Kobe and Puppet LeBron commercials should tell you who the NBA tried to put in the finals. The Nuggets beat LA in Game 1, 3, 4, and 5. Thanks to poor officiating they were only able to win Game 4. Oddly LA won Game 2, but the refs gave that one to the Nuggets. If the NBA is not rigged then the refs are the single most incompetent group of people on the planet. No reason to ever watch the NBA again.

But the main point of the post is to talk about the Pittsburgh Pirates. I will have the pleasure of seeing them in action this year as they come to Minnesota, and I am going to attend a game. This means I will also probably get to see the greatest player in the game today, Joe Mauer, catcher for the Twins. Mauer missed most of April with an injury, but hit .414 in May with 11 homers and 32 RBIs (.500 OBA and .848 Slug for those interested). He was the first catcher to ever lead the American League in Batting Average a couple of years ago and quietly last year he did it again. I have little doubt that he will win another batting title this year.

But the Pirates are still the main attraction. They are my pick to win back to back World Series titles starting next year. They will break .500 this year. They are five games below .500 right now, but I am not worried. They have spent all but a few games without their biggest bat, Ryan Doumit. They have also had their closer miss a few games and are still without their 8th inning guy, Tyler Yates. But the main reason to be excited about the future of the Pittsburgh Pirates is Greg Smith. Who is Greg Smith? Well, he is the front office guy in charge of the Pirates Draft. They Pirates had the best draft in the majors last year. They picked Pedro Alvarez and managed to sign him despite lots of dirty tricks by his agent. They signed 6 of their top 10 picks. Including the steal of the draft, Robbie Grossman, a high school outfielder in the 6th round. Grossman was a top two or three round talent that people avoided because he had committed to Texas and seemed adamant. The Pirates drafted him anyway and then gave him a one million dollar signing bonus, which is unheard of for a 6th round pick and for the Pirates who are notoriously cheap. Grossman is now playing for the Class A West Virginia Power. He has a .710 OPS and is 16 out of 18 in the stolen base department. Not bad for a kid right out of high school. The Pirates draft fourth in this year’s draft and get a complementary pick because they failed to sign their second round pick last year.

Another reason is the great trades the Pirates pulled off last year. They did have to lose Xavier Nady and Jason Bay plus some relievers, but they got back Jose Tabata from the Yankees, who will probably arrive in the Pittsburgh outfield in 2011 giving the Pirates great options with future Free Agents like Nate McClouth. Add to that Brian Morris who was the center piece of the Bay-Rameriez deal. Morris ought to be in the rotation by 2011. And after all of the draft day busts from past years, these sorts of deals are important. The previous front office guys drafted lots of pitchers who almost all failed. Everyone from Kris Benson to VanBenschoten to 2007’s Daniel Moskos (who might be an alright closer, but does not look so good as a started). This would explain why Greg Smith got the reigns of the draft last year and he looks good at it. Add to that the amazing re-emergence of Brad Lincoln (2006 first round draft pick who had Tommy John surgery the minute he pitched for the Pirates in the minors). Lincoln is on track to be part of the 2011 rotation as well.

This is all good news for the Pirates. By the end of this year we will get a glimpse of Andrew McCutchen, which will give the Pirates an amazing outfield. Steven Pierce will probably be a September call up for even more depth there or to replace a hopefully traded Adam LaRoche at first. By the end of 2010 we will see Pedro Alvarez at third and maybe Brad Lincoln in the rotation. That will help us fill the hole at third and get rid of Ian Snell, who is now officially in my doghouse for his inability to get anyone out in the first two innings and refusal to throw inside. 2011 will bring Morris and Tabata and the Pirates are looking good to be competitive for years to come.