Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

pirates-failThis is the third installment in Bleacher Nation’s 2009 preview of the National League Central – specifically, how every team not named the Cubs is going to suck. Previously: Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers.

Welcome back to Bleacher Nation’s foray into the other teams of the National League Central, and their prospects for 2009 success. But, as it’s boring to just preview a team and predict their finish (boring/too hard), we do things a little differently here. It’s much more interesting (easy) to simply examine why they currently suck and are going to suck in 2009.

Up this week is the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This one is simultaneously terrifically easy to write, and tremendously difficult.  It’s like having a friend who is completely tone deaf that wants to try out for American Idol, and he asks you your thoughts. You don’t really want to kick the guy, but you also don’t want to see him go embarrass himself. It’s like that. Oh, except the guy’s dog just died. Because it was run over by his girlfriend. As she was leaving him.

Baseline for Suckitude

The good news is that the baseline has been set very, very low. The bad news is it’s not particularly fun to have to root to exceed a 67-95 mark. The Pirates finished 30.5 games out of first, and a full 7 games behind the woeful Cincinnati Reds. They were only three games under .500 at home. That’s something, right?

Sucky Offseason Moves

Sad Arrivals: RHP Virgil Vasquez (waiver claim from Padres), C Jason Jaramillo (trade with Phillies), LHP Donnie Veal (Rule 5 selection from Cubs), INF Ramon Vazquez (free agent), OF Craig Monroe (minor league free agent), OF Eric Hinske (free agent).

Happy Departures: C Raul Chavez (free agent, signed minor league deal with Blue Jays), C Ronny Paulino (traded to Phillies), OF Jason Michaels (free agent, signed with Astros), INF Chris Gomez (free agent, signed minor league deal with Orioles), INF Luis Rivas (free agent, signed minor league deal with Cubs), INF/OF Doug Mientkiewicz (free agent, signed minor league deal with Dodgers).

When your big-time addition is a guy that was desperately seeking a backup job everywhere else he was looking (Hinske – well, and heck, he might end up a backup on the Pirates, too), you know your offseason has sucked. Jaramillo is a 26 year old rookie who holds a career .727 OPS… in the minors.

The only laudable move the Pirates made was selecting Donald Veal from the Cubs in the Rule V draft. Veal is highly unlikely to contribute anything but additional suck to the Pirates this year, but if he can get his control back, he’s got the stuff to have a successful future in the pen, or even as a starter on a team like the Pirates. If the Pirates can manage to keep him on the 25-man roster all season, they may suck just a fractional bit less in 2010 and beyond for having snagged him.

We could probably rightly include guys like Jason Bay and Xavier Nady in the departures (and guys like Andy LaRoche in the arrivals). But there’s enough pain here.

Their Very Own Blogoverse Thinks They Suck

Bucs Dugout takes issue with the Pirates being called the most unimproved team in the National League. Not so much because the Pirates don’t suck, but instead because they aren’t currently trying to improve. A choice quote:

The Pirates are still a very bad team, of course, but they should benefit somewhat from the decreased talent level in the Central–the division lost Sabathia, Sheets, Mark DeRosa, Kerry Wood and Wigginton, and the only even modestly talented player it added was Milton Bradley.

That’s not an unfair assessment. At least Bradley came to the Cubs.

In a search for a Pirate rival, the Jolly Roger considers the Cincinnati Reds:

Cincinnati, they suck about as bad as we do, I don’t remember any memorable games between us though we play all the time as a divisional opponent.

Once again I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to be a Chicago Cubs fan in the era of competitive performance.

The Suckiest Part of Their Suck

Don't let the rugged look fool you. He's a pussywillow.

Because it would be too easy to say the rotation or the lineup or the bullpen or the management, it’s got to be … the bench. A stretch given the suckiness that abounds, but the bench is looking to be particularly terrible. Let’s assume Hinske winds up on the bench – he’s the anchor, holding down the fort for a group of guys that dream about a .700 OPS. Craig Monroe, Robinzon Diaz, Luis Cruz, Ramon Vazquez… I’ll delicately sidestep the obvious ethnic humor, and simply suggest that if more than one Pirates regular goes down, the season could quickly go from awful to vomitastic.

And in the End

They suck. The Pirates did get very nice seasons last year from lefty Paul Maholm, catcher Ryan Doumit and center fielder Nate McLouth. And they did a good job to lock the three up (albeit while they were still under control anyway) for the next three years. It’s a nice core, but it’s not enough.

Let’s face it. This is a rebuilding team. It is a team that, unfortunately, should have started rebuilding some time ago. The Jason Bay trade was a good start, but it probably came a year too late.

If Maholm continues his progress, and Ian Snell, Zach Duke and Tom Gorzelanny come to as close to their peak as possible all at the same time, they Pirates could have an acceptable rotation. Then again, some of those guys – other than Maholm – might not even end up in the rotation. The recent rumor services have said the Pirates are scouring the globe for cheap, backup plans in the rotation.

Matt Capps has bloomed in a terrific arm at the back end of the pen, but he battled shoulder problems late in the year. John Grabow blew up last year, but the rest of the pen will struggle. As things stand, it doesn’t look good.

I want to drop all kinds of sucky this and sucky that. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Ah, the Pirates. Impossible to hate. Impossible to love. Well, probably.

But do not confuse kindness for weakness. The 2009 Pirates will … blow.

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