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For years now, I’ve felt a sadness for Pittsburgh Pirates fans. Maybe even something close to a kinship.

How else could a Cubs fan feel about the poor fan base that hasn’t seen its team win a title make the playoffs have a winning record in 20 years? It must be miserable for them, and kudos to those who stick it out. In Pittsburgh, the promise of “the future” and “prospects” have long been the one saving grace for baseball fans starved for even the thinnest sliver of success.

Of course, you don’t lose for 20 straight years without making some mistakes along the way. No, Pittsburgh doesn’t have the resources to quite keep up with the top spenders in baseball, but it’s not like the Central has been on a spending binge for two decades. The front office has made mistakes.

Even when it comes to those “prospects” – the ones the fan base has so patiently been waiting on. Dejan Kovacevic drops a bomb:

On Oct. 14 at 11:45 p.m., the Pirates’ minor-league coaches and instructors broke the midnight silence by banging on dorm rooms throughout the complex shouting, “It’s Hell Week! It’s Hell Week!” ….

On the “Hell Week” finale Friday, with a 10 a.m. road game on tap, the players again were awoken at 5 a.m. This time, it was to perform sliding drills on a still-dark field lit by a solitary quartz lamp. The coaches took turns manning second base and tried — not always successfully — to leap over players sliding into the bag, generally making a mess on the basepaths ….

I know about the above because I continue to hear from prospects worried about injury (some among the team’s most expensive draft picks), from parents who wish their sons had never signed with the Pirates, from angry agents, even from men who answer to Stark and GM Neal Huntington.

I’ll repeat: The Pirates’ development system is the laughingstock of baseball ….

[Top five prospect Gregory] Polanco’s ankle was sprained in mid-August, and it cost him most of his final month of play. But the Pirates still saw fit to have him participate in that first day with the SEALS last month, and as you might guess, the ankle was reinjured ….

I know this because I asked Polanco himself. Through an interpreter, he described it in vivid detail.

I know this because a pitcher in his drill group independently described it the same way.

But sadly, I wouldn’t have known this if I had relied solely on the Pirates’ word.

When I initially asked the team two weeks ago about Polanco, this was the emailed reply from baseball operations — no name assigned — through a team spokesman: “Polanco was NOT injured during that workout. He actually injured his ankle during the season. He opted out of those workouts, as he has continued to battle swelling but no pain.”

Oh my. That’s … bad. You should read the whole piece, as it provides more damning background and sad tales.

You never know for sure what’s going on behind closed doors, so it’s dangerous to cast aspersions, but I feel relatively confident that the Cubs aren’t pulling this crap (the risky exercises or the bald-faced-lie denials).

So, remember: even if all Cubs fans have upon which to hang their hats are “the future” and “prospects,” it could always be worse.

(Also: mad props to Kovacevic for going all out on this one. I’m sure it can’t be easy to so thoroughly castigate the very organization you cover for a living. And, no, I don’t mean in the feckless way Steve Rosenbloom does it.)

  • Dr. Percival Cox

    Hopefully this forces the Pirates to do something. Not holding my breath, though.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Since when is denying and making counter allegations not something?

      • CubbiesOHCubbies

        Not to go all political here, but this sounds an awful lot like Obama’s strategy with the us embassy attack in Libya……..

        • TWC

          Not to go all political here…

          Bullshit. You very clearly and directly meant to go political here. Take it elsewhere.

          • Pat

            Or what? How about you taking your increasingly tiresome act elsewhere?

            • TWC

              Or what?

              You can get your knickers all in a twist because I called out a commenter for making a spurious “Not to be political” political comment — I really don’t give a shit, to be honest. I think Ace has made it clear more than once that he prefers apolitical discussions here. But my “act”? That’s offensive.

              • Pat

                You consistently play the role of hall monitor here. I get it. You’ve been here a long time and have expectations of the board being what you’ve gotten used to. But after the first forty or so times it gets old.

                • Tommy

                  TWC typically only calls out people that are consistently belligerent OR bringing up politics. He’s pretty consistent with that, and a lot of us here agree with that approach. We find plenty to argue and bicker about here without bringing a divisive subject like politics into the arena.

                  And yes, I am defending him here because I like him. He is one of the better natured people on this site, and has a pretty good sense of humor. He will speak his mind when the politics come up, but he’s only typing out what most of us are thinking.

                  And I’m not trying to start an argument with you, Pat. You seem like a reasonable guy.

                  • Pat

                    Fair enough. Let’s just say I think it should be left to Brett to tell people to go somewhere else. He does a exceedingly good job moderating here and it doesn’t seem like he needs any help in that regard. I’m pretty amazed that the board has remained as civil and diverse as it has given the increased traffic this year. One of the quickest ways to kill that is when the contributors decide it is up to them to either set or enforce policy.

                    • TWC

                      I understand what you’re saying, but I can remember more than once Brett mentioning that a self-moderated community is ultimately a more successful community. (But I certainly can’t source that off the top of my head.)

                      I would like to be explicit, however, in case my original comment wasn’t clear: I do not want any of the commenters or readers on this site (frequent or occasional) to go elsewhere. This place’s growth has been amazing and fun. But the front page here is a Cubs community, not a political discussion board — but we do have a Message Board for that!

                    • Pat

                      Fair enough. But I think self moderating should be more at the individual level. Don’t feed the trolls, respond to the comment, not the poster, etc. if its a one off comment, let it go. Sure, if someone starts spamming political messages they should be banned, because it’s disruptive to the site. But it’s almost impossible for a single comment to be disruptive (present conversation excluded)

                    • TWC

                      (present conversation excluded)

                      Heh.

                      I appreciate your thoughts, Pat. I can understand that sometimes the “moderating” may be more disruptive than the provocation. Cheers.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      I think the course of this conversation proved that things work the way they are around here …

                    • Internet Random

                      Let’s just say I think it should be left to Brett to tell people to go somewhere else.

                      For the record, TWC never told CubbiesOHCubbies “to go somewhere else.” What he said was, “Take it elsewhere.” To all appearances that statement was directed to the political hair-pulling… as in “take the political hair-pulling elsewhere.”

                      Let’s stick to the facts and let the straw men stick to scaring crows.

            • Drew7

              *or* people could take their political nonsense elsewhere- that would probably be a better solution.

              • Pat

                Oh goody, another hall monitor.

          • CubbiesOHCubbies

            Honestly dude, it was meant as light hearted comment. I appreciate Pat defending me, but it is unnecessary. That comment was not meant to cause a huge debate. Just an ironic comparison I noticed since the previous comment was so fitting. It’s definitely not worth the fight that might come. I apologize to whomever I may have offended.

            • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

              No, you’re fine. And Pat was right: I overreacted. You owe no apology, COHC. This was all me.

              • Internet Random

                I don’t think you overreacted. It was barefaced political fussing.

        • Cyranojoe

          Holy crap dude. Yeesh. What TWC said.

  • Spencer

    wtf

    • Southern Cub

      Exactly

  • Patrick W.

    Holy Crap this is brutal. What are the odds of the Pirates having easy negotiations coming out of the next draft?

    We worry about Crane Kenny having a blessing in the dugout…

  • cjdubbya

    The words of John McEnroe instantly come to mind…YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS.

    Unfortunately, it appears to be very serious. This is amazing.

  • Cubbie Blues

    I really wish there was video from those sliding drills. I would love to see fat old managers trying to hurdle sliding players. Oh wait, I think I’ve seen that during rain delays on WGN when they rerun America’s Funniest Home Videos.

  • cubchymyst

    Now Appel looks smart for not signing with them this past draft.

    • BD

      Or we might now be hearing something that he heard before signing day, which possibly swayed his decision.

      • JoeyCollins

        Was just thinking the same

  • baseballet

    Didn’t Tiger Woods hurt his knee training with SEALS? Polanco, the powerful Pirates prospect who got injured, stole 40 bases last season in A-ball, despite being 6’4”. It’s possible that you don’t want Barry Bonds 2.0 to be running through pools of ice water and then jumping into a pit of sand.

  • calicubsfan007

    The minor league coaches: Hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? You will all look back on this moment with fond memories and laugh. Who’s with me? Who’s ready for hell week?
    The players: *Silence, writhing in pain and glares*

  • Steve Rosenbloom

    And, no, I don’t mean in the feckless way Steve Rosenbloom does it.

    That was gratuitous. Feck you.

    • Alex

      This HAS to be Steve Rosenbloom because who in the blue hell would want to present themself as Steve Rosenbloom.

      • Tommy

        This HAS to be Steve Rosenbloom because who in the blue hell would want to present themself as Steve Rosenbloom.

        QOTD

        Well done, Alex.

  • Believe in 2015

    Hey Brett, when do you plan on releasing your Top 20 prospect list?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Not sure if Brett is planning one of his own, but I can tell you that mine is currently slated for sometime after the first year.

      And by after the first of the year, I mean somewhere in the January 1 to Opening Day window… although probably closer to January 1.

      • nkniacc13

        Luke do you know where the Winter meetings are at this year?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Nashville, TN.

          Wish I could be there.

          • TWC

            Has anyone let BN-er Ron know? Those GMs need to eat lunch, don’t they? How ’bout afternoon tea?

            • ron

              They just had the winter meetings here about two years ago, they must love the opryland! Thanks for the tip I may try to go over there.

              TWC, how cool would it be if the negotiated a huge deal at the tea room. I could be the unnamed source to break it herein BN!

          • nkniacc13

            Thanks. Would be nice to experience

          • Troy

            I live in nashville, and hope to be there. i’ll let you all know what I see.

  • mysterious4th

    I would think that MLB and others would be looking into this “training.” I do not see how they can do some of what they are doing. Hell I served in the Army and with all of our deployment prep we didn’t do this type of stuff not even bootcamp 10 years ago was this insane. Why would a team risk injuries that can be avoided? The pirates are what I have thought for the past 20yrs…..CRAZY! There are other ways to get the prospects into shape and raise their endurance without making the prospects, their familes, and agents regret signing with them. I wonder how many future picks will elect not to sign with them if they are in store for this type of training/treatment?

    I bet the “Cubs Way” is starting to look A LOT better now!

  • cjdubbya

    Royals just claimed Volstad from waivers…

    • tjtrigo

      When was Volstad released by the Cubs?

    • Kyle

      He was going to be non-tendered anyway, I suspect. All theirs…

      • Rizzo 44

        Agreed. Sure wish they could have used him as a throw-in with a trade though.

  • http://ehanauer.com clark addison

    Who the feck is Steve Rosenbloom?

  • Internet Random

    I don’t mean in the feckless way Steve Rosenbloom does it.

    Yes, it’s true. This man has no feck. /Venkman

  • cavemencubbie

    There are times when I think ‘coaches’ in all sports have the intellectual capacity of a concrete block fence. We can only hope that brighter minds prevail in the front office’s of our sports teams and weed out these moron’s.

  • gutshot5820

    Chris Volstad waived and picked up by the Royals. He is expected to receive a raise in arb to $3 mil. WOW?

    • Patrick

      Yeah, our luck he’ll go and win 15 games and the Royals will be in the playoffs next year.

      • Patrick

        On a side note.. Do you think we shoot a respectable offer at the other Upton.. B.J.?

        • Rizzo 44

          Yes I sure hope so

  • daveyrosello

    C’mon, don’t have pity for the Pirates. Or maybe I’m the only one here old enough to remember the Leo years. The damn Pirates beat us like a drum for five years running, and were it not for Pittsburgh, Leo’s Cubs would have been in the postseason at least twice, if not three times. Screw the Pirates! Just not as hard as the Cards. Or Mets. Or Padres. And don’t get me started on the &%$(! Marlins.

    • mysterious4th

      Can we throw the yankees and red sox in that mix of screwing?

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