- Grove City, Pennsylvania


July 24, 2013

EXTRA INNINGS: Being Pirates' GM Huntington for a day

OPINION — OK. YOU are not you. You are Neal Huntington, general manager of the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates, seven sleeps before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

For the first time since before Bill Clinton became President, one year before the Rockies and Marlins played their first game, and five years before the D-Backs and Rays joined major league baseball, the Bucs have a legitimate prospect of playing October baseball.

The team has a real shot at being the division champion and a greater chance of grabbing a one-and-done wild card berth.

So, Neal, what do you do between Wednesdays?

Unlike any time since 1992, the 2013 Pirates pitching depth has provided 11 different quality starters due to injuries — not a catalog of suspects who never made it. Pittsburgh’s mound corps has led all of baseball in ERA for much of the season. And that bullpen! Get the team to the eighth inning and it leads to hoisting the Jolly Roger nine out of 10 times.

While this year’s staff illustrates why a team can never have too much pitching, there are greater worries than which pitcher might next land on the disabled list.

“Led” by the bat miseries of Garret Jones and Neil Walker, the 2013 offense leaves much to be desired. After a recent run of 0-for-29 with runners in scoring position and just one sacrifice fly since May 27, the offense has been downright, well, offensive.

Particularly, right field and shortstop have been sinkholes, swallowing up outs with distressing regularity.

Jordy Mercer performed adequately when he first took the job away from Clint Barmes, but has since put up such weak numbers that it makes fans hope that Clint Hurdle will soon stick hitting coach Jay Bell at his old position. Travis Snider, Alex Presley, and Jose Tabata have taken turns at plugging the dam, with similar unacceptable outcomes.

So, Neal, are you looking for a shortstop, a rightfielder, or both?

Are you looking for rent-a-player types who will be free agents at season’s end or are you scanning rosters for established athletes who might be with the team for two or three seasons?

And whom are you willing to part with to get them?

Hopefully, as you learned last year, when you trade fringe players like Brad Lincoln, Gorkys Hernandez, Robbie Grossman, and Casey McGehee, you should not expect more than Snider or Gaby Sanchez in return. Further, you should not pawn them off as “players with upsides whom we control for several years.”

If instead you trade for, as some have suggested, White Sox right fielder Alex Rios or Milwaukee’s Norichika Aoki, what do you do about star outfield prospects Gregory Polenco who could be ready as soon as next year and Josh Bell who could arrive in 2015?

If you are committed to the youngsters who will be under control for six or seven years and at a much smaller cost, then do you “rent” Mets right fielder Marlon Byrd or the Cubs’ Nate Schierholtz for two months?

Certainly the Byrd seed required for the New Yorker or the Cubbie would be less than for Rios and/or Aoki.

While experts say that the organization’s shortstop prospect Alen Hanson could be ready by 2015, the Bucs have been linked with Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez.

Another factor is that Ramirez is signed for $9.5 million next year, $10 million for 2015, and $10 million for 2016. Rios is owed $12.5 million in 2014 and $13.5 million in 2015.

So, Neal, how much money would the Sox have to kick in? And if you are committing to “stars” for your team for a couple of years, why would you object including “can’t-miss prospects” Polenco and Hansen in a deal?

You’ve got a week — less if you want help for the huge upcoming five-game series with St. Louis.

Whom will you get? Whom will you give up?And what will you tell us fans next Thursday when we criticize whatever you’ve done?


Text Only
  • THE CHECKERED FLAG: April should bring welcome return of local racing

    MOTHER NATURE’S last stronghold on winter may slowly be releasing her grip as the calendar changes to April and racing begins to get under way throughout the region. 
    Locally, nothing has happened yet, but that may soon be changing. Mercer had to postpone their “Chiller Thriller” to this Saturday (April 5), weather permitting, featuring the NDRL Northeast Super Late Models, NDRL E-Mods, Crate Late Models, and Stock Cars. Mercer’s regular season opener featuring their weekly divisions of “410” Sprints, “358” Modifieds, “305” Sprints, Stock Cars, Mod Lites, and Mini Stocks has now been pushed back to April 12. 

    April 6, 2014

  • Dishing off Mercer boys bow in Guerino finals

    The Hickory girls and Farrell boys captured championships on Saturday night at the 17th annual Buddy Guerino Underclassmen Basketball Tournament at Sharpsville High School.
    The Hickory girls beat Kennedy Catholic, 41-29, for the crown while the Farrell boys topped Mercer, 76-35, for the title.
    In the consolation games, Sharpsville defeated Sharon, 35-15, in girls hoops while the Sharon boys beat Hickory, 57-33.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • EXTRA INNINGS: Bonds ruined opening day for Pirates fans

    As this column begins today its 47th year, longtime readers no doubt expected to find what they have found at the beginning of every baseball season — predictions for upcoming summer.
    And as I sat down last week to start to put together some ideas for today’s entry, that is fully what I anticipated would fill this space.
    Well, I’m as surprised as you are; 2014’s season prognostications must wait until next week.
    I just can’t get past the fact that club president Frank Coonelly thought the celebration of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first winning season in 21 years should include Barry Bonds.
    You gotta be kidding me!

    April 3, 2014

  • NCAA Football: Rock 6-1 after 17-3 win over Cal U

    Slippery Rock University rode a length-of-the-field scoring drive by its offense and a goal-line stand by its No. 1-ranked defense late in the first half of action Saturday to a 17-3 win over 14th-ranked visiting California (Pa.).

    October 19, 2011

  • steez pc.jpg NFL: Steelers top Jags as Mendenhall makes return

    Mike Tomlin isn’t ready to say the Pittsburgh Steelers are back. Not after watching his team sleepwalk through the second half against Jacksonville on Sunday.

    October 19, 2011 1 Photo

  • wheldon, dan pc.jpg IndyCar Racing: Crash takes Wheldon’s life

    Every race car driver heads onto the track understanding this race could be the last and hoping it won’t be. On Sunday, IndyCar drivers got a harsh reminder when the worst happened to one of their own.

    October 19, 2011 3 Photos

  • pens pc.jpg NHL: Sabres beat Penguins 3-2

    The Buffalo Sabres have had trouble with the Pittsburgh Penguins whether Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play or not.

    October 19, 2011 1 Photo

  • canadiens logo pc.jpg NHL Quick glance: Montreal at Pittsburgh

    A breakdown of the National Hockey League game Thursday night between the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Montreal Canadiens.

    October 19, 2011 4 Photos

  • High School Highlights: Oct. 19, 2011

    A look at the last few days in local high school fall sports action.

    October 19, 2011

  • washington, ron pc.jpg Leading Off: Oct. 19, 2011

    News and notes from the local, regional and national sports scene.

    October 19, 2011 5 Photos

Featured Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide