Fixing the Pittsburgh Pirates: Robert Whitmer’s Five Point Strategy Plan
Robert Whitmer (Baseball Writer) Follow @rwhitmer
So we have a dilemma in this 5-point series. We have a team here that, for the past two years has been in first place at the all-star break and ended up with a losing record. Do they really need a change in the team or do they just need to grow up a little bit and stay consistent through the final 3 months of the season? The first thing that you have to look at is the line-up. Does this crew have the ability to maintain after getting the start that it has the past couple of years? I think with some minor changes the Pittsburgh Pirates from perennial losers to World Series contenders.
On http://www.MLB.com the depth chart for the Pirates shows a couple of areas that they need to upgrade in. With a total payroll of about $65 million, they have money to spend on free agents that can assist them in accomplishing their goals. The following five points are designed to provide the pirates with a fix to win now. I firmly believe that they are on the right track in their minor leagues to sustain their future.
1. Veteran Leadership
You can never stress enough how important veteran leadership can be on a baseball team. This is the single most important thing for the Pirates this off-season. They need a guy, more specifically a position player, that has been there before. They know what it takes to get a team where they want to be. To be on top of a division, getting chased by the likes of the Reds, Cardinals, and Brewers is not an easy task. If you have some guys on the squad that are used to being chased, they can help the younger guys not give in to the pressure and maintain their position when they have it.
2. Free Agents
This is going to short and sweet. They need an outfielder, and corner infielder. They also need a catcher but I am covering that in a separate section. Let’s start out with the corner infielder. The pirates really need to make a run at Kevin Youkilis to the tune of a 3 year deal at about $5-7 million per year. This would give the Pirates the leadership they need. Youkilis is a guy that has been there before and is used to being on the both sides of the chase. When it comes to the outfield, Cody Ross would fit nicely in their plans. Above average defense, 20+ home run power, and decent smarts on the basepaths will earn him a 3 year deal somewhere. The Pirates should pick this guy very quickly. I think it’s just a matter of who offers him the length he wants first.
3. The Catcher
I cannot remember the last time that the Pirates had a dominant catcher. Or even a decent one for that matter. The thing with the pirates is that they have a good pitching staff with A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez ,James McDonald Jeff Locke and Jeff Karstens so they need a guy that can call a good game and take the pressure off of the pitchers. Kelly Shoppach is the guy I think they want to target here. He has been around a while (veteran leadership), has some pop in his bat, and calls a good game. The biggest plus for him is that he will go for fairly cheap.
This is also a simple explanation.. McCutchen has the talent and ability to carry a team but can’t do it without some fellow veterans in the lineup with playoff pedigree. The team should sign a few worth while guys and put “We are family” back on the speakers and watch the wins pile up. It is time for the ownership to really step up and sign some great players.
5. Learn from the past and don’t repeat it.
The biggest thing that each and every coach, and each and every player can do is go back and watch every single minute of every game after the all-star last year and see what went wrong and learn from it. The one and only way to fix our future with 100% certainty is to not repeat the past. The Pirates must do that. The other thing for this to occur besides getting veteran leadership (we have already covered this), they need to bring back as a “special adviser” one of they guys from the NLCS runs from the early 90′s. I would suggest Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds made the baseball version of Batman and Robin in their day. Bonilla can explain the concept of team hitting to everyone because he executed it perfectly in the 90′s.
I want to see the Pirates succeed as much as the next guy. If there is one thing that I love about baseball it is the history of the game. The Pirates are one of the classic teams that we have in the major leagues. They have been around since the beginning. I want to see them win. I want to see them revive the old competition that they had with the Cardinals in the old days. The past couple of seasons, they have just had to wait for the Pirates to collapse and fail. That is not fair to the team, franchise, and the fans. I wrote in a previous article on a completely different topic that “the kids are the reason.” The kids need a team that they can latch on to and support. If they do what I have suggested above, they have a good shot at making that possible.
(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)
***Today’s feature was prepared by Robert Whitmer, MLB reports Baseball Writer. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Robert on Twitter (@rwhitmer)***
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Posted on November 21, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged a.j burnnett, Andrew McCutchen, barry bonds, bobby bonilla, brewers, cardinals, cody ross, James MacDonald, jeff karstens, jeff locke, kelly shoppach, kevin youkilis, nlcs, pittsburgh pirates, pnc park, reds, robert whitmer, wandy rodriguez. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.