The MLB all-star break is almost upon us, and besides Pirate fans hoping their Buccos can take this next series from the New York Mets, they are also hoping for a few more things before the July 31st trade deadline. Let’s take a look at them as well as some other things on my mind as it’s once again time to Walk the Plank:
- OK, first and foremost, the Brandon Inge “leadership” spot on the roster needs to be cleared and I mean now. We have seen Inge skating around the Pirates locker room in full Penguins hockey gear, heard the story about him being able to kick a 40-yard field goal and have seen him wear freaky-looking contact lenses. What we havenot seen from Inge is the ability to hit a baseball consistently. Some people might argue that he has not had enough at bats to get in a regular rhythm. Well, after watching his feeble attempts to hit this year, the Pirates can no longer wait to jettison Inge. Sure, they can try to trade him, but I highly doubt there will be people standing in line to get a player who is currently hitting .184 with one home run and seven RBIs. Also, throw in his 31 strikeouts in 103 total at-bats, and you get the picture. While there is a lot to be said about leadership abilities and a veteran presence in the clubhouse, this year’s Pirates roster has more than enough veterans as well as younger players who have stepped up and led this year’s team by their actions on the field. We need the best 25-man roster we can get. The Pirates simply cannot carry Inge any longer. He may be a great guy, and we know he is tight with skipper Clint Hurdle, but it’s time to let go.
- This leads me to my next point. Getting rid of Inge does not mean the Pirates can go with Josh Harrison for any extended period of time. Pirates fans have seen how that has played out over the past couple of seasons. They need to add to the roster, but anything having to do with him staying on the 25-man any longer than absolutely needed is going to be a critical factor in the second half of this season.
- I cannot say enough about the Pirates pitching. Yes, you hear a lot about the “Shark Tank” bullpen and all the great things they
do and deservedly so. They have been a rock for this year’s team in the first half of the season, but if you would have laid out all of the injuries to the Pirates starters to me at the beginning of this season, and then told me they would be a heated battle for the division lead and 18, let me say that again, 18 games over .500 at this point, I would have looked to see if you had completely gone mad. What more can you say about the job that these guys have done? I mean, everything has just worked for the most part. I’m not sure how long they can sustain it, but it seems that not only do they support one another, they thrive off each other’s performance. I have watched the Pirates for sometimes more years than I care to remember, but I can’t ever remember their starting pitching being this deep. This is also a testament to the Pirates drafting and development of young arms and not only giving those young arms an opportunity but in showing confidence in them as well. If their starters can continue this type of pitching, the Pirates will have their first winning team since 1992.
- Speaking of starting pitching, if the NL comeback player of the year was awarded right now, Francisco Liriano would have to win in a landslide. When all of the problems were happening in the Pirates’ pursuit of Liriano, all I could think were bad things. Red flags were flying all over the place for me. Was this guy who was known to be a once-talented, but more recently struggling player going to bring a ton of baggage with him if and when he signed? Well, I can now happily say he did bring some baggage and it’s been a bag of a whole lot of nastiness for opposing hitters. He has also conducted himself well off the field and has become a quiet leader on this team. Again, if he can maintain where he is at mentally, and that is a huge factor, I see minimal regression in the second half of the season.
- I know most everyone is angry about David Wright’s snub of Pedro Alvarez for the NL’s Home Run Derby team. I was upset myself, but Hurdle got me thinking that maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. Sometimes hitters come out of there with their swing all jacked up. That is the last thing the Pirates can afford with Pedro now. I wrote earlier in the year that Pedro would never be a .300 hitter and would always be a strikeout candidate. I also said that if Pedro could hit around .260 to .270 every year with 30-plus homers that would be what the Pirates need out of him. Right now, Pedro is on his way to that and maybe more. He has shortened his swing which has resulted in more hits. Yes, he may be right near the top in raw power; he can flat out mash the ball. Now, he seems to be seeing the ball better and laying off some of those pitches outside the zone along with the more compact swing that has him hitting the ball more consistently. The best way for Pedro to exact his revenge is to blast a few moon shots against the Mets this weekend.
- Now the big question: What are the Pirates going to do before the trade deadline? This question I’m afraid to say has I’m sure cost some die-hard Buccos fans some sleep. I’ll go on the record saying this: they need to do something, but they CAN’T literally give away the farm. When I saw the rumor about the Pirates acquiring Giancarlo Stanton and what their asking price may be, the first thing I thought was that it must have been a misprint. Yes, you have to give up a lot to acquire a player of his talent, especially at his young age and the fact he would be under team control for at least a few years. However, as far as I’m concerned, Jameson Taillon is off the table. While there is no guarantee he may ever become what the Pirates hope, they can’t take the chance he will and have it be with another team. I know the Pirates need some help on offense. Right now, Jose Tabata is hitting like his job depended on it and quite frankly it does. The Pirates were reported to be scouting Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza. He would only be under contract through the end of the year and the Cubs just may be asking a bit much for a “summer rental.” I have seen it mentioned that some people think they should simply bring internal prospect Gregory Polanco up early. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think he is ready. Does it sound like I’m not sure what I think the Pirates should do? The thought of another collapse hasn’t really entered my head, even with the recent slew of lackluster offense. For some reason, and I can’t explain it, I just see a different scenario this year. So, while I do know that the Pirates need some help, they need to be careful. Yes, they owe it to their long-suffering fans to produce a winner in Pittsburgh. I wish I had an easy solution but to get someone who can truly help, not just a spark, but a bang. What will that someone cost?
Stay tuned Pirates fans, the next few weeks are about to get really interesting and I for one don’t want to miss a thing. Let me know what you think the Pirates would or should do before the deadline. You can drop me a line at [email protected], or feel free to contact me on Facebook.