Apr 21, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau (33) during the first inning against San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates: Did Bucs Make A Mistake Letting Justin Morneau Walk?

Even after making a trade for Ike Davis, the Pittsburgh Pirates still have a huge hole to fill when it comes to the first base position.

Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle‘s unwillingness to give Gaby Sanchez a long look leaves Davis as the primary first baseman in the platoon. Most Pirates fans wanted Davis and now they have him, as Davis is only 5 for 27 in a Pirates uniform, with all five of those hits coming in his first three games with Pittsburgh. Since then, Davis is 0-for-his last six games.

Apr 16, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau (33) after a solo home run during the second inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Get used to it, that’s what Davis brings to the team.

Looking back at the first base position and the struggles going on, it makes you wonder if the Pirates didn’t make a huge mistake by not bringing back Justin Morneau following last season.

That’s the same Morneau that’s hitting .351/.376/.628 through 25 games with six homers and 21 RBI.

Meanwhile his 1.004 OPS dwarfs that of Davis’ .681 mark for the season.

I understand that Morneau was the whipping boy for the Pirates last postseason as he went 25 games in the regular season without hitting a home run and driving in only three runs. Morneau also followed that with five postseason games without driving in a run.

But I was always uncomfortable with allowing Morneau to walk, especially since the Colorado Rockies signed him to a two-year, $15.75 million deal, a contract that has a mutual option next season and may not have even come into play.

I was fine with allowing Marlon Byrd to walk at the end of the season as Gregory Polanco is on the horizon, but the cupboard is empty in the organization at first base. The Pirates never gave a thought to bringing back Morneau and his early start suggests that was a mistake.

Naturally you want a power guy at first base in the middle of the order that can hit the ball out of the ballpark and that’s not Morneau, at least not before this season as he hasn’t topped the 20-homer plateau since the 2009 season.

I’m also not reading much into his hot start as I don’t really care much about April numbers. It’s all but a certainty that his numbers will come back down to earth throughout the course of 162 games.

However the reason I always felt allowing Morneau to walk was a simple one: he gets on base.

Getting on base has been a problem for this Pirates lineup for some time, and they aren’t off to a banging start so far in 2014, as the Bucs are currently 26th in baseball with a lousy .296 OBP. Davis doesn’t help in those regards as he is a lousy OBP guy.

When the Pirates struggle to get on base, they struggle mightily as an offense. That wasn’t a problem for Morneau as even when he was struggling in the power department for the Pirates, he posted a .370 OBP.

If you can’t afford a power bat, which the Pirates can’t, get one that can get on base consistently. Morneau has proven he can. Davis has proven he cannot.

I understand why Pirates fans were down on Morneau, but at the end of the day 25 games is a small sample size. He was going to start hitting the ball out of the ballpark before long.

Unfortunately it is not in a Pirates uniform. And don’t think Morneau’s hot start is Coors Field related. So far he is hitting .364 with three homers and 12 RBI on the road and .340 with three homers and nine RBI on the road.

At the end of the day, getting on base is still the Pirates biggest weakness. They had a chance to plug a major hole and didn’t pursue it.

While I ultimately chalk up Morneau’s numbers to just a hot April start, he will finish the year way more productive than the likes of Davis and Travis Ishikawa. It’s hard not to look back and not think that Neal Huntington and company didn’t make a big mistake allowing Morneau to walk.

Tags: Ike Davis Justin Morneau Pittsburgh Pirates

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