Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fast Thoughts on Another Early Exit

Russell Martin led off the seventh inning on October 1, 2013 by hitting a home run on a full count against Cincinnati Reds reliever Logan Ondrusek. Do you remember the play? Me neither. But it was the last run scored by the Pirates in a wild card game. Since Martin's blast, the Pirates have gotten nine singles and one walk and no runs in 21 innings of wild card baseball.

  • I wish I'd have been wrong about my predication, but Jake Arrieta really is unstoppable. I think the Pirates would have had a shot if the wild card game were a series, but one game against Arrieta is unfair for anyone.
  • Yes, Arrieta could have defused the situation that precipitated the bench-clearing incident in the seventh by just taking his base, but come on, Tony Watson was totally in the wrong by hitting him with a pitch. Yes, Arrieta's pitch that sailed near Francisco Cervelli's head was scary. But does anyone really think it was anything other than an accident? This macho "gotta protect my teammates" nonsense is what put Andrew McCutchen on the disabled list a year ago. I've said it before: Someday, baseball is going to have another Ray Chapman moment, and it's going to make all this eye-for-an-eye retaliation crap involving throwing hard objects at 90+ mph seem really, really irresponsible and stupid.
  • You hear a lot about the importance of games in September during the pennant drive. Well, the baseball season's 162 games long, and each game's important. As I pointed out on Sunday, the Pirates would have won the division had they played as well against the Brewers and Reds as did everybody else. The Pirates opened the season by dropping three straight in Cincinnati. They lost three in a row in Milwaukee right after the All-Star break. Had either of those April or July series been reversed, the Pirates would be secretly happy that they'd have to face Arrieta only once in the Divisional Series against the Cubs, which would open Friday night at PNC Park. Every game matters.
  • We've got the whole offseason to think about this, but the Pirates have some decisions to make. Aramis Ramirez and A.J. Burnett are retiring. J.A. Happ, Joakim Soria, Antonio Bastardo, and Sean Rodriguez will be free agents. Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Mark Melancon, Chris Stewart, and Cervelli are entering their final year of arbitration after decent to very good seasons, meaning they're going to cost the Pirates a lot more money and will be eligible for free agency after next season. Other arbitration-eligible players include Watson, Jared Hughes, Jordy Mercer, and Jeff Locke. Economics may force roster changes.
  • Pirates won't be winning any awards this year. McCutchen will probably be in the top five, maybe the top three, for MVP, but Washington's Bryce Harper locked that down months ago. Gerrit Cole had a great season, but Arrieta and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke were on a higher plane than anybody and will split the Cy Young vote. Jung Ho Kang was not going to win the Rookie of the Year even before he got hurt--the Cubs' Kris Bryant will get it--but he ought to be in the top three. Clint Hurdle managed the Pirates to the third most wins in franchise history, but the Mets' Terry Collins and the Cubs' Joe Maddon guided perennial losing teams to the postseason; Maddon looks to be Manager of the Year.

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