Harrison Leipold – Pirates Offseason Update

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have had eighteen long years of futility as they have not had a winning record since the 1992 season.  Things could not have gone much worse this past season as the team finished with a 57-105 record, the third worst in franchise history and the worst since 1952.  It was another season full of embarrassing losses night after night, including a 20-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on April 22, the single worst lost in franchise history.  After the season, manager John Russell was immediately fired after three seasons and a 186-299 record.

Pirates fans have been told the same thing time and time again over the last decade.  Every year the team trades away its best and most valuable players in return for a group of young prospects that are always destined to be the “real deal.”  The problem is, very few of these prospects have turned into anything more than a solid bench player, and the ones who have turned out have been traded away when their contract is up.  Team owner Bob Nutting seems more interested in making money for himself rather than spending it on a winning team.  He has been able to make a very nice profit despite the product on the field by drawing fans out to the park with free bobbleheads and fireworks.  He also never shies away from an opportunity to advertise Seven Springs, which he also owns.  So why the change this offseason?  Could it be that he is finally interested in putting a winning team on the field?

While every Pirates fan has good reason to be skeptical, one cannot ignore the fact that the organization has made its biggest offseason splash in years.  In November, the Bucs hired new manager Clint Hurdle, who was manager of the Rockies when he lead them to the World Series in 2007 and was the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers last year as their high powered offense helped them reach the fall classic.  This is just what the longtime struggling Pirates offense needs.  Hurdle’s first move as manager was to release Zach Duke, Delwyn Young, and Andy LaRoche, three underperforming players from last year’s squad.  This sent the message loud and clear that Clint Hurdle is a no-nonsense guy that came here to win.

The Pirates continued their busy offseason by signing two new pitchers to join the starting rotation.  Kevin Correia, a right hander from the San Diego Padres, and Scott Olsen, a left hander from the Washington Nationals, should provide some stability for the pitching staff that last year had the worst earned run average in all of baseball.  The team did not stop their off-season spending with pitching, as they signed two high profile hitters in Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz.  Overbay, who has a lifetime .274 average and 122 home runs, will add some much needed pop to the middle of the Bucs lineup.  Hopefully the left-handed hitter can take advantage of PNC Park’s short right field fence and maybe even put some into the Allegheny River.  As for Diaz, he will provide a very consistent bat as he has a career average of .302. 

While the Pirates have certainly not gone on an all-out spending spree of the likes of the Yankees or Red Sox, the team has certainly made a little more noise than usual this off-season.  Let’s hope that this results in them making a little more noise during the season, or at least past June.