Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Dave Littlefield scored a 200 on the math section of his SAT

I'm going to have Dejan walk us through this one so we can dissect it piece by piece.

The Pirates yesterday acquired starting pitcher Matt Morris, who will be the highest-paid player in the franchise's 121-year history, from the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Rajai Davis and a minor-league player to be named later.

Are you serious? More than 120 years of beautiful tradition from Honus Wagner to Roberto Clemente to John Motherfucking Wehner, and Matt Morris is the most expensive player in Pirate history?

Morris will take up roughly 20 percent of the Pirates' entire payroll, which now stands at $47.3 million without counting the $5.5 million in deferred money being paid to Jason Kendall.

His total guaranteed money, including the prorated $3.66 million salary for this season, is $15.7 million.

That's jaw-dropping. I'm completely...I don't even know how to react to this. Dave Littlefield's trades are getting progressively dumber. Consider the following:
  1. The Pirates are 42-62, 20 games under .500 and 14.5 games out of first place in the NL Central. They have a 0.00050% chance of making the playoffs this season.
  2. If you include Shawn Chacon -- who is pretty iffy regardless of what innings he pitches -- the Pirates were already carrying six starting pitchers, and they have two former first-round picks sitting in Triple-A who will very soon reach "bust" status if they don't begin contributing at the major league level.
  3. Matt Morris isn't any better a pitcher than anyone the Pirates have now -- except maybe Tony Armas. Morris has allowed nearly 11 hits per 9 innings this season, his K/BB rate is bad (1.87), opponents are hitting nearly .300 off him and his WHIP is a robust 1.47.
  4. Matt Morris became the highest-paid player in Pirates history when the Giants gave him to the Pirates, basically for free. Rajai Davis was only involved in the deal because the Pirates needed to clear a roster spot, and you have to get something in return if you want to try and convince people you aren't losing at baseball on purpose.
  5. The Pirates are still paying Jason Kendall.

The other surprising aspect of the Morris trade was the last-minute manner in which it went down.

I guess it was fairly sudden. Nobody predicted Matt Morris to the Pirates. In fact, nobody predicted Matt Morris would be traded anywhere, because Matt Morris isn't very good and is owed more money than it would take to purchase the entire sorghum industry. How the hell did this happen?

San Francisco was eager to pare payroll, and general manager Brian Sabean was in talks with two contenders about taking Morris, who had been struggling of late and was open in expressing his discontent with the last-place Giants. But the Pirates swooped in late, Sabean said, and offered something no one else did: They would assume Morris' entire contract.

"Pittsburgh stepped up to take the player as is, with the contract," Sabean said.

Pitching was the single most valuable commodity at the trading deadline. It always is. Everyone can always stand to add pitching, and this year there was very little of it available. Only one contending team picked up a starter, and that happened yesterday when the Phillies acquired Kyle Lohse from Cincinnati. Every contending team except the Padres would benefit from having another starter for the stretch run, and still nobody wanted to take on Matt Morris's contract, even if they weren't going to have to pay all of it.

Why the hell did this happen?

The single most logical explanation I can come up with -- and it still makes no sense -- is that the Pirates are adding payroll as a flip of the bird to Jack Wilson. After Wilson's dugout fued with pitching coach Jim Colborn, the Pirates made their intentions clear by acquiring Cesar Izturis, a Jim Tracy-favorite who is about 200% all-around worse than Wilson. Then, Tracy and Littlefield lied through their teeth about wanting to trade Wilson, which given Izturis' salary, wouldn't have made sense as a payroll dump. The Pirates' front office has developed an irrational hatred for Jack Wilson. Why else would it be looking to deal him just a year-and-a-half after signing him to a contract extension? He hasn't gotten any worse at his job. As if acquiring Izturis and openly shopping Wilson to anyone who'd listen wasn't enough, they're adding payroll -- just so Jack doesn't confuse his departure from the team a $250,000 payroll dump. This is the kind of thing Eric Cartman would do if he ran a baseball team.

"I think Matt Morris is the right player who kind of fits in with what we're trying to do," said Littlefield.

No human major league general manager, beat writer or anyone who follows baseball could possibly deliver that quote without laughing. It's not possible. I think Dave Littlefield might be an evil communist space-robot from Hell.

I guess what they're "trying to do," you see, is come as close as they can to re-enacting the plot of "Major League" without getting caught. Somebody put him up to this, right? On April 7th, 1989, Dave Littlefield and some of his friends got really high and went to one of the first screenings of "Major League" at a nickelodeon in Bangor, Maine. And as they walked out of the theater and Dave reached desperately for that last, lone Junior Mint stuck to the bottom of the box, one of his buddies said, "Dude, that could totally never happen in real life." And Dave begged to differ. At that moment, it was on. And it's been on ever since. Right?

Littlefield declined to answer a specific question about whether he was trying to trade Wilson. Even though parties on both sides extensively confirmed the talks, Littlefield dismissed published reports on the matter as "speculation" and "a fun thing for baseball fans to read about this time of year."


Are you fucking serious? What you're putting us through, Dave -- this is fun? This time of year is quite possibly the least-fun part of being a baseball fan in Pittsburgh. In fact, it's about 74% more depressing than the average Pirate regular season game, because every time you make some comically incongruous deadline trade, David, the fans are too burned out to care, and the writers are too baffled to analyze it. See?

"Another year, another bizarre acquisition by the Pirates. But while last year's move to get Shawn Chacon was puzzling, acquiring Matt Morris is inexcusable." - Keith Law, ESPN.com "The Pirates have only X number of dollars, and they rather easily dispense it when it comes to certain older players -- Morris, Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa -- but are uncommonly tight-fisted about it when it comes to the building blocks of the franchise, whether that is bypassing a superior prospect in the draft or failing to compete for top talent in Latin America." Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"I don't have the answers, probably because there are no answers. But don't worry, my friends. Only 58 more to go. And with the Pirates sitting at 42-62, that puts their magic number at 21, as in 'the Pirates need to win 21 to finish 63-99 and not lose 100'." - MondesisHouse.com

And for once, Smizik's the optimistic one...

"It's a move that reeks of desperation and of Littlefield, who has yet to produce a winning season in six years, making a final attempt to keep his job, which is widely believed to be in jeopardy." - Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Back to Dejan's write-up of the trade:

Morris had some harsh words for the Giants last week, accusing them of losing their "focus," and he reiterated similar criticisms in a conference call today, saying of the environment with last-place San Francisco, "It's been hard. You almost learn to accept losing. I hate to say that, but it's true." He also called it "laid back."

Wow. So Matt Morris already has a vague idea of what it's like to play for the Pirates, and he already hates it! No worries, though. I'm sure it's nothing $15.8 million and the mystique of being the highest-paid player in team history can't cure. At least Dejan's got a sense of humor. Here's the next paragraph of this story:

Asked how he felt about coming to the Pirates, another last-place team, Morris replied, "It's exciting, a new opportunity. It will be nice to get some better defense, with the young guys there going all out."

Morris knows he's not coming to the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Seton Hall Pirates, right? He knows that he's been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and not the Campeche Pirates of the Mexican League?

Ah, fuck it. I don't even care anymore.

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