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Thread: Pirates are Older and Wiser

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    Default Pirates are Older and Wiser

    Hot Stove: New teammates are older, wiser
    Sunday, February 14, 2010
    By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Sounds like a bad joke: What do the Pirates and wine have in common?
    They're both in the cellar, aging.

    Yet that was part of Neal Huntington's strategy this offseason. No, not the cellar business. Rather, the Pirates' general manager sought to bring what he considers roster balance to an inexperienced ballclub that finished 19-46 last season and 17-37 the year before, rearranged and rustled and ruffled by deadline deals.

    "We always haven't handled it as well as we should have, quite frankly," team president Frank Coonelly said. The quickly remodeled Pirates of 2008 and 2009, he added, didn't play "particularly well in August and September."
    So Huntington attempted to age the lineup.

    He signed Octavio Dotel, 36, Brendan Donnelly, 38, and Javier Lopez and D.J. Carrasco, both 32, for the bullpen. He added Ryan Church, 31, to the outfield and Bobby Crosby, 30, to the infield. Statistically speaking, all these older heads barely made a dent in what concluded last season as baseball's second-youngest 40-man roster: The new, older Pirates aged roughly three months, up to 26.78 years old.

    Psychologically speaking, this veteran infusion provides the younger Pirates with the feeling that there's a layer of maturity around them, especially after 2009 started with four and ended with just one grizzled veteran on deck: Ramon Vazquez, 33. Now Vazquez is one of seven thirtysomethings set to open spring training next week, with Pirates pitchers and catchers reporting Wednesday.

    "They picked up some key guys, guys that we really needed," said center fielder Andrew McCutchen, 23. "Guys in the bullpen. Guys that can help us out."

    "Absolutely," Evan Meek, 26, added in support of such transactions, particularly for his fellow relievers. "They got, like, 18 years [combined between Dotel and Donnelly]. They've been where we all want to be, not just the bullpen but the team. I think it'll be good for us to kind of watch them and kind of learn from them and pick up stuff. I think it's a really good pick up."
    To be fair, this relative mentor program left out a couple of spots, namely catcher and the starting rotation.

    "Would I have liked at some point to have a guy [around] like Matt Morris -- he was awesome to be around -- for a year?" asked Paul Maholm. Of course. Still, "it's really great to have Octavio and Brendan, Javier being around the Red Sox. . . ."
    As Meek alluded, more than their experience, newcomers such as Dotel and Donnelly between them have participated in the most meaningful of baseball by pitching in 25 playoff games. Donnelly won a 2002 World Series ring with the Angels, relieving in their crucial Games 6 and 7. Both know pennants and late October intimately.

    "Yeah, it is a different feeling. Definitely," Crosby said of the vet role. "I don't feel old; I feel like I'm still 23, 24.
    "When I talked to Neal Huntington, I kind of got the gist of it, that he would like me to obviously help out the younger guys. When you have a lot of young guys, hopefully they can turn to me and ask questions or I can help them along the way. That's something that comes with the territory when you've played a few years. I'm happy to do it."

    The flip side

    The way manager John Russell looks at it, the younger players won't act so young this time around, either.
    "People have asked me," Russell began, " 'You're kind of going in with the same team, how are you going to win more games?'
    "Last year, unfortunately being younger, a lot of our guys were in positions where they were trying to establish themselves as players at the major-league level. They were trying to do things that let themselves know and other people know that they belong here. It's understandable; young players want to make an impact. Now our guys know what they need to do. . . . They've been through some of it."

    Buried treasure
    • The perspective of Pedro Alvarez, as told to the PG's Dejan Kovacevic earlier this offseason: "I think we have an opportunity to be a very good team. There's a lot of talent. I think that, in a few years, we can do something special. I think a big part of a team's success is chemistry and, if you have guys playing together a long time. . . . I think that's the direction the Pirates are going into the future."

    Lastings Milledge, asked about bumps along the way with the Mets and Washington previously: "I brought a lot of stuff on myself with previous organizations. I didn't take the game very seriously. I was always blessed with talent. After I was drafted [in the 2003 first round], I took a lot of things for granted. Once I got traded here, it was a clean slate.

    Chuck Finder:

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    Default Re: Pirates are Older and Wiser

    I believe that these guys now realize it is their team now, and will be able to relax enough to let their abilities take over more. It isn't like they replaced any superstars, but stepping in for for fan favorites was a rough spot to be in for some of these guys. This season, there should be more chemistry between the guys because of what they went through together the last 3 months of the season.
    Add in the fact, that the vast majority of the roster that starts the season in Pittsburgh, will end it in Pittsburgh as well, and knowing that, these guys will be able to grow together and should develope good team chemistry.
    The free agent aquisitions this offseason, imo, are team oriented guys who can teach our young guys how to carry themselves and prepare for a long season. They bring the experience and the leadership that will be needed.
    I can see these this version of the Pirates winning around 74 games this season and being competitive all season, with some new fan favorites emerging. Why does the movie "Major League" keep coming to mind?
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    Default Re: Pirates are Older and Wiser

    I know these guys aren't as bad as they showed the last two months of last season.Almost everyone being new made it a very tough situation. Everyone of us has probably been the new guy at some point in our lives,but even if you aren't the most out going person,you can figure things out by hanging back and watching the "flow" of things,but if everyone is new,there's really no flow,at least at first.For that reason alone I expect the Pirates to win more games,plus 62 wins isn't exactly setting the bar very high.
    Are these morons getting dumber or just louder-Mayor Quimby

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    Default Re: Pirates are Older and Wiser

    I feel real good about this season. I just might get the extra innings package so I can follow them all season long.
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