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Once again, at the risk of a reader mutiny, I will stray for a moment from figuring out which Steeler is most goat-worthy for a palate-cleanser courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Normally, a September Pirates game would be (and usually is) an afterthought, but today, there was a minor controversy. And if any team could conceivably come away with controversy from an 11-1 victory over one of the best teams in the league, it's the Pirates.

So as mentioned, the score is 11-1. It's the ninth inning. There are two outs. Zach Duke is on the hill, ready to close out the NL West champs-to-be and claim his fourth complete game of the season. And then, John Russell does the unthinkable. He pulls Duke for reliever Donnie Veal, which elicits a response of cascading boos from the die-hards at PNC Park.

Even better than this gross display of over-management was Russell's mind-blowing explanation:
"I wanted Zach to have a nice ovation from the fans," Russell said. "He did a heck of a job, pitched a great game. We were trying to get him a shutout and, unfortunately, they scored the run. We just wanted to give the fans an opportunity to appreciate what he did rather than the game just being over. We needed to get Donnie a little work today with Karstens and him both pitching Wednesday. It was good that we got Donnie in the game. That'll make him a little more prepared."
Now that we're all dumber for having heard that, let's break it down. Donnie Veal ended up throwing a grand total of four pitches against a Dodger team down 10 that was mailing it in at that point. How and what does that prepare him for, and does Russell really expect to sell that line and have anyone buy it?

Beyond that, there's the equally moronic logic of doing it for the ovation. What, were the dozen fans still in attendance who sat through A. an entire Pirate game, and B. nine innings of a blowout, not willing to cheer Duke after one more out? In fact, this move backfired so badly that the fans ended up booing Russell for pulling Duke. Well played, JR. I'd love to see your logic play out on the World Series stage someday.

But here's what's important: Duke wanted the complete game. Every pitcher wants the complete game. And guess what? He's eligible for arbitration in the offseason. So now, his stat line shows three complete games and one manufactured ovation instead of four complete games. If you think even a little thing like that doesn't matter to a player, you're wrong. It does. It's not just the stat as much as it's the appearance that the manager is ignoring something so meaningful to the player. As crazy as this is to imagine, Duke is one of the more vested Pirates. These are the types of things that can add up and truly damage a player-manager relationship. You don't pull a player before an individual milestone if you don't have to. And being that they had a 10-run lead, it was not completely necessary to pull Duke. To put a positive spin on it, such a gesture would actually build some goodwill between Russell and Duke if it played out like most think it should have.

Of course, the point is moot because the Pirates are going to stink for the foreseeable future anyway with or without Zach Duke being in a happy place with his manager. But if you're ever looking for an example of how "the Pirates are being the Pirates", this would merit a place on that long, long list.

Russell explains lifting Duke [PBC Blog]

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Hanlon7117 said...

No worries, Don. Bucco posts are like a good crap, you gotta get it out of you every once in awhile.

I, for one, forgot that they were still playing.

Unknown said...

i think the pittsburgh pirates, organization wide, go out of their way to destroy pitchers

The Mad Bubbler said...

Please quit talking about the Pirates.

nuthinhere said...

Actually I would like more Pirate posts. Despair builds character.

SantoGold said...

What's next; Maybe JR will have someone pinch-run for McCutcheon because he wants to save his legs for tomorrow's game. Or have the pitchers throw change-ups the entire game to save their arms.

The Abiding Dude said...

Is it possible that it was in his contract that he got bonus money for pitching complete games? Or once he hit 4 complete games he received a nice bonus? Such a nice ballpark

Nate said...

As Charlie said on Bucs Dugout: Only Pirates fans can turn a game in which their team beat a playoff-bound team 11-1 and Andy LaRoche went 5-for-5 with 2 homers into a conspiracy about pulling Zach Duke to save money. But, you know. Only in the ninth. And only when he had one out to go. And only AFTER he'd given up a run.

Unknown said...

"But, you know. Only in the ninth. And only when he had one out to go. And only AFTER he'd given up a run."


The Mad Bubbler said...

Nate: Can you really blame them?? When you blatantly screw your fans over for years and years, expect the worst.

Unknown said...

The funniest part of this whole story is that the only reason Duke was even pitching in the 9th with an 11 run lead was so he could pick up the statistical milestone. Had it been a blowout where Duke wasn't going for a shutout, he would have been out of the game already. The only reason he was left in was for a chance to pad his individual stats with a second shutout of the season.

Nate said...

Corey: Do I really need to spell it out for you?

The Pirates are done for this season. They've clinched last in the NL Central. Nothing that happens in any of these games is meaningful.

However, Zach Duke had a shutout going. That's pretty cool. Rather than pull him in, say, the 8th to save his arm, John Russell let him in to let him attempt to put up a second complete game shutout. That's also pretty cool, and something a lot of managers wouldn't do.

Duke made it through the first two outs of the inning, shutout in tact. One more out, he goes home with a second complete game shutout. Then he gives up a run. Now, there is legitimately absolutely NO reason to leave him in the game to get the final out. His statistical milestone is not going to happen anymore. So JR puts in Donald Veal, the reliever on our team that needs the most work.

Honestly, guys. It's not a conspiracy. It's smart baseball.

The Mad Bubbler said...

SMART baseball? From the Pirates? Hardy har har. You drank too much koolaid. You're probably the type of person who "believes" in the new management, believes things will change, and gives those crooks your hard earned money. People like you keep the Pirates operating the way they do: Out to make money, who cares about anything else.

SantoGold said...

What about your koolaid flavor Mad Bubbler? I suppose you still are grinding an axe about Huntington breaking up "the best outfield in baseball". The team undertook a major rebuilding this season. It happens with several teams in all sports each season. Given the past performance of the major players on the Pirates roster, it should not have been a hard decision to do so to go this route.

And with any rebuilding team, it should go without saying, you are not going to see results in the first season. Probably not a huge turnaround next season either. Thats what you get when you trade for young prospects.

The Pirate may have had 17 losing seasons, but this is only Connelly's/Huntington's 3rd season with the team. Give their plan a chance. What would your plan be? Overpay for Sanchez and Wilson just so that we could finish the season with 95 losses instead of 100?

The 1985 Pirates were just as awful as the 2009 Pirates. Syd Thrift similarly overhauled those Pirates and it still took 5 years to turn them into a playoff team. Can we at least give this team a year or two before declaring this year's roster moves a failure?

By the way, I don't know his real motive, but JR screwed up yanking Duke.

The Mad Bubbler said...

I can't believe I'm talking about baseball this much, but it does NOT matter who is the GM/manager of this team, it matters who OWNS this team, that man is Bob Nutting. He has been the Chairman of the Board since 2003, HE is responsible for what happens to this team. If Ray Shero traded Crosby and Malkin for prospects that turned out to be nothing, and Mario didn't fire him until 20 years later, it's Mario's fault, not Shero's, that the Pens would stink. Bob Nutting doesn't care about the product on the field. He doesn't care what the managers do as long as they aren't spending money. He's losing money in the newspaper industry and picking it up with the Succos.

Wait until the Pirates actually become a decent team, win 80 some games, make the playoffs. When it comes time to re-sign a good player, go after a good free agent, trade for that extra key member to make a world series push, Bob Nutting will not do it, and maybe that's when Pirates fans will see they've been kicked around and robbed for over 10 years now.

Sure, you can give this team a year or two before deciding, then you can give the next overhaul a year or two, and the next one, all while Nutting counts his money. Keep going to the games Santo Gold, things will never change...