McCutchen, Cole walk the plank from Pittsburgh
March 06, 2018 3:01 AM
by Mark Mayer
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the ninth of 30 at-bats for the upcoming 2018 major league baseball season. On deck Wednesday, the Seattle Mariners).
A return to the depths of the National League Central division caused Pittsburgh to take a different direction. So, with best hitter Andrew McCutchen and pitcher Gerrit Cole moving on to San Francisco and Houston respectively, urban renewal has begun.
Returnees David Freese and Josh Harrison were anything but encouraged.
Said Freese, “The culture in Pittsburgh hasn’t been conducive to winning. “The last two years, we haven’t done as well as we could have because of our environment. That’s what I think. I walk in every day, and it’s not in the air. The demand to win just hasn’t been in the air.”
As for Harrison, he went one better, saying prior to spring training that he’d rather not play for a rebuilding team. Then in camp his words cut deeper. “I want to win. “If that’s not what they want to do here, trade me.”
The Pirates have never had the reputation for being big spenders, but when successful did it through their farm system and seeking out players from Latin America and the Dominican Republic. But even that pipeline has gone dry so desperate measures needed to be taken.
The new McCutchen could be first baseman Josh Bell, who hit 26 homers and drove in 90. Starling Marte has won two Gold Gloves in the outfield but the hitting numbers haven’t been there and at age 29 time is beginning to tick away. Former Yankee pitcher Ivan Nova now heads the Pirates staff, but he comes off a 4.14 ERA and has been on many a DL in his career.
Manager Clint Hurdle has held the job since 2011, but last year’s 75-87 record was the second straight below 80 wins and has the franchise basically back to where they were as far back as 1992 when they were buried in the division cellar.
We would like to see a silver lining to the Black and Gold, but the projected 73.5 wins is spot on and last place is the first thing on our mind.
Encore: The Pirates actually get a break at the start of the season, playing Detroit and Cincinnati in the first week followed shortly after by Miami.
2017 record: 75-87
2016 record: 78-93
2015 record: 98-64
World Series win odds: 100-1
Odds to win NL Central: 25-1 (4th)
2018 season win total: 73.5