2008? Bring. It. On.

The fans say, on paper, this is another boring 90-loss year for the Pirates. You know the kind they mean – first inning romps that bury us and the players give up until the 7th when they try to mount a come back in games they are only down a few runs.

Naw.. it’s a new year. Bring. It. On.

Or all heck breaks lose when one of our infielders misses a routine grounder opening a big inning, or a two-out line drive goes just under our diving center fielder’s glove for a triple scoring two, or the coaching staff decides to develop the relievers with three innings to go down two.

Won’t happen. Bring. It. On.

I’m used to watching one of Duke, Maholm, or Gorzelanny stare down Jack Wilson after a routine double play ball went just under his glove because he pushed off the wrong foot ranging.

Not on the card. Bring. It. On.

And I know you are as sick as I am watching Bay paint the sky with pretty rainbow throws, Morgan oversliding bags, Paulino stepping in the bucket, Sanchez unable to pivot, and Gorzy and Maholm forgetting that the game includes holding men on base.

Things of the past. Bring. It. On.

You see, we have a few surprises lined up this year:

— Bay has been holding back on offense and defense on purpose the last two years setting himself up for a two-year monster run as he heads towards a contract year in 2009. Not only will he steal 20 bases next year, but he’ll hit .320/.405/.565. Why? Because the foot he moved closer to the plate in 2006 isn’t needed now and as opposing pitchers toss him all those inside pitches their scouting reports tell them to do, Bay will rake.

— While everyone thought Chris Duffy was rehabbing from having junk cleared out of his shoulder, what he was really doing was rehabbing his mindset with a private hitting instructor who was teaching him to hit line drives instead of beating everything on the ground. And he’s ready, but none of the teams will open the year knowing it.

— Paul Maholm and Matt Morris both went to Salomon Torres’ training facility over the winter to learn how to throw a splitter (split finger fastball) from Bruce Sutter. Maholm’s is so good, Sutter said the late movement is better than Smoltz’s. Won’t the Cubs and Brewers be surprised.. whoa.

— The Pirates are talking with the Rays on acquiring Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford in July for Neil Walker and some young relievers. Huntington will then spin off Crawford to the Mariners for a Clement package, deal McLouth, Matt Morris, Herrera, and some cash to the Padres for Headley, and trade Welker off to the Angels for a two month rental of Francisco Rodriguez who is expected to refuse resign with them.

Then we’ll make a second half run with Bay, Clement, Headley, Baldelli, Nady, Sanchez, Wilson, LaRoche, (bench: Pearce, McCutchen, Paulino, Bautista, and Doumit) and a rotation of Snell, Gorzy, Bullington, Duke, and Maholm (pen: Rodriguez, Capps, Marte, Grabow, Sanchez, Davidson, and Moskos.)

Won’t everyone be shocked.

— Saving the best for last, John Russell plans to implement his version of the "away game advantage" where our batters plant a dog hearing device in their ears to catch Tekulve’s dog whistle in the centerfield bleachers as he steal signs.

Sixteen consecutive losing seasons? Not in your lifetime.. move over flubs and bucket heads..  there’s a new game in town.

Bring. It. On.

Guy Cipriano, a sports writer for the Centre Daily Times who has been following Williamsport and now the Spikes for years, ripped into lightly into Chuck Greenberg and then called out the Pirates in his year-end story. Obviously Cipriano is a bit upset:

"The Pirates parlayed every bold move it made this past year into a baseball joke… [they] have not recorded a winning season since 1992. And they did lose 94 games in 2007. Even scarier, Curve Baseball LP, which operates the Spikes, willingly signed a four-year Player Development Contract with this organization.

"If things fall into place for the Pirates, they might record as many wins in the next two years as the Detroit Tigers compile in 2008…

"By the way, Coonelly, a Penn State graduate, helped institute Major League Baseball’s draft slotting system which recommends bonuses clubs should give picks. The Pirates have never signed a pick for a figure significantly over the slot value… The Pirates’ reward for giving slot bonuses and hiring an unknown CEO, general manager and manager?

"No tangible hope for 2008."

Bring. It. On. Guy says.

An email forwarded to me from someone around the game who was talking with a third party:

"[Robert Nutting]’s Coon Hunt. Or was it a Coon Hunt for Nutts?"

Hilarious.

Despite all the running around making sure all the players are actually participating in an offseason program, the Pirates mini-camp opens in a week but they don’t know who is going to attend.

The Post-Gazette said the other day the list is expected to be extensive as if the players want to do this. But I believe they have in their contract if they were hurt at the end of the year they have to report in January if a camp is called. I could be wrong, but I seem to remember one of the players telling me that.

If so, then it’s a lock these players will be there.. Sanchez, LaRoche, Nady, Duffy, Doumit, Bay, Morgan, JvB, Burnett, Bullington, Lincoln, Grabow, Bayliss. That’s 30% of the 40-man and probably 44% of the 25-man. Yeah, I’d say that’s extensive, especially since I didn’t add Gorzy or Maholm who were also down a bit in 2007.

Don’t get too excited about my opening piece.. my contract states I have to write one positive piece every 30 days to keep my rah-rah’s in shape. I’m good till February now.

Rumors?

None.

Bye.

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