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The wait gets harder

Boy, is it getting harder and harder to wait for the season to start! It’s that time of the year when idle speculation takes centrestage, and while I am one of those who enjoys it, it sure isn’t fun watching things get blown out of proportion or the opposing sides align aligning themselves strongly for or against an idea. Undoubtedly, in a sense, this augurs well for the health of Pirate baseball- the fact that people care enough to come out strongly opposing or propounding a view after 17 long hard years of losing. It also tells you that out there is a sea of Pirate fans craving for a good run. That’s all it will take, in my opinion, to put fans back in the seats- a good run, maybe 2 months of .550 ball at the start of the season. (OK, 2 months is a stretch but make that 4 and I’d be surprised if attendance doesn’t climb, especially when Pedro Alvarez hits PNC!)

So, there have been a few minor league signings with invites to spring training involving Doug Bernier, Anthony Norman and a few others- none of them are likely to be involved with the major league team. Some of the idle speculation I was speaking of happened on the PBC blog, speculating about Pirates president Frank Coonelly. This is very very interesting, and Coonelly has been discussed many times as a possible heir to Bud Selig, but I don’t see that happening in 2012, primarily because I expect Selig will not retire just yet.

Still, the biggest Pirate-related issue over this week was the open letter from the PPG editorial board to Bob Nutting, supporting a sale to the Lemieux-Burkle coalition. If you’ve read Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, you might remember Gail Wynand, who learnt early what it took to sell papers- that’s what this letter reminded me of, selling what people like to hear. There’s no doubt in my mind that there are a lot of people who support the stance taken in the letter, but the letter also makes a lot of arguments for which there are counter-arguments that must have been apparent to the editorial board. Bucsdugout points out some of the fallacious arguments used in that letter, and Buccofans comes up with its own satire of what was a poor effort by the PPG editorial board. All that needed to be discussed about buying the Pirates has been discussed, and there is little point going further into those. Just to remind everyone, the biggest issue in these discussions is that the club is not for sale.

Let’s start to gear up for Spring Training now! And let the random speculation be directed toward the team composition, the draft and when Pedro Alvarez will come up. Speaking of the draft, there has been some very nice coverage of the Pirates position in general by Andy Seiler, and RumBunter has a tonne of videos up of prospects the Pirates could be looking at, including Bryce Harper, Anthony Ranaudo, Christian Colon, Manny Machado and Yordy Cabrera. Check it out! FederalBaseball, the SBNation blog for the Washington Nationals (who pick 1st in the draft, remember) have some shots of Jameson Taillion in this post. I must say, he looks great in the video there.

The draft will get to be really interesting. I think Bryce Harper might fall some- for better or worse, the kid has all the leverage in the world at 17, and with Boras as his agent. Honestly, I am not sure at this point that he will really separate himself from the pack, but his start to his JuCo career certainly indicates the kid is for real- a wooden-bat league where he has 2HR and at least 1 triple will not hurt his case any. It also depends on how the teams want to use the draft. Do the Nationals want to pick someone who could be in the big leagues with the ability to make an impact while Strasburg is still in his 1st 6 years? Or are they willing to take Harper who might easily take 3-4 years to reach the bigs, at least, and another 2 before he really makes a difference. A lot of the projections have the Pirates taking a position player, like Christian Colon. I don’t envy them this pick, especially with public opinion being what it is in Pittsburgh right now. I do believe last year’s first round pick was drafting for need, along with the spread-the-wealth strategy. If they go the same route this year, I certainly see Colon as being high on the list.

Pure speculation here, but I do think they might go for a pitcher this time round. It might depend to some extent on how Jordy Mercer and Chase D’Arnaud look in the minors, but if they have a good start, the Pirates might tend toward simply the best player- at this point, that seems to be a tossup between Ranaudo, Harper and Taillion. For me right now, Taillion has the wow factor from a small sample size, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get tossed into the mix with von Rosenberg, Cain et al. That might make for a very potent wave coming through in 3-5 years. Equally, the Pirates might want Ranaudo as someone who might make it to the big leagues quicker, and perhaps use some money later on with other picks who fell. Summary- I see them picking a more conventional overall #2 pick this year. If that happens, don’t be surprised to see the Pirates spend in the region of $11M this time round.

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The Cubs signed Xavier Nady. They have Grabow, for more than he’s worth, Gorzelanny and now Nady (notice how I sidestepped Aramis Ramirez). Hendry certainly hasn’t distinguished himself this offseason. Are they the new Pirates?

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I will be do a rundown of my expectations for the NL central next. Or soon, anyway. For now, I need to dig a car out from under a few feet of snow.

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Under a fortnight to go for Spring Training! Go Bucs!

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