The Legend

The Legend

Thursday, July 23, 2015

20 Years of Disappointing Pirates

This will be a very unscientific list as it will only encompass players in the last 15-20 years. Some will be on the list for hobby reasons, while others will be a combination of performance and stupid management. Long story short the guys on this list bring some combination of anger and sadness when I ponder their Pirates tenure.

Pitcher - Kris Benson


Benson had a nice long career, but fell short of huge expectations. He was drafted number 1 overall in 1996. With the hype machine at full effect he was billed as a franchise savior and a can't miss guy. By the time he made his debut he showed good stuff, but was overall very mediocre. Injuries and inconsistency was the main theme the rest of his Pirates career. 

You know you probably didn't live up to expectations when your bat shit crazy wife gains more press than your pitching. 

Catcher - Tony Sanchez


This is probably more managements fault than Tony Sanchez, but he is probably the best pick for overall disappointment. Sanchez was picked 4th overall in 2009. Most media outlets considered the pick a reach and it looks like they were right. 

First, injuries stunted his development then his defense went to shit. When Russell Martin got hurt at the beginning of last year Sanchez was getting a majority of the playing time. He began having trouble controlling the running game and making throws to first.  The latter cost the Pirates a few games. 

I'm guessing Sanchez will not see the field with the Pirates again. With a big rule 5 roster crunch coming next year it wouldn't be far fetched to see him left unprotected. 



First Base - Adam LaRoche  

When the Pirates acquired LaRoche in 2007 it received a lot of press. The Pirates looked on paper like a team on the upswing. The outfield was very balanced with the likes of Jason Bay and Nate Mclouth and the infield was anchored by Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez. 

The interesting thing about LaRoche's tenure as a Pirate was that his numbers were pretty much on par with his career norms. The main issue is that he was a notoriously slow starter and would not start hitting until the Pirates were buried. 

The funny thing now is that most Pirate fans would kill to have someone put up a LaRoche like season at first. Pedro Alvarez has really lowered our expectations from the position. Looking back I think his tenure was more of a product of a guy who never took the next step. The Pirates were in the midst of their historic losing streak and would gravitate to any guy who showed the slightest hint of talent. Such was the case for Adam LaRoche. He was pretty much the same player at the beginning and end of his time in Pittsburgh. 

Second Base - Aki Iwamura

For the most part second base has been pretty secure by the likes Neil Walker and Freddy Sanchez in recent memory. Part of me wanted to pick Bobby Hill, but my disdain for Aki Iwamura is too fresh in my head. 

Coming off 3 consecutive above average years the Pirates traded Jesse Chavez to the Rays for Iwamura. It was pretty much a disaster from day 1. He looked out of shape and disinterested. For some reason the Pirates continued to bat Iwamura leadoff the first couple months of the season. After it was all said and done, Iwamura wouldn't even make it a year. The Pirates were on the hook for almost 5 million. 

Third Base - Andy Laroche


I could have taken this one in a number of different ways because the position personifies the Pirates terrible management during the 20 year losing streak. With the bad management decisions regarding the likes of Jose Bautista and Aramis Ramirez, either one could have easily made the list. 


I chose Andy LaRoche because he was the center piece of the Jason Bay trade. It is also kind of funny to have the LaRoche brothers both make the list. 

The writing was on the wall for the Pirates when the new management team came in. A complete rebuild was on the horizon. While the Pirates had been terrible for a long time they weren't without quality players. The most desirable target was Jason Bay.

When the deal was announced that Bay was traded to the Red Sox as part of the three way trade that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers and prospects to Pittsburgh. The key piece for the Pirates being Andy LaRoche. Long story short, he was terrible. It was a tough trade to swallow for the Pirates as they received absolutely no value from the players acquired in the Bay deal. 

Shortstop - Brian Bixler


This pick is more from a hobby perspective than on the field.  Bixler was a second round pick in 2004 and was getting a lot of hype early in his professional career. He was dubbed an offensive shortstop and looked to be the logical replacement to Jack Wilson. 

Before his debut I bought into the hype and loaded up on high end Bixler autos. Ouch! He could not hit to save his life. 

Outfield- Chard Hermanson, Jose Guillen, Derek Bell and Jose Tabata
You have to make the list if you are an actual Pirate.  Mr. Operation Shutdown stole the Pirates money and for a time resided on a boat. The Pirates made a ton of bad free agent signings, but Bell's has to be among the most memorable. Plus, he actually was a decent player in Houston.

In the minors it was said that Chad Hermanson could "walk on water." That may have been true, but he could not hit.
Jose Guillen is the offensive version of Kris Benson. He would go on to have a nice long career, but you were left wondering what could have been. Most agree that the Pirates brought him up way too early and that Guillen didn't have the maturity needed to be a major leaguer. He would continue to struggle with Tampa Bay before coming into his own in the 2003 season.


It is almost like someone took the battery out of Tabata. The first couple of seasons he was a leadoff hitter with gap power and plus speed.  The Pirates liked him so much that he was given an extension. At the time it looked very team friendly, but now it is the worst contract on the team. 

I'm not sure what caused the wheels come off, but the decline has been quick. An outfielder that is only a singles hitter is not in high demand. I hope Jose likes Indianapolis because that is where he'll be the life of the contract.  

One of the cool things about our hobby is how card can conjure up random memories. I started this post last night after looking at a Brian Bixler card and thinking "boy this guy stunk." Sure enough a post was born.  

Thanks for reading!






24 comments:

  1. I'm glad to see that the Yankees weren't the only team with a bad track record of developing talent in the 2000's. Although the Yankees certainly fared with better results during these 20 years ;).

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    1. We were such a mess. That is why I'm trying to savor this time period so much.

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  2. Great post. I'd consider doing this for the A's, but they've traded all of their top talent away ;)

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    1. Guys like Ben Grieve come to mind right away.

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  3. Honorable mention to Matt Morris: $10 million well spent.

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    1. He was on the short list. We also gave up Rajai Davis in that stupid trade.

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  4. And the Pirates traded Adam Laroche to the Redsox who kept him all of six games. He hasn't had a bad overall career

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    1. He is a good major leaguer. The Pirates just needed the Washington Nationals version of LaRoche.

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  5. I'd try a list like this, but I'd definitely have to use a full 25-man roster.

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    1. My list was large too. I didn't even pick the most deserving guys.....just ones that bothered me the most.

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  6. Sorry we pawned off Bobby Hill on you. But, hey, at least you got Aramis back eventually!

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    1. The Aramis trade is still the worst in franchise history. It arguably was one of the root causes of the extended losing streak.

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  7. Count me among those that may do their own list like this. A very interesting one for your guys, though. I remember the hype surrounding Benson and Hermanson in the 90s. Also, Operation Shutdown! ALL THE LAROCHES! At least things have gotten better for you recently, but yeah, guys like Alvarez and Tabata are mysteries to me too.

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    1. I should have made room for Alvarez. He will go down as a huge disappointment for Pirate fans because he toyed with us so much.

      I would love to see the Tigers version.

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  8. I may have to steal this concept for a post!

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    1. Do it!!! It is fun to reminisce on guys we can't stand.

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  9. "You know you probably didn't live up to expectations when your bat shit crazy wife gains more press than your pitching. "

    In the words of Homer Simpson "Its funny because its true." That made me laugh so hard but it was no lie.

    Nice post, and like others, I may use this idea too. The Royals have quite a few I could write about from the last couple decades.

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    1. It was really fun to do. Like Tony above, I really could have had a 25 man roster. The list was more personal preference than best choice.

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  10. Plenty to choose from in Minnesota as well - are you happy to get Aramis back?

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    1. It was a good move. We were playing replacement level guys there. Plus he has been swinging a hot bat so it should help lengthen the lineup some. I'm guessing he'll probably hit 5th or 6th. The Brewers even ate some money so it was a very low cost and the prospect probably would have been lost in the rule 5 draft next year.

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  11. Kris' wife is about a quarter inch away from being way inappropriate. :-)

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  12. You could have done a bench version with guys like Ryan Church, Bobby Crosby, etc. It's crazy to think about how much this team has gone through in the past two decades. I was thinking about doing a recap of the Pirates 1st Rd draft picks during the streak. Bryan Burlington, Daniel Moskos, etc. Injuries to guys like Bobby Bradley couldn't have been predicted, but there was some terrible scouting and major signability concerns back in the day.

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    1. A 25 man roster would have been pretty easy. I thought about Ryan Church since we actually paid him a decent amount of money.

      That draft idea is cool....You should do it.

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