Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 2/9/12

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Everyone knows the nursery rhyme about the boy who joked about seeing a wolf so many times that, when he finally does tell the truth, none of the townspeople believe him, and his flock of sheep (and in some versions, the boy himself) is promptly devoured. One of the most famous of Aesop’s Fables, the moral is that “liars are not rewarded: even if they tell the truth, nobody believes them.” (I’ll give a rare Wikipedia shoutout for the succinct summation.)

Fast-forward 2,632 years, and we have the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have been run so terribly- hallmarked by decades of cheap, awful free agent acquisitions- that even when they try to sign a quality player, the player sure as hell doesn’t want to come.  While the Pirates themselves generally stay mum playing the role of spurned suitor, they’ve already been slighted by the following players this offseason: 1.  The Pirates offered 36-year old 1B Derrek Lee arbitration, yet he turned the team down, despite the facts that  A) the arbitration amount was rumored to be significant- in the $5-7MM range at least, and  B) no other team has offered Lee a contract. In fact, the situation is eerily reminiscent of the Darren Lewis folly, in which Lewis refused to report to the Pirates after they traded for him at the 2002 deadline.  The 34-year old elected a rare mid-season retirement rather than donning the black-and-gold.

Unwilling to make the cross-state trip; Image credit everyjoe

2.  According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the “#Pirates inquired about SP Roy Oswalt & willing to jump into bidding, but rebuffed.”   So it’s gotten to the point that some semi-maruqee free agents won’t even listen to an offer from the Pirates.

3.  According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the “#Pirates made 3-yr offer to SP Edwin Jackson. Also made him 1-yr offer below reported $11M Jackson received from #Nationals”.  So Edwin Jackson- certainly a solid pitcher, but nowhere near Oswalt’s career- preferred to accept a 1-year deal from a former basement buddy of the Pirates, rather than lock in longer-term financial security with Pittsburgh.

 

These 3 situations offer fans a frustrating- yet completely predictable- example of the collateral damage caused when a professional sports franchise is run by penny-pinching ownership and incompetent GMs for decades straight.  Even when the Pirates do attempt to bring in respectable help- i.e. not the Clint Barmeses and Rod Barajases of the free agent world- the players simply don’t want to come here, and some willingly walk away from millions and millions of dollars to avoid Major League Baseball’s longest-running version of Purgatory.

News broke yesterday that the Pirates are in talks with the New York Yankees to trade for past-his-prime SP A.J. Burnett, to whom the Yankees still owe $30MM over the next 3 seasons.  The Pinstripes are apparently so willing to move the 35-year old that they’re willing to eat a large portion of his remaining contract, just to get him out of New York.  That alone probably gets the juices of Pirates’ ownership flowing, and perhaps GM Neal Huntington realizes that if he can’t sign a player possessing free will, his best option is to trade for one that doesn’t have a choice!

Littlefield's nail in the coffin; Image credit post-gazette

Already, some fans are wondering whether this will become Huntington’s Matt Morris moment. Whether or not Huntington suffers the same fate as former GM Dave Littlefield for doing so remains to be seen. Of course, the real fault lies with Burnett himself, who apparently didn’t add the Pirates to his “do not trade” list as so many players have during contract negotiations.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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