Collier: Pirates have no fuel for hot stove conversation

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One week from today, the Pirates are scheduled to take the old hot stove out on the road. They needn't rent a U-haul.

The hot stove metaphor for offseason baseball talk, a decidedly cold stove in recent Pirates history, isn't a stove at all this winter.

Think of it more as the rusted-out hibachi you've left on your apartment balcony since July 30, the night the Bucs completed a three-game sweep of the Giants, ascending to 40-66 and within 3 1/2 games of the fifth-place Cubs.

Heady times indeed. Still a couple of empty beer cans in the ashes there, and what's that? Underwear?


Next Sunday at Seven Springs, the club's annual winter caravan commences amid all the excitement over the litany of offseason moves the Pirates have made since the end of a 14th consecutive losing season, the most significant of which happened only this week.

What, you missed 'em?

In what passes around here as a major shake-up, the Pirates promoted nine front-office employees to a new management level, senior director. The director of scouting is now Senior Director of Scouting, the director of ballpark operations is now Senior Director of Ballpark Operations, the director of business communications is now Senior Director of Business Communications.

Wait 'til Steinbrenner hears this.

"The new group of Senior Directors will work directly with the executive team in the development and execution of strategic plans that are vital to the organization's overall success," Pirates CEO Kevin McClatchy said. "We are proud of what each individual has accomplished and look forward to what they'll bring to the organization in their new expanded roles."

Only the Pirates, with no apparent interest in actually competing, could be proud of the Pirates record of scouting and player development. But don't for a minute assume that these nine front office promotions come with raises, or by extension that such raises would be further evidence that the Pirates are perfectly content to put money anyplace except, you know, into improving the product.

The club may or may not have dumped some cash into the establishment of the new Senior Director level, but it hasn't kept them from acquiring Yoslan Herrera, Franquelis Osorio, and 38-year-old right-hander Masumi Kuwata, who's coming off a great 1989.

I wish I could be with Lanny and Steve Blass when they bat these names around the New Anchor Inn in Punxsutawney Jan. 18. And wait until they tell 'em in Wheeling about Jose Hernandez III: Season of the Witch.

Don't tell me you missed that one, too.

Jose Hernandez, last seen helping the Phillies barely miss the postseason, will get $900,000 this year if he makes the Pirates out of spring training and starts a third engagement with the Bores of Summer. After 15 seasons in which he has had more strikeouts (1,391) than hits (1,166) and finished in the top 10 in the National League in strikeouts six times (twice winning the MWP -- most whiffable player), the versatile futility infielder might as well turn 38 this July in Pittsburgh as anywhere.

But $900,000?

Man, you could promote a shipload of front-office types with that. You could make the parrot Senior Parrot for Wacky Hi-jinks. And yes, if you're wondering, the Pirates will be bringing that second mascot, Captain Jolly Roger, with the caravan. Adding a second mascot, unlike adding a power hitting first baseman or a right-handed starting pitcher, was not only a need Pirates management could handle, but a need only Pirates management could even identify.

On top of all this, the Pirates have negotiated a deal that will keep the club's spring training base in Bradenton, Fla., for the next 31 years, which figures to guarantee the team's broadcasts will include at least 31 million radio spots for Bradenton and the nearby Gulf beaches. By June 1.

As for Aubrey Huff, the middling free agent power hitter, and Jeff Suppan, the middling free agent power pitcher, both of whom might have helped the Pirates surpass the pathetic 67-win plateau, well, they signed with other clubs for actual money.

The good news: Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa are still available. Can you imagine the hot stove discussion something like that would generate? Good thing we don't have a hot stove anymore.

Gene Collier can be reached at or 412-263-1283.


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