The pattern has become familiar: The Pirates make a trade, a popular player leaves, and the remaining players complain. And, of the latter group, shortstop Jack Wilson invariably stands at the forefront.
So it was again yesterday, for the most part, after the two trades in which outfielder Nyjer Morgan and reliever Sean Burnett went to the Washington Nationals, utilityman Eric Hinske to the New York Yankees.
This time, Wilson, the Pirates' most tenured player, described himself as "beyond, beyond tired" of such moves.
"We know that they're looking to the future, which doesn't say much about 2009," he said. "That's probably what's so shocking. We're five games out, and we lost two or three of our everyday players."
That was a reference to the June 3 trade of center fielder Nate McLouth.
"That's what hits us the most," Wilson continued. "You can understand if it's the end of July."
He expressed understanding of management's goals, to an extent.
"They're businessmen. They're trying to achieve winning baseball in Pittsburgh. The biggest question is: When is that going to be? When do things start turning around? It's just hard for guys who have been here and seen these exact same trades happen and seen it absolutely do nothing. I've been here nine years. I've seen two or three of these trades every year and still haven't had a winning season."
Of Morgan, specifically, Wilson added: "What you saw on the field wasn't even close to what he brought to the team. That's the type of player, guys of that caliber, like Jason Bay, Nate McLouth ..."
The reaction, while mostly negative and almost entirely focused on Morgan and Burnett, was not nearly as rancorous as that following the McLouth trade. Several veterans, such as Wilson, expressed dismay at the timing, with the team still in mathematical striking distance of contention. Others seemed to accept it quietly.
"It's not our job to understand the big plan, I guess," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "We've got to do the same thing we did after Nate left, try to keep it together."
General manager Neal Huntington, as he did after the McLouth trade, expressed limited empathy.
"The reality is, anytime you take away one of their friends, you take two or three away in a short period of time, it's unsettling. The human element of the game is something we can't ignore," Huntington said. "But our goal is to put an excellent team on the field and not just a bunch of nice guys out there. We hope to find talented people that are very good people, as well."
The players who took the Morgan/Burnett trade hardest were those closest to them personally.
Rookie outfielder Andrew McCutchen has been Morgan's friend for years.
"Yeah, man, you almost want to cry," he said. "This [stinks], man. You know, it's a business. It's a a great loss to lose someone like this. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. There's nobody who can replace what he can do off the field."
Reliever Jeff Karstens called Morgan "my best friend" and has asked him to be part of his wedding.
Another reliever, Jesse Chavez, spoke similarly of Burnett.
"Just a great guy," Chavez said. "I'll miss him."
None of those three criticized the trades.
The job of keeping it all together -- also part of the aforementioned formula -- will go, of course, to manager John Russell. And he began that process by talking to a few of his players yesterday.
"The upside that we're gaining is something we can't pass up," Russell said. "Taking away nothing from Nyjer and Sean, but these players can help us win today and for years to come."