'No matter how bad it was, the people in Pittsburgh cared for me'
August 23, 2009 4:00 AM
Rookie shortstop Jack Wilson, then 23, posed for a Post-Gazette photographer on top of the Pirates' dugout at PNC Park in April 2001 -- his first month in the major leagues.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jack Wilson, spending the weekend in Cleveland with the Seattle Mariners, submitted this open letter to the baseball fans of Pittsburgh through the Post-Gazette ...
In January 2001, my wife Julie and I boarded a plane from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh to attend our first PirateFest. We landed in the afternoon, and it was then that I knew our lives never would be the same: It was 5 degrees and snowing, and Julie and I were wearing shorts. Classic Californians on their first winter trip to the East Coast.
Being the new guy in town, I was unrecognizable and able to really enjoy observing the fans and how much they loved their Pirates, from the jerseys, hats, T-shirts, banners ... everyone had something. I became really excited to be joining the Pirates' family. This city with the storied history of champions like Maz, Roberto and Willie was going to be my new home.
Nine seasons, three kids and 26 double-play partners later, my time in Pittsburgh has come to an end. I think back over the years and feel extremely proud of my time there. Regardless of the team's record or statistics, I put on the Pirates jersey every day with pride, alongside players I was honored to call teammates. Players who never gave up on any game, from 1 to 162, no matter where we were in the standings. As a veteran, there is no greater thrill than watching young teammates become major leaguers, guys like Freddy Sanchez, Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Matt Capps, Andrew McCutchen and so many more. I am so very proud of them and wish them the absolute best.
There are no words for me to describe how much you, the fans of Pittsburgh, have meant to me and my family. I went through many ups and downs in my career there, and you were always there for me. At the stadium, in the restaurants, gas stations, you name it. I don't think there ever will be a moment like the last game of the 2008 season at PNC Park. The standing O I received that day will be the most cherished memory of my career. No matter how bad it was, the people in Pittsburgh cared for me and my family, and that is extremely special. On behalf of Julie, Jacob, Jaidyn and Jersi, thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!
No matter where God leads me next, I will always be a Pittsburgher. Go Bucs!
Why offer extensions first?
General manager Neal Huntington was asked why, if the Pirates felt it was the best baseball move to trade Wilson and Sanchez, he first sought to sign them to extensions that the team found affordable.
"Because we're not signing on that 2012 is when we're going to be good again," Huntington replied. "We're not conceding the rest of this season or anything else. Jack and Freddy, for the right dollars and the right years, fit the effort to continue to move forward. For bigger dollars and more years, they don't fit what we're trying to accomplish going forward. We weren't able to find that right situation for them and for us, so now we shift gears and we move forward."
Wilson almost surely would have accepted the Pirates' two-year, $8 million offer had the team kept Sanchez, but the sides never came close on that front. Even so, within the scope of Sanchez's last counteroffer -- three years, $21 million -- the Pirates would have kept Wilson and Sanchez for the next two years at a lower rate than they paid the duo this year.
Following the money
The Pirates, through official Major League Baseball accounting, are projected to spend $7.3 million less on the 40-man roster than last year, but management is adamant that all money goes back into baseball operations.
By spending $8.92 million on the draft this summer, while signing 23 of 51 picks, they spent $861,500 less than last year. International spending will not be definitive for a while, though the team has authorized an increase from $2 million to $3 million.
For the moment, pending the international class, the total definitive decrease in spending is $8,161,500.
Where are they headed?
On the subject of departed players, money and the like, here are the updated contract statuses of the potential free agents among them:
Wilson: Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik has openly stated his willingness to exercise Wilson's $8.4 million club option for 2010, but the far more likely route will be that Wilson and the Mariners discuss a multiyear extension before season's end.
Sanchez: Recent shoulder trouble has put his pursuit of that $8 million vesting option in jeopardy. His current total of 441 plate appearances projects to exactly the 600 he needs to trigger the option. San Francisco could exercise it as a club option, but a fresh extension would be more likely.
Jason Bay: He and Boston tabled extension talks until after the season. He could be seeking four years in the $15 million annual range.
Xavier Nady: He will be a free agent and, because of his recent Tommy John surgery, probably will not sign with anyone until the middle of next season when healthy.
Adam LaRoche: He and Atlanta are not known to have discussed an extension.
John Grabow: He and Chicago are not known to have discussed an extension. He could be a Type A free agent if the Cubs offer him arbitration, and that would mean any team signing him would have to give up a first-round draft pick.