Anyone taking jabs at the Pirates in 2008 will have to find a fresher approach than poking fun at the marketing slogan.
In other words:
We will ... find new material.
Yes, the "We will" slogan, born in early 2006 and stamped all over the team's broadcast advertising, billboards, PNC Park staff uniforms and even on a giant, oval sign outside the players' clubhouse -- perhaps they were supposed to touch it on the way to the field, Notre Dame-style -- is no more. Management has removed signs from the ballpark, the team's official Web site is without a slogan atop the home page, and all other traces soon will be obliterated, too.
The "We will" slogan was formed after an outside marketing group performed an intensive study of everything about the Pirates' business practices for several months, beginning in late 2005. The slogan was intended to be flexible, fun and, above all, it was intended to stay in place for years.
We will ... persevere.
We will ... work hard.
The only one the Pirates never dared use: We will ... win.
But, when former marketing director Tim Schuldt left for a similar position with a North Carolina speedway early last year, that took away perhaps the slogan's most ardent backer.
The Pirates do not have a new slogan yet, but one suggestion making the rounds: "Let's Go Bucs!"
Imagine that: A marketing survey conducted by opening one's ears at the ballpark.
• Firm word surfaced in the past week that it was the Pirates, not the Cleveland Indians, who pulled out of that five-player trade involving Jason Bay at the winter meetings. The decision, made jointly through the entire chain of command, was that the value for Bay was not enough. The deal was Bay and Ronny Paulino for Franklin Gutierrez, Kelly Shoppach and Cliff Lee or a minor-league pitcher.
• Two players the Pirates recently designated for assignment, first baseman Brad Eldred and reliever Brian Rogers, yesterday became free agents. The Pirates immediately re-signed Rogers to a minor-league contract, but Eldred probably will pursue other options.
• Although management has strongly considered offering multi-year contracts to Freddy Sanchez and Matt Capps, no approach has been made yet on either front.
• Still available for bench help is Craig Wilson, who said this week he is healthy and swinging after his shoulder surgery in June. As for a return to the Pirates: "I would definitely be interested. I had a great time while I was there and never really wanted to leave." The shoulder troubled Wilson, 31, for nearly two years, contributing to his struggles with three teams since leaving the Pirates. Remember: Wilson hit seven pinch-hit home runs in 2001.
• Baseball America's No. 1-rated prospect in the Hawaiian Winter League after batting .299 with a .386 on-base percentage and tons of plate presence: Yes, Matt Wieters, the player Dave Littlefield bypassed in the June draft. Scouts compare him to Jason Varitek.
• The Pirates genuinely are enticed by the idea of Ryan Doumit as an outfielder, but only if he can get himself into peak shape this offseason.
• Andrew McCutchen might well open in Altoona. He has played only 17 games above Class AA, and the Pirates want to give him plenty of work going after outside offspeed stuff. Chris Duffy should be Class AAA Indianapolis' center fielder.
• Neil Walker, back home in the North Hills after 38 games in the Mexican Pacific League, batted .268 with four home runs and 17 RBIs. Sounds OK, but he had only six hits, no home runs and three RBIs in his final 42 at-bats. That start-fast-finish-slow trait has been ominously prevalent since his wrist surgery two years ago.
• Only 60 days until pitchers and catchers report.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .