Gene Collier: There's no question ... it's time to give up on the Pirates

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Trending upward and trailing flashes of hopeful spin at an All-Star break that ended not even a week ago, the Pirates are, by way of understatement, trending downward today, trending downward in something like the way the office printer might trend downward if you pushed it out a 10th-story window.

Things were so bad after yesterday's sixth consecutive desultory loss that efforts to say something different or even positive about the poor little Buccos were pretty much limited to, "Well, at least they're not electrocuting dogs."

At least that's the one I was stuck on.

It's good news that no Pirates will be indicted in the Michael Vick dogfighting case, but clearly, it's time to close the book on the 2007 Pirates and focus on the looming NFL season in all its promise and ancillary criminality. But still, it's hard to walk off without at least an attempt at quantifying what went down on the North Side in less than 48 hours this week, within three losses to the Colorado Rockies that dripped finality along with the customary incompetence.

Let's be reminded that it is inappropriate -- completely inappropriate, as we've been advised -- to question the commitment Nutting family ownership has to winning, so perhaps it's a good thing the club looks as if it fully intends to finish 40-122, which should heighten ownership's understanding of the task at hand.

Forget the poisoned atmospherics that enabled Monday night's dugout blowup between shortstop Jack Wilson and pitching coach Jim Colborn, and forget that the former has become such a non-factor offensively that opposing managers pitch to him with runners on base and the pitcher up next, and forget that under the latter the team earned run average has gone from 4.42 to 4.60 in a year and a half.

Instead consider that the Rockies, who had won five of their 15 road series this year, who had never won a series at PNC Park (0-8-0), beat you with Josh Fogg and the junior varsity here Tuesday night. With the .310 hitting Todd Helton and the .298 hitting Kaz Matsui on the bench along with Brad Hawpe and his 16 homers, the Rockies cruised through seven innings behind Fogg and won, 6-2, without so much as a challenge.

Consider further that Fogg, a sub-.500 pitcher who was let go by the Pirates after a 6-11 summer in 2005, won for the 20th time at PNC Park, which is more than any pitcher in the National League -- including the Pirates.

What does it say when The Most Beautiful Ballpark In America is nearly seven years old and its all-time pitching master is a guy with a 55-57 career record who has been gone since November of '05? (Hint: Dock Ellis had won 20 games at Three Rivers Stadium by May 20, 1972, less than two years after it opened.)

I'm not exactly sure, but I think it indicates that ownership had consistently put on this fabulous stage a sad, sad product.

The current ensemble has degenerated to the level that none of its components should be considered untouchable, not Jason Bay anymore, not Ian Snell, slogging along now at 7-7 after a 14-11 tease, not even Tom Gorzelanny.

Yesterday's aftermath merely underlined the fate of a club apparently so unaccustomed to the pressure of being only nine games out at the All-Star break it had to scurry back into its North Side burrow for fear of actual accomplishment.

Snell, smacked for twin two-run bombs by Hawpe and Helton in yesterday's 5-3 matinee loss, offered a classic my-fault-not-my-fault epilogue in which he implicated everyone short of Michael Vick.

"I left a couple of pitches out over the plate, and a couple of pitches that were strikes were called balls, and I let that get to me, let my frustration get to me," Snell said. "I'm taking the blame; it's my fault."

Asked about a bloop double that fell behind skidding center fielder Rajai Davis, Snell said, "I'm not commenting on any of that, nothing about the offense or the defense. Like I said, it was my fault."

So that was, again, the umpire, and maybe the offense and/or the defense, and, anything else?

"Somebody was getting the signs," he said. "Hopefully, I'll pitch against them again in Colorado and I'll get that taken care of. I was just told about it in the shower. I'm not saying who it was. I'll take care of it if I get to pitch against them. If not, I'll confront him. I mean who does that kiddie [stuff]?"

Probably somebody who was, you know, tryin' to win. Perhaps the Rockies should stay loose during that August series in Denver. In the meantime, as Bob Nutting looks over his organization at the effective end of another lost summer, that might be the best advice for everyone. Stay loose.



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