Cook: Who cares what Pirates do anymore?

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I'm trying really hard to work up a good case of angst over the Pirates' decision to release closer Matt Capps in what clearly is another salary dump. But I can't. How do you get upset over something you don't care about?

I guess that's what really ticks me off most, that the Pirates have become so irrelevant in our sporting consciousness. Baseball is such a beautiful game and we're stuck with the worst franchise with the worst ownership in the sport. What did we do so wrong?

So what if the Pirates let Capps go and almost certainly will head into the 2010 season without anything even remotely resembling a bullpen hammer? What's the big deal? They're the Pirates, right? Maybe they'll lose 105 games instead of 99. It really doesn't matter what moves they make, does it?

On some level, I suppose, the decision to release Capps isn't completely idiotic. The way baseball's wacky economic system works, he was due a raise through arbitration from his $2.425 million salary last season. That despite the fact he badly underachieved with a 4-8 record, five blown saves and a 5.80 earned run average. It is safe to say Joe Kerrigan, whom the Pirates like to portray as the pied piper of pitching coaches, couldn't get through to him. That can mean only one thing, of course: Poor Capps must be hopeless.

Not to be cynical.

Speaking of Kerrigan, who might be just a bit overhyped and overrated, is there another organization in sports that promotes its coaches more than the Pirates? I guess that's what you have to do when you never have a winning team and are the biggest sports joke in town. It was as if the world was ending when the club lost infield instructor Perry Hill after last season. Shame on me, but I don't see that as such a big issue. So maybe the Pirates will lose 110 games instead of 105. Really, what's the difference?

But back to Capps.

I had to laugh out loud at the Post-Gazette report last week that said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington threatened to release Capps and not take him to arbitration if he didn't agree to the team's contract offer. That's really showing him, isn't it? If I'm Capps, I'm begging to be released. At least now, as a free agent, he has a chance to go to a club that knows what it is doing and has a chance to win. Huntington did him a favor.

Teams all over baseball are looking for relief pitching. That includes the Pirates, who, after releasing Capps and left-hander Phil Dumatrait over the weekend, are looking at a bullpen next season of Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek and what other low-priced stiffs they can find to put out there. Good luck with that.

I know Capps isn't Mariano Rivera, but it is incomprehensible how the Pirates can give away one of their few commodities without getting anything in return.

Now that is completely idiotic.

It's hardly unfathomable that Capps will bounce back to have a much better season in '10. It's not uncommon for a relief pitcher to have a bad year. Huntington knows that. He has said that any reliever's performance is the toughest thing to predict from one year to the next.

Capps was pretty decent before last season. Just last week, Pirates manager John Russell talked as if he planned on him as his closer again in '10. "It's Matt's job to lose."

So much for that.

Capps lost the job without throwing a pitch.

All because he might make -- heaven forbid! -- $3 million-and-change next season.

What a franchise!

The Pirates want us to believe that this wasn't a salary dump, that it merely was about the team wanting better value for its dollars. Funny, that's what management said after parting ways last season with pricey veterans Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche, Jack Wilson, Ian Snell, Freddy Sanchez and John Grabow. After each move, the payroll went down, much to the delight of Bob Nutting, the sport's worst owner but a tremendous businessman. It is far beyond the point now that it is hard to believe anything that anyone in the organization says. It's an absolute farce. The franchise is an absolute farce.

Here's the most absurd part:

In Dejan Kovacevic's well-timed two-part series in the Post-Gazette last week examining the Pirates' finances, team president Frank Coonelly actually had the nerve to moan that too much attention is paid to the club's major league payroll.

I couldn't make that up.

Well, I'm here this morning to tell you that tiny payroll number isn't what is so troubling. These numbers are: 99, 95, 94, 95, 95, 89, 87, 89, 100, 93, 83, 93, 83, 89, 86, 61 and 87.

That's the number of Pirates' losses going backward for the past 17 years. (You have to put an asterisk beside the 61 because it came in the strike-shortened 1994 season).

You might care if the team loses 115 games next season.

I don't.

I stopped caring a long time ago.


Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com .


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