Collier: How to improve the Pirates by going in reverse
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By making a Mr. Randall Simon, noted slasher of racing sausages, the top pick in our first annual BackDraft on June 9, 2004, we demonstrably highlighted the pitfalls of noble intentions, to say nothing of the pratfalls inherent in the term "first annual."
As the logical stylists will insist, there is no such thing as a first annual, as it could very well turn into a last annual, which would mean it was never really annual at all.
It was clearly implied on that day some three years ago that the BackDraft was to become a staple of failed Pirates summers. What kept that from being so was merely the fact that, in 2005 and 2006 I, uh, forgot about it.
Nonetheless, it is quite obviously time for another Pirates BackDraft, in which, rather than infuriate the fan base by drafting affordable future relievers such as Daniel Moskos B'Gosh in lieu of obvious Hall of Famers in waiting like Matt Wieters for the betterment of the organization, for example, we instead draft backward toward the same purpose.
We draft from the major-league club, plucking chronic underachievers from the roster in the hope that they'll pursue other opportunities outside of baseball, if any, and almost instantly make the major-league club better by their absence. Old line general managers once called it addition by subtraction.
Think of it as a kind of semi-literary equivalent of that long-ago spasm of former Steelers coach Buddy Parker, who once cut several players over the PA system at the Detroit airport.
The first pick in the 2007 BackDraft is ... Ronny Paulino, alleged catcher, 6 feet 2, 245 pounds.
How Paulino continues to get into Pirates games without a ticket remains a mystery. Spectators are generally required to have tickets, and Paulino has long since become a spectator. His favorite things to spectate are throws to home plate, but unfortunately, these are often throws most people in the ballpark expect him to catch.
It's not exactly criminal in this game to employ a catcher who can't run or, for that matter, who can't hit (two RBIs in June). It's another to employ a catcher who won't run and apparently won't hit. But it's really amazing when your No. 1 catcher can't or won't catch.
The second pick of the quasi-annual Pirates BackDraft is Tony Armas, purported major-league pitcher, 6-3, 225.
Armas is this year's prized, quasi-high-priced free agent. He brought 48 career wins to spring training and now has 48 career wins to go with an 8.92 earned run average. Armas hasn't won since Sept. 24, 2006, and you have to wonder if the club isn't just keeping him around to see if he can collect one win, because you'd hate to pay him $3.5 million this year for nothing.
Our third pick for roster plucking is Zach Duke, another purported major-league pitcher, 6-2, 220, whom we tried to dispatch to Indianapolis after his start June 6 but somehow has been permitted to make three starts since. In one of those starts, he was the winning pitcher, and in another, he was encouraged with his stuff, even if it has allowed him to pitch four 1-2-3 innings in his past 29.
Duke has three wins, two against Cincinnati, the worst team in baseball, and one against Texas, then the worst team in the American League. If he didn't throw so many double-play grounders (mostly because there is always somebody on first against him), his earned run average would be 128.43.
The fourth BackDrafter is Jose Castillo, dormant talent, 6-1, 219, who has become nearly revered in the convoluted manner made famous by backup quarterbacks. As an everyday player, Castillo's miraculous defensive plays to bonehead decisions ratio was always about 1:4. Offensively, he rarely took a pitch unless it was right down Broadway and never saw an unhittable low-and-away slider he couldn't wave at. As a bench player, he's supposedly a misunderstood font of untapped power potential. The reality: he's a heartbreaker.
Our last pick (we traded all the others picks for the rights to Ronny Paulino) is Nate McLouth, who is in the big leagues for reasons that have simply never been made clear, unless it's because he hit 40 doubles for Altoona in 2004.
That first time we submitted for inspection the BackDraft, all five draftees were actually dispatched relatively quickly. Simon was released two months later, as was Chris Stynes. Kris Benson and J.J. Davis were traded within six months, but Tike Redman managed to hang on for most of another season in which he hit .251 and stole four bases.
Little effect accrued to the bottom line however. The Pirates lost 89 times the year of the first BackDraft, then 95 times in each of the next two seasons.
Still again, no need to thank me.
First Published June 24, 2007 11:09 pm