Bay, other Pirates veterans disappointed by lack of moves
With spring training starting in three weeks, the outfielder still doesn't think these Pirates are ready to be a contender after making only a few cosmetic offseason adjustments.
No major league team of recent vintage lost as many games as the Pirates (67-94) did last season and returned the following season nearly intact but, barring any major spring training moves, these Pirates will.
"I said I think it's pretty obvious that this group of guys is not going to get it done," Bay said Friday. "Some people think if we get to .500, that would be great and that would be a nice pat on the back. As a player, that's not very comforting -- ultimately your goal is to get to the playoffs and win a championship. If you look at the team right now, I don't know if we're set up to be a championship team.
The lack of moves is a major disappointment to Bay and some other Pirates players who don't want to play a role in what would be a major league record-tying 16th consecutive losing season.
"I'm not saying we're terrible, but it's going to take a lot of things going right to do some things," Bay said.
The Pirates have signed only one free agent to a major league contract, utility infielder Chris Gomez for $1 million. On paper, they look weaker than last season's team after losing relievers Salomon Torres and Shawn Chacon and bench players Josh Phelps and Matt Kata without replacing them.
"What are you going to do? You've still got to go out there, but there's not a lot of expectations for us, even if that works to our advantage," Bay said. "I think we also understand it's going to take a lot of guys staying healthy, and not just being good but being great, to try to get us over a little bit of a hump."
Right-hander Matt Morris, who has pitched on a number of winning teams, also saw the Pirates' deficiencies after being traded to them late last season.
"It's just going to take a lot for this team, over this six months, to be able to compete every day," Morris said.
The Pirates ownership plans to keep the payroll at last year's level of about $51 million or slightly more, or far less than any other NL Central team is spending.
General manager Neal Huntington, hired only 10 days before last season ended, has a better understanding of how unhappy some fans are with the smallish payroll and the nonstop losing. Several fans cornered him at a recent Pirates caravan stop in Weirton, W.Va., and asked -- using a few choice words -- why he wasn't doing anything.
"It would have been easy to sign a free agent and make a splash, to get a positive newspaper headline, but we're not going to spend $50,000 for a used car that's worth $20,000," Huntington said. "We're also not going to make a trade just for the sake of making a trade."
Part of the Pirates' problem in the past, Huntington said, is they didn't make "good baseball decisions."
New team president Frank Coonelly also doesn't like how the club was run. Among his criticisms are that some players reported to spring training out of shape, the clubhouse lacked an atmosphere that was conducive to winning and the franchise overspent on free agents simply to quiet media talk they weren't doing enough to get better.
"No team underperformed more than the Pirates did (in 2007)," Coonelly said Friday, speaking at a media gathering in which nearly a dozen players from last season were in the room.
To Bay, the losing -- and he's not talking only about getting above .500 -- won't end until the Pirates get better players.
"You talk to people at these things and everyone is in the best shape of their life -- all that's great, but it's your job to be in the best shape of your life," Bay said. "I really don't know if that carries a ton of weight. Ultimately, if a guy reports in the worst shape of his life and goes out and performs, nobody cares."
Outfielder Xavier Nady, like Bay, believes the Pirates simply need more talent.
"This is too good of a franchise ... to go through this," Nady said. "It just gets old. It's the same thing you tell all your buddies. We have a good group of guys, we play well at times but when it comes down to it, we really struggle, and there needs to be some changes."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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