Why the Pirates lose

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One of the only redeeming things about the Pirates’ abysmal season is that Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette has been on a roll lately. Rather than just trot out the tired old “the Pirates are really, really bad” columns, he’s been exploring why they’re bad, oftentimes in interesting ways.

Today is a good example. Kovacevic explains why the Pirates got rid of Jose Bautista. Seems that when they decided he was a platoon player — which may have been a defensible decision when it happened — they took his displeasure with that as disloyalty and a bad attitude. Kovacevic debunks that, however:

Athletes always see themselves as better than they are. That’s how a Don Kelly gets to the majors. That’s how a Jay Bell becomes a Gold Glover. That’s how a Doug Mientkiewicz carved out 400 at-bats here a couple years ago. That’s even how an Albert Pujols  goes from being someone who could be really good without trying to maybe the best hitter of his generation. Thinking big. Talking big. It’s part of sports.

When players say that they do not see themselves as bench guys or minor-league guys, even if it goes against the evaluation of management, it is not insubordination to express that. This is the major leagues. It is not the utopian order found in the minor leagues, where all the socks are pulled high and all the buzzcut coaches are barking out orders. Players here speak their minds.

Absolutely. There’s a difference between a clubhouse cancer and a competitive player. The good organizations understand that difference. The bad ones — the ones who worry about insubordination all the time — don’t.  Until the Pirates figure that kind of thing out, they’ll continue to make bad choices.

Imagining Theo Epstein in politics

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“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Or: “When Theo Epstein won World Series championships with the two most championship-starved franchises in baseball history, he got bored, and decided to run for the Senate or something.”

That latter bit is the premise of a Politico piece speculating that the Cubs president could go into politics one day. The story features an interview with former Obama chief strategist David Axlerod, who thinks Theo has what it takes. Mostly what he has is fame, popularity, good looks and money. No idea what his positions on issue are, but that other stuff goes a long way in politics these days.

Bonus: given what we just elected last fall, a guy who once had a little temper tantrum and dressed up in a gorilla suit is just as viable a candidate as anyone.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.