Jeff Pearlman probably needs to stop writing about the Pirates

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Mere days after writing an article for Sports Illustrated about the Pittsburgh Pirates that he kicked himself over for being “mediocre,” Jeff Pearlman posts about what he feels to be another Pirate misstep: the July 2008 trade of of Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees for Daniel McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf:

The Pittsburgh loyalist–an odd breed who gets punched in the head
repeatedly (by his loved one, no less) while screaming, “More! More!
More!” looks at this deal 1 1/2 years later and says, “Not bad.” Nady,
after all, has been injury prone and, when healthy, only moderately
productive. And, before his dazzling World Series showing of two months
ago, Marte was pretty much a Yankee bust–a 5.40 ERA in 25 games last
season, a 9.45 ERA in 21 games this season.

So what did the Pirates receive for two craved medallions? Daniel
McCutcheon, who at best will be a fourth starter for a bad team. Jeff
Karstens, a non-roster invitee for 2010 who will likely wind up in
Triple A for somebody. Ross Ohlendorf, a No. 5 starter or long reliever
for 90 percent of Major League teams (but, in Pittsburgh, a key
component of the rotation). And, last but not least, the mighty Jose
Tabata, a 21-year-old outfielder and the key to the deal for the
Pirates.

This analysis is utterly perplexing to me.  Just days before, in that “mediocre” column, Pearlman took the Pirates to task for allegedly signing expensive, over-the-hill veterans (never mind that they don’t really do that anymore). Now, he’s ripping them for trading older guys who are about to become expensive for young, cheap guys with a lot of upside?

Maybe Jose Tabata doesn’t become the next Manny Ramirez — you never know what will happen with kids like that — but if the Pirates shouldn’t be trading guys they can’t use for promising young players like Tabata, what in Earth should they be doing?

And what’s with the slam on Ross Ohlendorf?  He won 11 games and had a 3.92 ERA — which was above average for the league — for a crappy team. How does that translate to “a No. 5 starter or long reliever
for 90 percent of Major League teams”?  If he was on the Yankees or Dodgers last year he probably would have gotten a postseason start. In fact, I can’t think of a single team that wouldn’t have had a place in their rotation for a guy with an ERA+ of 105 last season.  If the deal was Nady and Marte straight up for Ohlendorf, the Pirates would have won the trade.

Look, I’ve been highly critical of the Pirates over the years for certain things that they do. But one thing they have started to do recently is to acquire guys who, while iffy, are young, cheap and high ceilings. Tabata is one of those guys. So is Lastings Milledge.  It may not work, but it’s the best they can do, and in light of that, it’s pretty smart baseball.

So, two Pirates columns in a week and two whiffs for Jeff Pearlman. Maybe he should cut his losses and start in new with, say, the Royals.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”