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.