The Pirates have lost four in a row and eight out of 11 to fall two games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot. And things aren’t that pretty off the field either.
According to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pirates players are angry at ownership for scheduling a charity event on the team’s scheduled off-day on Thursday. The twist is that it was scheduled the morning after the team returned from their West Coast trip. Kovacevic hears that the team had a bus waiting on the tarmac after their five-hour flight from San Diego to take the players to the Pirates Charities Sporting Clays Invitational at the Seven Springs Resort owned by team chairman Bob Nutting. Yes, after getting swept by the Padres, they were forced to shoot some clay pigeons.
Players who participated in the June 11 Pirates Charities Golf Classic were excused from the shoot, but that still left 10 players who were told to go, including a few key performers, plus pretty much everyone else who’d been on the plane.
What a blast it must have been.
The bus capped the 90-minute drive at Seven Springs by the crack of dawn, way early for the morning session that began at 10:30 and ended at 1 p.m.
By the time all were bused back to PNC Park, retrieved their cars and drove home, it was about 4 p.m.
The day was as shot as those pigeons.
Of the several players with whom I spoke Thursday at PNC Park before that beat-goes-on 6-5 loss to the Brewers, every last one of them fumed over it, though none would speak on the record.
“It’s a pennant race,” one player said. “Maybe everyone around here will realize that at some point.”
Kovacevic later notes that the 10 players involved were given the choice to participate in the shoot as scheduled or have it pushed back to September 6 when they had a true off-day with no travel. They elected to get it over with on Thursday. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for millionaire athletes and charity is an important part of their duties, but this is just some really awful scheduling, regardless of whether the Pirates are contending or not.
In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.
In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.
Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.
If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.
Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.
Upton had another tweet for the occasion: