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Pirates clubhouse has been a mess lately

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The Pirates season has been a disappointing one with injury and underachievement marring any chance they had at being competitive. At the moment they’re mired in last place, have the second-worst record in the National League and, since the All-Star break, are a dreadful 6-25.

But it’s even worse than that. As Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports today, the clubhouse has been in turmoil for much of the season, with “rifts caused by envy, charges of favoritism, and overt insubordination against manager Clint Hurdle and his staff.”

In July the Pirates issued suspensions after altercations involving coaches and two relievers, Keone Kela and Kyle Crick. The details of those suspensions and other examples of strife in he clubhouse were unknown before now, however. Biertempfel, who spoke to numerous insiders on condition of anonymity, lays it out for us:

  • Kela’s two-game suspension — not to be confused with his 10-game suspension for starting an altercation with the Reds in late July — came after he got into a shouting match with performance coach Hector Morales. Biertempfel reports that “the incident was loud and was witnessed by several players and team employees.” Manager Clint Hurdle moved in to try to calm everyone down and Kela berated him too.
  • The second incident involved a two-game suspension of bullpen coach Euclides Rojas following an on-field pregame shouting match between him and Crick which required Pirates players to separate the two. It was kicked off when Crick asked why fellow reliever Felipe Vázquez wasn’t on the field for warmups when everyone else was. Biertempfel writes that “Rojas brusquely told Crick to mind his own business, and things escalated from there.” Apparently Crick is not alone in taking issue with Vázquez being allowed to get away with things others are not, such as wearing t-shirts rather than warmup jerseys during the pregame routine.

Biertempfel says that many inside the Pirates organization believe part of the problem is that there are no veteran leaders such as Andrew McCutchen, David Freese, or Josh Harrison to deal with the small frictions which lead to the big blowups. The Pirates, of course, have sent off any number of veterans in recent years in primarily cost-cutting moves.

This sort of stuff happens with almost every team. It’s a long season, guys spend hours in close quarters and even if they travel first class, the amount of travel they do can fray nerves. Having leaders can help smooth it all over. So too can winning, and the Pirates sure as heck aren’t doing a lot of that lately.

The Steelers and the Penguins are in camp now, at least. That’s something, right?

Indians to activate José Ramírez tomorrow

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Indians slugger José Ramírez broke the hamate bone on his right hand last month and had surgery on August 26 to repair it. At the time he was given the same schedule most hamate bone surgery recipients get: 5-7 weeks if all goes well. Apparently all has gone better-than-well for Ramírez, however, because the Indians are going to activate him tomorrow.

That’s good news for the Indians, who are in a dead heat with the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL’s second Wild Card with six games to go.

Ramírez, like his team, started the season slowly, but he had turned things on in July and August to help fuel Cleveland’s surge into playoff contention. He hit .320/.340/.680 with nine homers and 25 driven in in July and was hitting .321/.372/.705 with six homers and 20 driven in August when he went down. Basically, he had been a better version of the Ramírez who won the Silver Slugger Award and came in third in the MVP balloting in 2018, at least for those two months.

It’ll be interesting to see how rusty he is or if the surgery has sapped his power or bat speed. We’ll only have six games in which to see it, though.