In praise of shitty players

So the Pirates don’t look too bad heading into Spring Training. Well, at least they don’t look too bad when compared to the past few years. They’ve got the reigning NL batting champ, newly acquired slugger Adam LaRoche, and franchise cornerstone Jason Bay. And, though this has been the case the past few years, they boast a young and promising pitching staff.

There are still holes, to be sure. Veteran SS Jack Wilson had something to say about one of those holes at PirateFest this past weekend. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ron Cook is not only on board with Wilson, but he even paraphrased him:

Jose, we love you, buddy, but we need you to come to spring training with your head right. If you’re not in shape, number one, and not focused, number two, we don’t want you. If you’re not ready to be your best every game, every at-bat, every play in the field, do us all a favor and stay home in Venezuela.

It’s tough to decide where to start here. Let’s start with Wilson himself, who is, by nearly every measure, not a good player, at least on the offensive side of the ball. I can call up his stats with the few taps of the keyboard, and it’s apparent that he doesn’t add much value to the Pirates offense, with a line of .273/.316/.370. If you want to get nerdy, his 2006 VORP was 4.6, ranking him 13th among shortstops in the NL. But he’s showing leadership qualities (!), which surely outweigh his dismal OBP.

So we have a shitty player calling out another player who just so happens to be shitty, too. Jose Castillo, in his age 25 season, hit .253/.299/.382. So yeah, I guess Wilson’s right in that Castillo has to come to camp focused, so that he can maybe top a .320 OBP which, while still well below average, wouldn’t be quite as killer.

The article goes on to say that Castillo’s spot will be challenged in camp by Jose Bautista. Also in his age 25 season, he hit .235/.335/.420. Well, then. He seems like he’ll fit just fine. Some may balk and say, “But Del, he only hit .235. That’s really bad.” Yes, maybe, but that makes his .420 slugging percentage look that much better. His .335 OBP is quite nice, at least relatively, and should see a spike should Mr. Bautista adjust in his second full year and up his batting average.

I understand wanting to motivate your teammates. But wouldn’t this be more appropriate coming from, say, Jason Bay, who’s actually talented with a baseball bat, rather than Jack Wilson, who has his own set of troubles with one?

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