Pirates Frustrations Runneth Over Against Cubs

Gerrit Cole has every right to do what he wants when he’s not on the clock, maybe blow off some steam after starting 2016 poorly. But to me, he’d be better off doing it a little more privately than banging on the glass at a Penguins playoff game, screaming at Capitals players and publicly getting reprimanded by Consol’s staff. He’s not Nick Mangold. Cole is the Pirates’ player union representative.

Maybe the bigger question is why is he the union representative? He complained about $3K when his agent figures to get him, what, $150 million-plus in a few years? How the Pirates didn’t name a more senior player to be union rep really surprises me. Chris Stewart would make for the perfect choice. He’s on the wrong side of 30, appears to be well-liked, and he’s signed for two seasons.

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Andrew McCutchen has earned the right to act the way he did Tuesday, when he called for the official scorer to be fired because he charged the center fielder with an error on a tough liner. Cutch was probably frustrated by a litany of things that didn’t go his team’s way – first and foremost, getting swept by the big, bad Cubs. Should he have handled things differently? Yes. Would he like a do-over? I’m certain he would. But you don’t wash out eight good years with one silly statement.

Here’s what I’m wondering. Has McCutchen gotten his vision checked lately? I would have the team trainer, Todd Tomczyk (who has become chief spokesman to the media this year, it seems), to set up an eye exam. Cutch is missing catchable fly balls and his swing-and-miss rates are above his career averages.

One last thing on McCutchen. With so many fly balls getting over his head, I would move him back the 17 feet he’s moved in from a center field positioning aspect. My own eyeball test hasn’t seen any great reduction in singles dropping in front of McCutchen to offset the seven or eight balls that have just gone over his glove for extra-base hits. I think Cutch may be frustrated with where he’s lining up in the outfield but is too much of a team player to say anything.

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I’m curious to see how the infield and outfield play out when Jung-Ho Kang returns. A number of outsiders believe Kang will play shortstop so David Freese can stick at third, but the team has said it doesn’t want added stress on Kang’s surgically-rebuilt knee. I agree. Freese played four innings at second base Tuesday. That’s really interesting. We all know Josh Harrison doesn’t have to stay at second to be effective. Would he like to play exclusively at one spot, sure, but that might not be best for the team. No one has more heart than Harrison. He gets more out of his actual skill – which is really average – than anybody else.

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Sean Rodriguez has knocked the ball off its cover for most of the first five-plus weeks. I remember when he was a young prospect with Los Angeles and he had 20-plus homer potential written all over him. He was highly touted. Alas, he’s settled into a decent big league career. Good for him.

Rodriguez is one of the more emotional players I’ve seen. That can be a great thing, or as water coolers know, it can be a bad thing too. Tuesday, he was playing tight. He missed a foul ball at first base, a pop up he took too long to get over to the railing for. The ball actually bounced off the playing field and not in the stands. Then he got picked off first base against Jon Lester. That’s hard to do. Catcher David Ross fired to first base after a Lester pitch and SeanRod was dead meat. He wants to win so badly and help his team, but he has to play within himself, play smart.

Later in the game, Rodriguez came to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. He cracked a foul ball down the left-field line. The shot was about five feet foul and deflated the inning. Rodriguez struck out and the next two Pirates also made outs. The team was looking for that one big hit. It would have been interesting to see the Bucs play loose. Instead, they were as tight as a brick.

Finally with Rodriguez (I never realized he was such the topic of conversation) he batted against reliever Pedro Strop on Wednesday – and he let emotions get the best of him. Rodriguez felt Strop was quick pitching him. He was, as he had been doing throughout the series. Why did that affect Rodriguez? Why did he have words with the pitcher during his at-bat? He should have been ready for the quick pitches and the differing deliveries. All of the other batters saw it during the series. As it turns out, Rodriguez struck out.

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