Kovacevic: How does front office just watch? ☕


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The Brewers' Eric Thames homers in the second inning Friday night in Milwaukee. - AP

MILWAUKEE -- It’s not a sports franchise to be taken seriously.

This isn't about lousy luck, or about some slump, or some other sad leap of faith, or even about the 22 different individuals these Pirates have placed on Major League Baseball’s injury list, though all are very real.

Nope. It’s about this:

And it’s about this:

And it’s about damned time that Neal Huntington, Frank Coonelly, Bob Nutting or anyone associated with this carefree/comatose/completely incapacitated front office paid any heed at all to the following: The club for which they're responsible for running, however passively, has deployed pitching that's conceded 132 runs in the 18 games since that wonderful West Coast swing.

That's 7.33 runs per game.

And within that, though dotted by the occasional gem from Joe Musgrove, Jordan Lyles and even Chris Archer a couple days ago, what's being run out there, for the most part, has been a collective embarrassment.

They tried a fastball-free 32nd-round pick, Montana DuRapau, as an opener. Bombed.

They tried Michael Feliz, who'd been struggling immensely in relief. Bombed.

They tried, over and over again, Nick Kingham and Steven Brault. Bombed and bombed and bombed and bombed.

Now, in the 10-4 loss to the Brewers on this Friday night at their old House of Horrors, they tried Rookie Davis, a rookie in name only and really a 26-year-old journeyman with stuff that's as modest as his warm personality. He'd last all of three innings, raked for three runs, four hits, five walks and the above two-run moon-shot by Eric Thames.

I mean, what's there to ask a guy like that after an outing like that?

Hey, whatever. He is exactly who he is. It's not his fault he's here.

Huntington's here, too. He watched this. He doesn't make many road trips, and he'd been away from the team for a spell to focus on the draft last week, but he caught all of this one, which followed the standard script for this still-hollow spot in the rotation: Clay Holmes came on after Davis, gave up a run. Kingham came on, gave up a three-run home run to Ryan Braun, then three more when Geoff Hartlieb allowed two of Kingham's inherited runners to score. And somewhere in the middle, the Pirates' hitters kept chip, chip, chipping away to no avail, pulling within 4-3 only to be flooded by their own pitchers and, at the foundation of that, the front office sitting back and doing nothing.

This isn't about Dallas Keuchel, and there's no need to get silly. Nutting wouldn't authorize a payroll increase following a 98-win season, and he sure isn't about to spend big in the middle of a sub-.500 season, no matter how many other bright lights are shining along the way.  And Coonelly's thought process is legitimately no different, which is how he's kept his job for a decade and change.

But nothing stops Huntington from doing ... something ... anything.

He reiterated, when pressed on this a couple weekends back, that trades are "hard to make in April and May," but it's now June and nothing's been done beyond a couple of terribly insignificant exchanges. He also reiterated, when pressed on the viability of Kingham, Brault, Holmes and others as viable big-leaguers, that he feels they're better than "what's on the back of their baseball cards."

That's typical condescension from Mount 115 Federal Street. The loose translation: We have statistics that are far beyond the capacity of any commoner to comprehend.

I'm a vocal proponent of advanced analytics across the scope of sports, but that's insulting if only because it's so demonstrably wrong.

But hey, let's play along and take a look at the back of Kingham's baseball card: He's made 14 appearances in 2019, four of them starts, and he's got a 9.61 ERA way over at the right edge of that baseball card.

Nine. Point. Six. One.

Wait, sit back down. I'm not done: In his past seven games alone, a span of 24 1/3 innings, he's given up 32 earned runs, 45 hits and walks. That's an average of 2.38 baserunners per inning pitched.

I mean ... I could hardly come up with a question for Clint Hurdle on this player anymore and, to his credit, he had an equally challenging time answering:

My friends, without wasting anyone's time on researching 133 years of ledgers, we're very likely watching one of the worst individual pitching stretches in the history of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club.

Thing is, so is the front office. They're watching. They aren't picking up the phone, at least not productively. They aren't adjusting the budget. They're just watching.

And that's a shame because this group, never mind the fan base, genuinely deserves better. The people at the top don't even comprehend what it means to be embarrassed. Not so for those at field level. Not so for this manager, who sent out four pitchers whose ERAs are, respectively, 6.75, 5.28, 9.61 and 10.64.

All four, save Kingham, began the season at AAA Indianapolis, and Kingham made the opening-day roster not on merit, but because he is out of minor-league options.

If there were any real 'pride' or 'passion' among that front-office triumvirate, Kingham would wake up Saturday morning to learn he's been designated for assignment. Or outright released. Or blasted to the moon or anywhere else there isn't a mound. But then, that would require not only those two noble traits but also a tacit acknowledgement that the only reason Kingham's kept getting chance after chance after chance is that Huntington, Kyle Stark and others who've overseen the worst drafting/developing in the majors are so desperate to save face with draft picks -- Kingham was a fourth-rounder way back in 2010 -- that they'll Max Moroff everyone into oblivion to try to make it happen.

What, you wanted to read about this actual game?

Can't imagine why, but I've got a separate file with a handful of thoughts.


• Boxscore
• Video highlights
• Standings


Corey Dickersonleft fielder, will be activated from the 60-day IL Saturday after missing the full season to date with a right posterior shoulder strain.

Jung Ho Kangthird baseman, will be activated from the 10-day IL Saturday after missing a month to what the team described as a left side strain.

Trevor Williamsright-hander, is on the 10-day IL with a right side strain. He'll pitch a simulated game Saturday at Miller Park.

Francisco Cervellicatcher, is on the seven-day concussion IL.

Jameson Taillonright-hander, is on the 60-day IL with a right elbow flexor tendon strain and is rehabbing in Bradenton, Fla.

Keone Kelaright-hander, is on the 10-day IL with right shoulder inflammation and is rehabbing in Bradenton.

Chris Stratton, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with right side discomfort.

• Erik Gonzalez, shortstop, is on the 60-day IL with a left clavicle fracture.

• Nick Burdi, relief pitcher, is on the 60-day IL with right elbow/biceps pain caused by a nerve problem and is rehabbing in Bradenton.

Lonnie Chisenhall, outfielder, is on the 60-day IL with a left calf strain and is currently rehabbing at his home in North Carolina.


These teams meet again Saturday, 4:10 p.m. Eastern time, with Jordan Lyles facing Zach Davies. The clubhouse will open at 12:30 p.m., with Hurdle speaking shortly thereafter.


All our expanded baseball coverage, including Indy Watch by Matt WelchAltoona Watch by Jarrod Prugar, and Mound Visit by Jason Rollison, can be found on our team page.

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