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No they can't

June 18, 2009 - John Mehno

The Pirates have "only" been about 5 and 1/2 games out of first place recently, so that's prompted speculation that they may have to change their minds about writing off 2009.

That would be a mistake.

Manager John Russell made a comment the other day that if most teams were as close to first place as the Pirates were, everyone would be talking about them as a contender.

This is a different situation. First, the Pirates are routinely behind five teams in the NL Central. It's not like they just have to catch the leader, they have to catch and pass everyone. That's hard to do. It's especially tough if you can't beat teams in your division. The Pirates are 10-21 in the Central and have a losing record against every opponent. They've beaten Milwaukee once in the last two seasons, and they've only done marginally better against the Cubs.

Most games they start an outfield that's combined for fewer than five home runs. They get no power from third base, very little from first base and the entire team lacks game-changing pop. They don't have a legitimate major league clean-up hitter or No. 1 starter.

In other words, this team isn't close to being a real contender. If veterans can be traded for genuine prospects who will make the organization better, do it. Don't get fooled by the mirage of a 5 and 1/2 gap from the top.


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