Pirates ready for a sea Cruz

By Ryan S. Pugh

CLARION NEWS Sports Editor

I have to apologize to you readers for the headline on this piece since I liberally stole it from the archives of Chris Berman's ESPN Sportcenter anchorman days when he called Jose Cruz -- then of the Houston Astros Jose "Won't you let me take you on a sea" Cruz? Once again, I must tell you, I have way too many bits of useless information rattling around in what's left of my brain pan.

And Berman's reference was from a 1959 song by Frankie Ford called "Sea Cruise." So for Berman and me, cultural relevance is a fluid term.

Anyway, the Cruz I am referring to in this headline is Pirates shortstop of the future (or so I've been told) Oneil Cruz who was scheduled to make his Major League debut last night against the Cubs.

Fans of the franchise have been clamoring for Cruz to be called up from Indianapolis earlier but this is the era of the "Super Two" where prospects are held in the minors until they pass a deadline so they won't reach salary arbitration before three years of Major League service.

I think the whole Super Two thing is a bunch of hooey and the system needs reworked post haste.

I recall Gerrit Cole was a "Super Two" back in 2013 and Pittsburgh kept him in the minors until he made his debut June 11 of that year. Cole finished 2013 with a 10-7 record with a 3.22 ERA. However, the thing of it was, if the Pirates would have had him in the rotation to start the season, he would have had, at a conservative estimate, 11 more starts which could have meant at least four or five more wins for a team which finished three games behind St. Louis for the National League Central division title.

Which would have meant Pittsburgh would have had the best record in the National League that year and had three home games in the National League Division Series.

Moreover, the Pirates would have avoided the one-game Wild Card playoff which would have let the team set its pitching rotation up for the NLDS.

Now, there is no guarantee it would have worked out that way for Pittsburgh but it was one possibility. But no, Pittsburgh kept trotting out Jeff Locke every fifth day in May trying to convince us that he was just as good as Cole (like when my parents tried to convince me when I was a kid that I wasn't missing anything when they fed me cube steak as they were wolfing down Porterhouse steaks.)

I don't blame Pittsburgh totally because saving that extra year of arbitration is crucial for a small-market franchise. However, if you have a team one or two players away from being something special, don't you kind of throw caution to the wind and push all in? Don't your fans deserve a chance to make a push for a title?

We see where playing the arbitration game got the Pittsburgh franchise; back in rebuild mode. Sure seems like they saved those extra years of arbitration for Tampa Bay (Tyler Glasnow) and the Yankees (Jameson Taillon).

However, I think the best players should be with a team coming out of spring training. I think the rosters should be opened up to 40 in April instead of September. Let teams figure out who their best 26 in the first month of the season.

The way it works now is kind of stupid. Teams get to use their full 40-man roster in September which means a team not in contention can affect a pennant race by playing its not-ready-for-primetime lineup against a team which is fighting for a division title.

Sorry, but the Major League 40-man rosters should be available at the beginning of the season instead of the end.

To get back to my original point, I don't know if Cruz will be any good. All signs point to him lighting it up but those same signs pointed to Chad Hermansen, Brad Eldred and Tony Sanchez. I'll just tap the brakes on the Cruz parade for now. He has been lighting it up in Indianapolis but Triple-A ball ain't the majors.

I'm also going to ease off the throttle on the parade being scheduled for Pirates outfielder Jack Suwinski. Sure, Suwinski had a three-homer day which included a walk-off dinger in the bottom of the ninth to give Pittsburgh a 4-3 win over San Francisco on Father's Day. However, I'm old enough to remember the tale of Warren Morris.

Morris made his debut with the Pirates in 1999 and he put up a .288 average with 15 home runs and 20 doubles and fans were actively pushing for Morris to be named Rookie of the Year. But Morris's production fell off a little in 2000 before falling off the map in 2001. In 2001, Morris had a .204 average with two home runs and six doubles in just 48 games.

Morris was released by Pittsburgh before the 2002 season. Morris bounced around the league signing with Minnesota, Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee between 2002 and 2005.

Sorry Mr. Suwinski, I'm going to have to go with the wait-and-see approach for a while.

I see Pirates fans are upset with Taillon who is lighting it up for the Yankees this year. However, I have to take the side of the Pittsburgh organization on that one. Taillon had the physical makeup of an egg while in town. He missed the better part of three seasons with injuries and illnesses.

I can't say as I blame Pittsburgh for subscribing to the adage "It's hard to help the club from the tub" and trading Taillon to the Yankees for three minor leaguers.

And it's nice to see Taillon is having a nice rebound with the Yankees. Both the Pirates organization and Taillon were put in a bad spot. Sometimes things work out for the best in different ways.

I do think Pirates general manger Ben Cherington is doing a fine job handling the fifth Pirates rebuild of my lifetime but it's going to take time. I don't think Pittsburgh will be a contender in the National League for the foreseeable future but the organization is putting the blocks in place where 2023 and 2024 might have a chance to compete but a lot can happen between now and then so don't get your hopes up.

Switching gears from baseball to the National Football League; be glad you are not a Browns fan and if you are a Browns fan, I am sorry.

A couple of years ago, it looked like the Cleveland Browns were going to shed the Cleveland Clowns nickname once and for all. After all, Cleveland had trounced its bitter rival Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs and were one fumble out of the end zone away from advancing to the AFC championship game for the first time since Bernie Kosar was the team's quarterback (1990). But then came the Deshaun Watson saga.

The Browns went out and traded a boatload of draft picks to the Texans for quarterback Watson. Which in a football bubble doesn't sound like too bad of a deal for Cleveland since Watson is a talented quarterback but in the world outside of football, Watson is under investigation for sexual misconduct involving massage therapists which has led to 24 civil suits against Watson (thus far).

There is talk that the league will suspend Watson for the entirety of the 2022 season but more than the on-the-field effect, the Browns traded for a quarterback with this much baggage (the allegations against Watson started coming out during the 2021 season while Watson was holding out).

Moreover, the cap hit the team is going to take is enormous because Cleveland signed Watson to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal. So in other words, the team's reputation and its finances are shot. Yikes.

This whole ordeal might set the Browns back to when the new Browns came into the league in 1999.

The good news for Steelers fans is that's one less team Pittsburgh has to worry about in the 2022 season. I think Pittsburgh finishes around the 9-8 8-9 mark and maybe sneaks into the playoffs.

I think the team's defense and running game will be better while the pass offense will be a work in progress. I feel Trubisky will get the starting nod at quarterback coming out of camp.

I can't believe football season is less than 100 days away.

The following is the first person account of CLARION NEWS Correspondent Kenn Staub's trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for "Speedweek"

A pair of North Clarion athletes recently signed their Letters of Intent to colleges. In the photo on the left Josh Daum (seated middle) signs with Thiel College to play baseball. Also pictured in the photo are Josh's mother Nancy Daum (seated left) and father Scott Daum (seated right) as we…

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