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McClouth fans miss bigger picture
June 24, 2009

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PITTSBURGH - Nate McLouth is a good baseball player, but it seems like he's become a great one since the Pittsburgh Pirates traded him.

That's not because of his modest gain in batting average - .259 to .267 at last check - but Pirates fans are filled with sellers' remorse.

Maybe it's because only of the players he brought is on the major league roster. Pitcher Charlie Morton has made a couple of starts so far.

A guy called the crackpot TV talk show on the CW the other night to complain the Pirates, "always trade their superstars."

Superstar?

If McLouth, with a .249 career average entering this season, is a superstar, what does that make Roberto Clemente or Willie Stargell?

Or Brian Giles, for that matter?

McLouth is a good player who has value. That's why the Pirates traded him. Just take a look at the barren drafts over a five-year period. Then you'll realize why the farm system is so frighteningly devoid of talent.

What did you think of the Curve before Pedro Alvarez's promotion from Class A Lynchburg?

The new regime sees those gaps. They have a board with all the players in the organization listed. They know very few of them will even reach the major leagues, and fewer will be more than average players at the big league level.

When they traded Jason Bay and Xavier Nady last year, the two deals brought back five pitchers.

That was designed to try to fill the gap created by the failures of former No. 1 picks Bobby Bradley, John Van Benschoten and Bryan Bullington.

It's not the ideal way to do business, but those are the circumstances facing the Pirates.

If they traded McLouth and didn't get value in return, it's a bad deal. But trading McLouth isn't a bad idea in itself.

Nor is trading anyone else who can bring a good return.

The Pirates know how inflamed the fan base is, and they'll never admit it, but this is about 2011.

They're hoping that Alvarez will get to the majors then and blossom into the kind of middle-of-the-order force that makes other teams worry.

You don't win without that kind of thumper in the lineup, and you generally don't luck into one of them.

You find them, sign them and develop them.

When you have a core of genuine stars - an honest-to-goodness cleanup hitter and a genuine No. 1 starter - you start adding the other pieces. Those complementary players will change often.

McLouth was a popular player. A winning team would even be more popular.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehno@lycos.com. His weblog is at altoonamirror.com.

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