By John Perrotto
Beaver County Times
August 30, 3011
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, center, pulls starting pitcher Jeff Karstens(notes), left, out of the game as catcher Michael McKenry(notes) offers support during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 7-4. (AP)
The Pirates nearly put themselves in the unique position of being buyers and sellers in the same season.
Only one thing has messed it up and it's that nearly all the players the Pirates might trade between now and Wednesday night's deadline for acquiring players who can be eligible for a team's postseason roster are hurt.
Before we get into that, it's morbidly fascinating to look at the historical aspect of the Pirates' freefall from contenders to also-rans.
They were tied for first place in the National League Central on July 25.
Though the Pirates had dropped to 4 1/2 games out by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, they still had a chance, prompting general manager Neal Huntington to make low-risk trades for Baltimore first baseman Derrek Lee and San Diego outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
However, a 7-3 loss to San Diego on Aug. 7 that ended a 0-7 homestand dropped the Pirates 10 games behind Milwaukee. It took 13 days for the Pirates to drop from first place to a double-digit deficit, fastest in major-league history.
The hole grew to 15 1/2 games following a 5-4 loss to Cincinnati on Aug. 21. The Pirates joined the 1911 St. Louis Browns as the only team to go from first place to 15 games down within 30 days.
The Pirates entered Monday's play 18 games behind the Brewers.
While nothing could top (bottom?) the disappointment of plummeting in the standings at light speed, it just adds to the Pirates' misfortune that they have no one of any real interest to contenders looking to bolster their roster.
Catcher Ryan Doumit, a pending free agent, is the Pirates' best trade chip but it seems unlikely he will be moved as teams rightfully have concerns about his defense.
While some thought the Pirates might try to deal left-hander Paul Maholm, it won't be the case and not just because he is injured. The Pirates haven't officially announced anything yet because they want to make sure the shoulder injury that has Maholm on the disabled list is no more than a strain but they plan to exercise the $9.5 million club option in his contract for 2012.
Lee and Ludwick might have fetched a second-tier or third-tier prospect. However, Lee suffered a broken wrist Aug. 3 when hit by a pitch and Ludwick joined him on the DL last week with back spasms.
Thus, the L&L boys, who have combined to contribute three home runs and 10 RBIs to the pennant push that wasn't, will finish out the season with the Pirates and be spared the indignity of getting dumped twice by non-contenders in one season.