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Pirates’ brass tries to measure progress |

Pirates’ brass tries to measure progress

| Monday, September 29, 2008 12:00 a.m

SAN DIEGO — The Pirates had a much more potent roster at the All-Star break than the one they fielded for Sunday’s season finale.

Had general manager Neal Huntington kept outfielders Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, it is likely the Pirates would have scored more runs, would have been more fun to watch and won more games.

Yet, Huntington does not believe that would have been progress.

“We’re in a much better place than we were a year ago,” Huntington said. “But we’re a long ways away from where we’re going to be five years from now.”

Pirates president Frank Coonelly said he has seen progress.

“We were a much better offensive team (this season),” Coonelly said. “But we were not successful on the field because of injuries and poor performances by our pitchers, particularly our starters.”

The Pirates’ rotation stumbled from the start. First baseman Adam LaRoche had another miserable first half. Closer Matt Capps was sidelined for two months because of a shoulder injury.

By midseason, some things had begun to jell. But it was too late to turn back.

Dare to compare
Comparingthe Pirates’ vital stats of 2007 vs. 2008:
Category 2007 2008
Record 68-94 67-95
Total attendance 1.75million 1.61million
Average attendance 22,141 20,113
Team age 27.1 27.5
Team batting average .263 .258
Team OBP .325 .320
Runs per game 4.47 4.53
Home runs 148 153
Team ERA 4.93 5.08

“We were better at the time I decimated the roster with the trades,” Huntington said. “We (acquired) younger players who have struggled, but they’re not alone in history. There have been Hall of Famers and All-Stars who have struggled during their initial taste (of the majors).

“Despite the fact we haven’t seen it, we still believe it’s there. We still believe these guys are going to make a positive impact for many years with this club.”

The Pirates finished 67-95 after yesterday’s 6-1 victory over San Diego. Coming into the series, the Pirates already had matched their loss total from last season. It’s the fourth year in a row, and sixth in the past nine, in which the Pirates have lost at least 92 games.

“We’ve done a lot of things very well,” Huntington said. “It just hasn’t translated into wins and losses. My hope is the lack of significantly more wins at the major-league level doesn’t cloud fans’ judgment that we’ve done nothing. Because in my mind, we’ve done a lot.”

Based on attendance, however, the fans do not agree.

The Pirates drew 1,609,076 fans for 80 games at PNC Park. At the start of spring training, Coonelly set a target of 1.8 million for this season and said the Pirates “need to be over 2 million” each year.

Attendance plunged 8 percent from 2007. Last year, the Pirates drew 1.75 million fans, which was a 6 percent drop from 2006.

“We’re not where we need to be,” Coonelly said. “But we’re also not surprised by the decline, given the economy and the team’s performance on the field.”

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