On today's Baseball Show on ESPN Radio, proud Michigan alum Steve Phillips waxed rhapsodic over fellow Wolverine Nate McLouth of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He went so far as to tell us - twice, practically verbatim - an anecdote about how Cubs manager Lou Piniella was impressed that McLouth could hit not only the low fastball, but the high fastball as well. (No word from Sweet Lou as to whether McLouth could hit breaking stuff, but one thing at a time here, fellas.)
Phillips then went on to talk about how McLouth had really turned things around, recovering from a period when he got sent down to the minors and refused to report to AAA. It's a great story, except that it was Chris Duffy who refused to report, not McLouth.
That being said, things do seem to be looking up around Pittsburgh these days. The willingness to eat Matt Morris' bloated contract - and once can only assume that since-departed GM Dave Littlefield acquired Morris and his paycheck as a titanic screw-you to his inevitable successor - demonstrates that the team is not going to suck up losses simply because they want the most expensive guys on the field. Sure, John VanBenschoten might suck like a tornado, but there's the chance that he might not, which is worth finding out. You already know what you're going to get from Matt Morris, and none of it would have been good.
So kudos to the new team in Pittsburgh for showing that they're actually interested in winning for a change, and kudos for starting to develop some actual players. Most of the current roster is tweeners, guys who should get flipped as soon as they acquire some trade value, but credit the new regime with holding onto them until they acquire some value, and not panicking and signing the Kenny Loftons of the world in order to win 74 games instead of 72. For the first time in a long time, it looks like there's a plan in Pittsburgh, and in the NL Central, that might make them winners sooner than you'd think.