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The Morris mess
May 1, 2008 - John Mehno
I guess conspiracy theorists have been around forever, so it's no surprise that they always see a hidden meaning in the simplest things.
The new one making the rounds is that Pirates GM Dave Littlefield knew he was about to be canned, so he traded for expensive and ineffective Matt Morris as a way of sticking it to the organization. That's much more interesting than the truth, which is that Littlefield simply made a terrible deal. His career started with a terrible deal, also made with the Giants. He traded Jason Schmidt for Ryan Vogelsong. Schmidt became one of the best pitchers in the National League while Vogelsong became a middle reliever who pitched exclusively in blowout games.
Littlefield had spent the previous offseason chasing free agent Jeff Suppan, who wound up signing with Milwaukee. Littlefield was convinced the Pirates needed a veteran starter to stabilize their inexperienced rotation. He was convinced that kind of pitcher would cost $10 million a year on the free agent market, and wouldn't be available to the Pirates. So he grabbed Morris, apparently unaware that Morris wasn't close to being the pitcher he had been with St. Louis.
The real issue here now is which member of Littlefield's staff scouted and recommended Morris. There's a good chance that person is still employed by the Pirates. He shouldn't be.
The conspiracy theories are fun. Alas, though, this one is simple: It was another foul-up by an executive who made many.