El Coffee over coffee:

Having coffee with Erin last night and I mention sports, mostly because I enjoy her unusual takes on the hot sports topics of the day. I asked her the question many Pittsburghers continue to ask on sports talk radio and in general conversations about the team.

The question: Why is Gregory Polanco on the Pirates roster?

Polanco is public enemy number one. He’s earned it. His play is far below expectations, and he never seems to do anything different. Just plods along in the outfield, misjudging fly balls, taking bad routes to the ones he correctly judges and butchering the job of Major League outfielder.

His hitting has been worse.

Polanco’s power and, eye-roll please, potential, are probably what keeps Clint Hurdle from taking the maligned underachiever out of the lineup for any extended period of time, but clearly something that needs to click to turn Polanco into the upper echelon hitter those in the Pirates’ organization believe he can be has not.

I expected Erin’s take to be something along the lines of, “His pants are too tight and the striping on his costume looks distorted.”

Instead, in two lines, with three basic observations, she nailed it.

“He isn’t a very good hitter and he isn’t living up to his potential. He isn’t doing his job goodly.’

“Goodly,” Erin-speak for, “well,” might have been a slight understatement. Polanco is failing miserably, again. His breakout year, that term is so funny when you consider 22 home runs and 86 RBI against a .258 average to be breakout numbers (pedestrian numbers for truly good hitters), is the anomaly in his career stat line.

The sad truth is actually kind of simple: Polanco is not now, never was, and probably never will be a good Major League hitter. He’s just not. His swing is too long and slow, his pitch recognition is actually funny, and it is more of a mistake than anything when he squares one up.

I heard a local talk radio host suggest that Polanco backers believe El Coffee has the basic skill set of an actual very good former Pirates right fielder – Dave Parker.

I almost drove off the road laughing.

Not that Parker’s fourth season in the bigs was transcendent – .313/13/90 with a .475 “slug,” as all the cool baseball people say, and an OPS of .824. Polanco may hit more home runs this season, but none of his other numbers will begin to approach Parker’s.

Parker would go on to win the National League batting title in his fifth year, be named the league’s most valuable players in his sixth, and permanently cement his place among the great outfielders of his time in the field with an All-Star Game performance for the ages in 1979.

Stop with the Dave Parker comparisons, even if it is just to suggest what some believe Polanco could resemble – he just never will.

Is it time to give up on Polanco? Yes.

But what if he goes somewhere else and turns into a superstar?

Oh well – it has happened before and will again in sports – but it is not going to happen in Pittsburgh for Polanco. I don’t know or care why it will not, I just know it won’t.

Other Pittsburgh sports tidbits:

  • Felipe Vazquez is not struggling because he changed his last name to honor his sister, or because he is too obsessed with his other role: locker room DJ. Vasquez’s troubles are simple to explain – he has lost his fastball command and he is too predictable.
  • Shady Side Academy junior Dino Tomlin won the Class AA 300-meter hurdles at the PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University last weekend. Tomlin’s greatest achievement will be the day his name is not attached to his father’s in a Pittsburgh sports story.
  • Though neither team represents Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh hockey fans definitely have an obvious rooting interest in the Stanley Cup Finals between Vegas and Washington. Marc Andre Fleury can cap off an epic playoff run with a finals triumph. A really good guy with a chance to do something special. Here’s hoping The Flower comes through.


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