Pirates march on after busy Deadline
Players feel mixed emotions following departures of Bay, Nady
CHICAGO -- Shortly after general manager Neal Huntington informed Jason Bay and the team of Thursday's deal that sent Bay to Boston and brought four young players to Pittsburgh, Pirates players and coaches loaded onto two charter buses and headed to the airport.
While media outlets will be dissecting the trade for days, the team landed in Chicago on Thursday night, knowing that it must play on. And on Friday, for the first time since 2003, the Pirates will take the field without Bay as a teammate.
Less than 24 hours after learning of the three-team deal, it all began to sink in when the team arrived at Wrigley Field with no No. 38 hanging in the clubhouse.
"We lost probably one of the best players in baseball," Ian Snell said. "He does everything for you. He goes out and plays hurt. He shows up every day, and he's a great person inside the clubhouse."
Surveying Bay's former teammates, they said all the right things, about how they understand the organization's vision and the need to bring in young talent. But the tone in some cases spoke louder than the words, as the disappointment was still evident.
"It's hard," center fielder Nate McLouth said. "Aside from being a good player, he was a fun person to be around. Ever since I've been in the big leagues, I've played with him. I learned a lot from his professionalism. He'll certainly be missed."
All McLouth has to do is turn his head in center field to see the facelift the team has undergone in the past week. He lost the teammate to his left on Saturday when Xavier Nady was dealt to the Yankees. And after Thursday's move, McLouth is the only remaining piece of what was one of baseball's most productive outfield trios this season.
"It's something I try not to think about or dwell on, but it's certainly something that I'm going to miss," McLouth said of the group. "I think the easiest way to look at it is that my job as a player isn't to run the organization or evaluate trades, that's what Neal and [president] Frank [Coonelly] and the scouts are paid to do. We just have to have faith in them that they do their job to the best of their ability, and then we do our job on the field."
The one thing that was nearly unanimously expressed, though, was that these recent trades didn't really come as much of a surprise. The plans since Huntington's entrance as the general manager were to infuse the organization with young talent by dealing away players whose values were high. The only way that would have been postponed, the players knew, is if the team assembled on Opening Day this year had kept itself in contention longer.
"We understood coming in this year that this was the team that we were coming in with, and if we didn't win, then it would be taken apart," shortstop Jack Wilson said. "We knew that this is what was going to happen."
For Wilson, showing up on Aug. 1 with new teammates has been something the Pittsburgh shortstop has learned to accept during his eight season with the Pirates. As he put it, he's already been through two or three so-called rebuilding modes.
Wilson has watched the organization trade high-profile players like Brian Giles and Aramis Ramirez at the end of July; however, Wilson said, losing Nady, Bay and Damaso Marte over the past week may have been the hardest of all the trades to digest.
"It's tough being the guy that has been here through all of these rebuilding molds," Wilson said. "It's tough to see so many good players that have been here and are now with other clubs doing well.
"Every time we made a trade, it was one big dent," Wilson continued. "There's a much different feeling than I've had before on the day of the Deadline, because this year there were three big guys. It makes it much harder."
While some players were quick to throw their support behind management's decision to mortgage the present for future payoff, others wondered out loud how much this would affect the ability of the current club to win.
"It's hard because you want to win right away," said reliever John Grabow, who was nearly dealt on Thursday, as well. "They are doing things for a reason, and you have to trust that they are making the right decisions. And hopefully everything works out, and they made the right deals and they got the right players.
"But it's tough. It seems like we're losing all our offense. From a pitching standpoint, it's just seemed like every day we had a chance to come back, and that we always had a good chance to score some runs and win any game. Hopefully we won't skip a beat."
Third baseman Jose Bautista, who lost his everyday starting position at third as a result of the Bay trade, expressed a similar sentiment.
"If that's the route they want to take, that's their decision," Bautista said. "We're still going to try and go out and get wins every day. It would have been nice to keep them, but they're building toward the future. We understand the concept."
Others were just hopeful that they would be around with the organization long enough to see the fruits of both big trades earlier this week.
"Sometimes you don't know if you're going to be here," Snell said. "Right now it's building toward the future, but who knows, some of us might not be here."
While the emotions ran the gamut Thursday morning, one thing was certain: As Bay joins the Red Sox and a pennant race on Friday night, he'll do so having left an indelible mark on his former teammates in Pittsburgh.
"Jason's probably the best teammate you can have," Wilson said. "He's all you can ask for want in a teammate. This is part of baseball, but it's not fun."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.