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Bye, McLouth. Hello, another losing season

My cousin got married last week and I finally was able to grab a minute to talk to him at the reception.

Of course, the topic quickly moved to sports, and he couldn't help but bring up the Pirates.

"You know, I was at a game earlier this year, we were in the box and no one cared what was going on during the game," he said.

That's understandable and pretty reasonable, I guess, considering how the team has played for 16 years.

His next question really stumped me. "When are they going to win again?" he asked.

I didn't have an answer.

To him, and what seems like many Pirates fans, the baseball season has become a distraction between the end of the Penguins' season and the start of Steelers training camp.

After hearing the news Wednesday night about the Pirates' trade of Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves for three minor league players, I'd be able to tell him that it's at least a couple years longer than it was last week.

To call the trade a stunner would be an understatement.

McLouth, at 27, was a player the Pirates had signed at a reasonable cost through 2011 with a club option for 2012.

He was someone you could build a team around, or at least want to.

Apparently, that's not what the Pirates thought.

By trading McLouth, an All-Star and Gold Glove winner, the Bucs were able to call up top prospect Andrew McCutchen, who singled in his first at-bat Thursday.

General manager Neal Huntington said he couldn't refuse the Braves' package of pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.

Initial reaction from fans was far from an endorsement. Most thought the players the Pirates got in return were not of value.

If you simply rate prospects on three tiers -- blue chip, good and marginal -- the Pirates came away with three good minor leaguers.

Baseball America, the Bible of the minor leagues, rates Locke and Hernandez in the Braves' top 10 prospects. Of course, the Pirates didn't get one of the Braves' top minor leaguers -- they never seem to come away with the better ones.

As a Pirates fan myself, and one that follows baseball closely, I'm having a hard time with this one.

It was reported Wednesday that one reason the Braves made the trade was to bolster their outfield, which had a combined 10 home runs in 51 games.

With McLouth gone, the Pirates have gone from an outfield of Jason Bay, Xavier Nady and McLouth to a projected trio of Nyjer Morgan, Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Moss. Those three will be hard pressed to exceed the numbers the Braves found unacceptable. For example, Thursday's starting lineup, not counting McCutchen, had a combined 14 home runs this season.

I was able to see McLouth's last game in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, a game in which he had a double and triple, and the Pirates beat Johan Santana and the Mets.

It was one game, but you came away with a little hope that maybe, just maybe, the Pirates were doing something right.

Wednesday's trade wiped that away.

I'm not a major league general manager, but I'd like to be one (hint, hint, Pirates management, plus I'd come cheaply).

After this trade, I wonder if Huntington is a major league GM.

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