By John Perrotto
Front office officials and managers not being forthcoming to the media is as much a tradition in baseball as the seventh inning stretch.
Sometimes, they fib for competitive reasons. Other times, they lie for personal reasons. Occasionally, they will lie just to annoy those who cover the team.
Still, a lie told by a Pirates’ employee last weekend left even the most seasoned of baseball writers scratching their heads, particularly because the fabrication was over something pretty trivial.
Infield prospect Pedro Ciriaco was scratched from the lineup of the Pirates’ Class AAA Indianapolis farm club last Friday night. Someone from the organization–the person’s identity remains a mystery–said that the reason Ciriaco had been scratched was that he had a sore ankle after being struck by a ground ball during batting practice. The story went that a member of the Indianapolis coach had been hitting fungoes to Ciriaco and apparently hit one at top speed because the xx-year-old wasn’t giving a full effort.
As preposterous as the story seemed, Ciriaco confirmed it to the Indianapolis broadcasters and Howard Kellman and Scott McCauley talked about it at length during the broadcast.
It turned out that Ciriaco was not injured and was instead being considered for a call up to the big-league club. Thus, the Pirates did not want to risk Ciriaco being injured–for real–by playin in Friday’s game. The Pirates then did recall Ciriaco on Saturday when third baseman Pedro Alvarez was placed on the disabled list and he was in uniform for that night’s game against the Detroit Tigers at PNC Park.
The story was apparently fabricated so the Tigers would not know that Ciriaco might be joining the Pirates. One Tigers-related person laughed when told that someone with the Pirates concocted a story to hide the fact that Ciriaco might be joining the big-league club, saying “it’s not like the Pirates just traded Robinzon Diaz back to the Blue Jays for Jose Bautista.”
Some of the writers who cover the Pirates on a regular basis were incensed when they learned about 90 minutes before game time Saturday night that Ciriaco has been recalled and the injury story was a fabrication. Brian Warrecki, senior director of communications for the Pirates, visited the press box to assure the writers that general manager Neal Huntington was not the source of the misinformation. Huntington later issued a statement saying that he was investigating the matter in order to find the source was and would consider disciplinary action.
“Blatant dishonesty is not something we will tolerate,” Huntington said. “Our hope is it was an ill-fated attempt at humor. If it was a blatant attempt at dishonesty, there will be some consequences.”
It will be interesting to see if the Pirates actually discipline whoever manufactured the story and if they will publicly reveal the culprit. The Pirates have veered away from honesty being the best policy ever since Frank Coonelly took over as club president in September, 2007. The Pirates were caught in a major lie last August when it was revealed by The Associated Press and Deadspin that they had turned a much larger profit from 2007-09 than they had revealed to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a story published in December, 2009.
The most amazing aspect of the story just might be that somebody made up a lie about a utility infielder who was hitting .190 in 36 games at the Class AAA level.