PITTSBURGH - The Pirates sent Nate McLouth packing on Friday, and that was a huge mistake.
They should have cut him loose a lot earlier than that.
McLouth was a curious free agent signing over the winter, after posting two and a half seasons of consistently awful statistics with the Atlanta Braves.
The change of scenery inspired him to new lows, including a .140 average, a 0-for-13 performance as a pinch hitter and a farewell 0-for-21 slump.
The player who got such a warm ovation on opening day wound up being cursed around the clock on talk radio.
But he's gone now, so that doesn't matter.
What does matter is on the list of things wrong with the Pirates' offense, McLouth barely made the top 10.
This lineup remains as fluffy as a cotton candy stand with an inept combination of potholes, easy outs and Andrew McCutchen.
(Pay yourself a penny every time you hear "Swing and a miss" on Pirates game broadcasts, and you'll be waist-deep in copper by September).
McLouth only started 10 of 44 games. There are far bigger culprits. How about Jose Tabata, who is lugging around an average in the .220s with no power, the Pirates' typically whacked out walk-strikeout ratio and an almost 50-50 record on stolen base attempts?
He's typical of the disappointment the corner positions in the outfield and infield have provided.
Pedro Alvarez batted .395 in a 12-game span from April 21 to May 4 with five home runs and 13 RBIs. Otherwise, he's hit .112 with two home runs and five RBIs.
The first base platoon of Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee necessitated the call-up of Matt Hague, who isn't considered much of a prospect as an everyday player.
So you have a lineup that doesn't hit home runs, that can't make contact and isn't especially good at stealing bases.
Nate McLouth was only a small part of that.
Saving a place
The NFL hasn't had a team in Los Angeles since 1994, yet it's one of the league's most important cities.
Los Angeles serves as a relocation threat any time someone can't get their local government to pay for a new stadium.
It works well, having just succeeded in Minnesota.
Raise your hand if you watched the New Jersey Devils during the regular season and said, "Man, that team has a good chance to wind up in the Stanley Cup Final."
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org