Clearwater FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth before the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field. Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
Not so long ago, Nate McLouth was MLB Flavor of the Month.
I mean, not officially. But if you followed the MLB in 2008, just four short years ago, it was Nate McLouth this and Nate McLouth that, until you felt like a summer evening wasn't complete without a Nate McLouth reference, a Nate McLouth highlight, or a Nate McLouth commemorative lunch box.
Nate McLouth led the National League with 46 doubles that season. He also led the Pirates with 94 runs batted in (nobody else on the club had more than 17), stole 23 bases while being caught only thrice, and won a Gold Glove in center field.
It was all quite heady, not to mention unexpected.
Friday, the Pirates designated Nate McLouth for assignment, the first step toward cutting ties or perhaps sending him to the minors to fill out their Class AAA roster.
What happened between then and now? He played well enough early in 2008 that Pittsburgh was able to trade him to the Braves for three players, including Charlie Morton; it's one of the smartest things the Pirates' current management team has ever done. McLouth's been injured and ineffective ever since. The Braves let him go after last season, the Pirates took a flier on him, and this season his .140/.210/.175 batting line in 34 games is just one of many reasons why the Pirates are last in the National League in scoring.
Somebody had to get fired, and why not the guy hitting .140?
McLouth was a really good player at 26, and he's still only 30. But if he doesn't get real healthy real fast, he's finished. But he'll always have that Gold Glove, and those 46 doubles.