The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook hails Dave Littlefield’s swap of reliever Mike Gonzalez for Adam LaRoche, calling it the best trade of the Pirates GM’s tenure. But also adding, “that isn’t saying much.”

The Pirates added a much-needed left-handed power bat to baseball’s worst offense. With a lineup including batting champion Freddy Sanchez, two-time All-Star Jason Bay and LaRoche, who had 32 home runs and 90 RBIs for the Atlanta Braves last season, the team’s young starting pitchers no longer should feel the need to throw shutouts just to have a chance to win. Losing Gonzalez will be a small price to pay if LaRoche takes advantage of PNC Park’s short right-field porch and his power numbers continue to grow.

Will it be enough to save Littlefield’s job?

As fair as it is to blame horrendous ownership for the Pirates’ futility, there’s no question it will be Littlefield (above) who goes if the team has a 15th consecutive losing season or even has a poor start in April.

That seems especially true now that there’s a new sheriff in town. Last week, Robert Nutting announced he was taking over as principal owner from Kevin McClatchy. Nutting figures to be a lot quicker to deflect blame if his coming-out news conference is any indication. He hadn’t faced the public for five minutes before he went on record as saying any questioning of his or his family’s commitment to winning is “completely inappropriate.”

You won’t read or hear a more arrogant statement from a sports figure all year.

This will be Littlefield’s sixth full season on the job. There’s no arguing that he took over a laughable team in 2001 after the ineffective McClatchy finally found the strength to fire Cam Bonifay at midseason. The Pirates were burdened with wasteful long-term contracts and would lose 100 games in that first season in PNC Park. But there’s also no arguing that Littlefield has done little so far to improve the team’s record. His subsequent teams lost 89, 87, 89, 95 and 95 games.

Any other franchise would have fired Littlefield long ago.

With the offseason additions of Gil Meche, Octavio Dotel and David Riske, KC owner David Glass calls the ’07 Royals “perhaps the most exciting team Kansas City has fielded in a long time.” Imagine how badly it would suck if he was prone to hyperbole?

After being fingered by the Sultan Of Surly following a positive amphetamine test, the Giants’ Mark Sweeney claims to have received a personal apology, adding “Barry has a heart, too, just like everyone else.
Perhaps so, but who knows what condition that heart is in?

The Sultan of Sloth’s new one-year, $3 million deal to return to the Padres is said to hinge on a physical exam in the words of San Diego GM Kevin Towers. There’s no truth to the rumor that every doctor within the greater San Diego area just went on vacation for two months.