I Can't Understand Why Some Fans Want Oneil Cruz Sent to AAA

Photo Credit: Barry Reeger/Associated Press

After only a month, there are Pittsburgh Pirate fans calling for the demotion of Oneil Cruz. Brian Torchia can't get behind this line of thinking.

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It seems like just a few short months ago every Pittsburgh Pirates fan was clamoring to see phenom shortstop Oneil Cruz on the major league roster.  It all started when he didn't make the team out of spring training, and the desire to see him in a Pirates uniform steadily grew as the season went on.  Now, for whatever reason, it appears that some of those same fans have done a complete 180 and are looking to send him back down after struggling since being called up.  For several reasons, I can't comprehend this line of thinking.

Across Pirates Twitter, it seems that the number of peoples jumping on the "Send Cruz Back to AAA" bandwagon is growing.  As of this writing, Cruz is hitting .208 with 5 home runs, 18 RBI and 4 stolen bases in 106 at-bats this season.  His statistics aren't where many were hoping they would be, but how could they be with the expectations placed on each Pirates top prospect that rises through the minors?  In my opinion, those numbers certainly don't call for the "option Cruz" mentality considering he's experiencing his first full month in Major League Baseball.

I don't know why fans expect these young guys to acclimate to the big leagues so quickly and then immediately call for their demotion when things don't go as they hoped.  I mean we're talking about just over 100 at-bats here.  

For comparison's sake, let's take a look at Seattle Mariners' top prospect Julio Rodriguez.  Rodriguez took the world by storm last week as he became the top storyline of the Home Run Derby, even though he lost to Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto in the final round.  He wowed the fans and media with his performance not only in the derby, but also with his play in the weeks leading up to it.

If we were to take a look at his first month of the season, also his first in the majors, he hit a whopping .205 with no homers.  Imagine if the Mariners sent him down and didn't allow him any time to develop, as a result of a bad first month.  Now he's the overwhelming favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year and participated in both the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game this year.  

Rookies need time to adapt to the speed and style of the major leagues and not allowing them do so is a complete disservice to both them and the team.  With the Pirates experiencing very little success anyways, it makes absolutely no sense to me that some fans want Cruz sent down instead of allowing him to gain more major league experience.  Rodriguez is proof of what can happen to the top talents in the league if given time to grow within the game.

Another reason that sending Cruz down makes no sense to me is due to the lack of quality behind him.  For fans wanting to demote him, does that really mean you'd rather see Kevin Newman play shortstop every day?  Since 2020, Newman has the lowest wRC+ (weighted runs created) of any hitter in Major League Baseball with at least 750 plate appearances.  Dead last.  And for anyone that would make this argument to have Newman's defense back at shortstop, Cruz is already ranked 7th out of all shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved this year.  

So anyone wanting to see quite possibly the worst hitter in all of baseball over the last two years instead of  the Pirates top prospect is crazy.  Why wouldn't you want to see Oneil Cruz work on his game over a guy that clearly doesn't have it and most likely doesn't figure into the team's future plans?

I know these fans calling for Cruz to be sent down don't speak for the entire fanbase but I still felt the need to address it.  I just can't wrap my head around it.  I see zero benefit to having him in AAA, as opposed to the majors.  Just yesterday, he hit a moonshot home run off of the Miami Marlins' Sandy Alcantara, the current favorite to win the National League Cy Young award.  It's those kinds of explosive plays that I'm excited to see more of as the second half of the season goes on.  

Cruz's talent is clearly there on both sides of the ball.  As fans, we just need to be patient with it.  Greatness in this game doesn't happen overnight... or in this case, over a month.  It would be great for Cruz to take a step forward over the remainder of the season and become a cornerstone of the team heading into next season.  That's something that can't be done from Indianapolis, a city I beg to never see Cruz play baseball in again.