And There Was Lots of Doubt About It

9 07 2011

I know I said that there was likely to be little to be said about the Pittsburgh Pirates, but I felt the need to write about them tonight.

I was a huge fan of the Pirates as a boy. I remember going to see them at the old Three Rivers Stadium. I still have my pennant from 1990. I remember always being upset in little league when I did not end up on the Pirates (I spent my entire youth baseball career between the Phillies and the Yankees, two teams I cannot stomach). And then something happened.

The Pirates sucked. For nearly 20 years the Pirates have been a laughable joke of a franchise. They have been the bottom feeders of MLB. I stuck with them through the 90s and into the very early 2000s. I don’t recall exactly when it happened, but one day I just snapped and that was the end of it. I have spent nearly the last ten years ranting about them, and I am unsure if I am willing to welcome them back into my life.

I described the Pirates over the last ~10 years as a living, breathing version of The Producers. For those unfamiliar, the musical/production follows the story of producers who create flop productions because you make more money with a flop than you do a hit. The Pirates have been The Producers. Ownership and management was making money hand over fist while effectively abusing the fans – the real, honest fans who still believed and stuck with them no matter what. While I can respect that, I also wish that people hadn’t stuck with them like they did. It was no different than enabling an alcoholic. By enough people sticking with the team, it became evident that no matter what the owners and management did the people were going to stick with them, so why sink money into high cost players when you can develop talent and trade them off for assets when it came time for their payday?

Obviously I still harbor plenty of feelings of resentment toward the Buccos brass for all the BS they’ve pulled over the last two decades.

But are things starting to change?

I have been sucked in by the team this year. They are winning. And they aren’t just winning against garbage teams or by dumb luck. They are competing. They are winning because they are a really good, strong team on the rise. I haven’t gone to a game in 7 years, but I am being tempted by this. I have watched probably 10 games on TV, and it’s been some up and down emotions. I’m happy they are winning, but I just don’t believe it. I don’t believe it because I can’t trust the ownership and upper management to actually commit to winning. I cannot put my faith, and certainly not my terribly limited money, into this batch of devilish hands without some proof of life from them. We’ve seen how excited people get about the team and players, only to see all-star caliber players shipped off for more draft picks and cash. We’ve seen the talent come, develop, and then leave.

Is this something different?

I’m not willing to go all-in. Hell, I’m not even willing to raise at this point. Until the ownership and the management can prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are committed to competing, if not winning, regularly, and do so without trading away every player worth a damn, well, then I’ll have to bring about an end to my stand. This is not something that will be resolved in one season of hopefulness. If this is a one-and-done magic carpet ride, what comes of the “franchise” players next year? Assuming the struggle, or problems arise, do we see a return to the last 10 years of trades and fielding a minor league team?

I am not ready to commit myself to the team until I can be assured that this isn’t some sick money grab and we’ll be back to the same bullshit we’ve been dealing with for far too long. Think back to only a number of months ago when Mario Lemieux said he was interested in purchasing the team. The entire world was listening. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone imagined what it would be like to have a proven owner who was committed to winning.  Everyone had hope. And when it gets down to it, hope is all you have sometimes.

I’m not there yet. I would genuinely like to see the Pirates become successful again. It would be great to know the team has a chance to be something. It’s great for the city of Pittsburgh and for the long suffering fans who just couldn’t take the abuse any longer. But we need to careful. How easily one’s heart can be broken if things revert to the norm. Enjoy the ride right now, but don’t take your eyes off the road in front of you. You never can be certain what waits around the next bend.


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15 responses

9 07 2011
tomBJftw

I think there is something different this year. My whole entire life the Pirates haven’t had a winning season. Now they could be in 1st place with a win. I’m not sure if I trust the ownership yet, but the team wants to win and so does the manager. The fans too are behind this team more than they have been in the last 18 or so years. This is the first season in my life where I have been excited about baseball and really following the Pirates. I love it. Go Bucs.

9 07 2011
Walt Flanagan

It’s Juy, though. There’s a long way to go. I know they’ve been dealing with injuries and everything. A bad 8-game skid and this is all for naught.

I hope this is finally a sign of things to come. I hope that the ownership and management got it through their collective skulls that they were at the breaking point and people were ready to revolt.

It’s nothing short of magical when a team believes in themselves and the fans get behind them, but what if this is a one-year thing and it all goes back to how it’s been? Can you honestly say you expect all the new fans to stick around and all the old bitter fans like me to allow yet another fooling? The best and worst thing is for the team to be doing so well. Cause they have to keep it up and the brass needs to keep putting money out there or else you will see a complete and total revolution and PNC Park will be razed to the ground.

9 07 2011
tomBJftw

Exactly, I agree with you man. Those new fans aren’t gonna stick around and neither are the bitter old ones. I hope I can stay interested next year, but if the team goes back to its usual self well I don’t know. I might just be a part of the razing of PNC, but, this is so clichéd, ya gotta have hope.

9 07 2011
tomBJftw

This was supposed to be a reply to Walt, it looks like it didn’t show up that way.

9 07 2011
Leeeny

Way too early to put any faith in “turning the corner”. It’s definitely the abusive-spouse relationship, all the people sticking with the team even when the ownership has beaten their paying fans black&blue for two decades. When there have been 2 or 3 years of over-.500 performance, and some good players have been RE-signed to competitive contracts rather then let walk, then the talk of corner-turning will actually have some meaning. Till then it’s just a small break in the beating, while the Nutballs wind up for another wallop at the long-suffering fans.

Tough Love is necessary (in the form of a boycott), but baseball is emotion and religion to people, and they can’t bring themselves to do it. It’s understandable, but frustrating to those of us who want to see the Nuttings red-inked out of town, forever. It’s the ONLY way they will ever leave.

I won’t give those people any of my money, ever. Once they sell to a real owner, then my life-long Pirate fandom will come out of stasis. The *one* thing they did for me was give me the opportunity to get more interested in the Penguins. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Anyone that places any faith in the Nuttings is asking to be hurt. They have had 20 years of demonstrating their bad faith with the fans, so ignore that track record at your peril. Just because you want something, doesn’t make it so.

And get off my lawn.

9 07 2011
Walt Flanagan

I want to believe, but I just can’t. I hope that they realized they pushed it to the absolute end and people were on the edge of revolt and not abusing the fans was the only option, but it is going to take years for them to prove this wasn’t just a fluke and a measure of re-upping the beatings. If guys like Walker and McCutchen get traded this off-season for more picks, we’ll know it’s back to business as usual. I almost can’t help but feel the team is winning despite the best efforts of ownership.

And that is an excellent point about how abandoning the sport has opened up avenues otherwise. When I was little I liked hockey, but I didn’t really understand it. Baseball I understood because I played it. I watched football largely because it was what we did here. As I moved away from baseball (while still young and not yet jaded) I became a huge hockey and football fan. As I became the jaded non-baseball-watcher that I am today I became an insane hockey and football fan.

I had stated to numerous others before – the Nuttings need to prove, over a long(er) period of time that the past is behind them and they are no longer going to abuse the fans. This is the first step. Let’s see if they follow through or this becomes another money grab.

9 07 2011
omgitsjen

At the beginning of the season, I made the announcement: I AM GOING ALL IN ON THEM BUCCOS THIS YEAR. I figured if nothing else, it would end up being some real comedy.

I went to the home opener. I wore my little hat and waved my little makeshift sign, an Obama08 inspired poster of the Pgh Pirate and the slogan “yes we can” under it. I cheered loudest for Ryan Doumit and glared when people gave me a bad look.

If you’re gonna do it, you may as well go all out.

So far, I’ve been to 5 games this season, mostly because its always been my favorite thing to do in the summer. I love basking in the Americana of a hotdog, beer and MLB. And its cheap, $8 for bleachers? Come on!! And its fun…

Honestly, I’ve learned more about baseball this season than any other. Granted, I’m trying to learn the game because of my boyfriend’s Star Wars Nerd-Like interest in it (he’s an encyclopedia). Its become more about ERAs and RBIs and statistics instead of cat calling Jason Kendall in the dugout (I was 18 and he was a douche, whatever). Its not a joke to me anymore and I have people like Clint Hurdle, Joel Hanrahan, Jeff “The Eyebrow” Karstens and even Michael McKenry to thank for it.

All it takes is a person to have just a little hope, just one tiny glimpse of what could be, and their inspiration becomes contagious. Clint Hurdle has inspired this city. Its a very special time here, guys. Its history. It would be an honest to God pity to miss out on it. Every game I’m more and more amazed.

Its just a beautiful thing.

9 07 2011
Scott Plummer

“I also wish that people hadn’t stuck with them like they did. It was no different than enabling an alcoholic.”

Are you serious with this?

Comparing this to enabling alcoholics is maddening and irresponsible. You’re comparing things that aren’t remotely alike. Alcoholism is a serious problem, and this is just baseball. It’s really not that serious.

Calling people enablers for supporting their team is insulting. It’s what fans do. If you watch when they win, and bail when they lose, that makes you a bandwagoner.

At 34 years old this team has lost more than it has won in my lifetime. But I still watch. I still go. I still support. Because in the end, you aren’t cheering for the management or the front office. You cheer for the players who bust their ass every day. Regardless of their ability.

So please, the next time, think twice before you post something that is as dripping with cynicism as this is.

And like Jen said. I’m all in. But then again, I always have been.

9 07 2011
Walt Flanagan

I am serious, and thank you for making baseless accusations without knowing anything about me.

For the record, and for those uninitiated, my old man was a raging alcoholic for most of my life. I know the dangers of it and this is EXACTLY the same, only the outcomes here don’t involve getting smacked around (unless you are a drunk yinzer in a USA jacket).

And I’m sticking with it – the people were enablers. They enabled such abusive treatment of a city and a fanbase because of people’s loyalty. As Leeeny above said – it’s the battered wife syndrome.

I don’t deny being a bandwagoner, and even that’s debatable, and guess the fuck what? That’s not a bad thing when the team is utter dogshit for 20 fucking years. Sticking with a team that is a complete bottom feeder and joke for 20 years? Some call it admirable, I call it ironic detachment for those who need something to cling to; some need to hold on to a past glory and hold out that one day their psychosis can be proven justified.

And last that I checked, this is MY blog and I am writing for MYSELF, not to appease your delicate sense of superfandom.

Have nice life.

Now piss off.

10 07 2011
Scott Plummer

I made zero accusations. What I did was make observations and state opinions. The last time I checked, it is ok to do both of those things. It’s even ok to make baseless accusations, even though that isn’t what I did.

I’m sorry that your father was an alcoholic. I have alcoholics in my family so I know what kind of affect they can have. But I still stand by my opinion that it is irresponsible to compare the two. Your commenter that compared it to the battered wife syndrome is also making an irresponsible statement. I’m sure that the millions of women who are abused on a daily basis in this country would LOVE it if their situation was compared to a mismanaged baseball team.

That’s all this is, a mismanaged team. It’s not being enabled, and it’s not beating anyone. The fans that have supported them are doing what fans do. Support them. They are supporting the players who play hard and who are at no fault for how the team is run. Call it what you will. I call it being a fan.

So now that I have that out of the way. Let’s touch on a last few things that aren’t baseball related. First of all, your obvious need to swear at me is puzzling to me, considering that not once did I use fowl language in my original comment, but if that’s how you need to communicate, then I totally understand. Internet bullies often behave that way.

Secondly. Yes, this is your blog. But your blog is on the internet where anyone can find it. You also have comments enabled which allows anyone to leave a comment. You are probably the same kind of person who gets upset when someone disagrees with you because you always think you are right. (Now there is a baseless accusation for you).

Ironically detached, pissing off, and having a nice life,
Scott

10 07 2011
Walt Flanagan

Angry face

11 07 2011
Kimber Carnahan

I agree with what Scott said. Nice comeback, Walter.

9 07 2011
...petrsmailbox

I think Walt is ripping the lifelong fans who won’t realize that ownership has been dicking around the fans for 20 years. thats my take at least

10 07 2011
chizmo

thumbs up to the post. I’ll agree that I have come around slightly to the idea of a hopeful outlook for the season, but this is only a few games above each year at the break. if they want to be taken seriously, they’re going to need to string quite a few seasons of .500+ baseball before being taken seriously.

11 07 2011
Walt Flanagan

Yep. After nearly two decades of BS, it’s going to take more than one decent year to win back a lot of people’s faith. I hope they win a bunch of games and win a new generation of fans over. But this is like when the person gets sober – they are on thin ice for a while and there’s always the suspicion or the hint of relapse. For people like me and Leeeny, we’ll likely never trust them (ownership and management) again fully.

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