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.