For the Pirates Winning Games is Still the Goal

8-25-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

One of the toughest subjects for fans of a rebuilding team is balancing the want and need for a high draft pick with the reality that the players on the field have a job to do.

Pick a random player, ask him what the goal is and he’ll tell you to win the game. Period. It’s what they’ve tried to do their entire lives as ballplayers and just because the team they play for is rebuilding doesn’t mean that has ever changed for them.

Sure, jaded people will tell you it’s just player speak. It’s the PR game they’re trained to give the media not unlike Crash Davis teaching Nuke Laloosh all the clich├ęs he’d need when he got to the show, but it’s more than that.

After Monday night’s game Ke’Bryan Hayes was asked about Kevin Newman’s outstanding defensive performance and his response was to compliment the plays and of course, mention how they helped the Pirates Win the game. 34 games under .500, 31 games back in the division, 4th worst record in baseball, his go to was that Newman helped them win.

We’re at a point in this thing where there simply aren’t many guys here who see their immediate future elsewhere. No, that’s not me saying this is the group of guys who ultimately turn this thing around, that’s me saying most of the guys here aren’t Adam Frazier waiting to hear where they’re headed.

Derek Shelton has a lot to prove and while he’s been charged with playing and evaluating a team record 57 players so far, he too wants to win. You can think he’s not the right guy, I have my reservations too, but if you believe part of his job is to keep his eye on the standings and make sure he sets up the draft well for 2022, I’m afraid you’re missing an important component.

His players want to win. More than that, he’s got his players repeating it.

Dillon Peters is getting a shot that he didn’t get before, and in his two starts he’s taken advantage. Michael Chavis has done this, done well, flamed out, felt unwanted. Now he’s in a new place and knows this is his chance to prove he belongs in this league, with this team.

Ke’Bryan Hayes came in like Ted Williams, and on top of missing most of his rookie season to injury, and endured the league pushing back. Finding his stroke has been a months long project, he’s not going to just stop because he wants the team to get the top pick.

Bryan Reynolds is having an MVP consideration type season, and slow down isn’t in his DNA to begin with. Kevin Newman did absolutely nothing with the bat most of this season, now that he’s finally recaptured his stroke, don’t expect him to step aside and let someone else take his job from him.

Jacob Stallings catching Wil Crowe in Monday’s contest was visibly frustrated after the hit that put the team down 5-1. See, Jake has experienced almost nothing but losing since really catching on with the club, and let’s just say he’s tired of doing it.

Mitch Keller, came off as a stubborn child most of this season. Right before being sent down to AAA he was quoted as saying nobody in the locker room was a pissed as he was about his performance. As he works his way back and tries to build on what he’s doing, don’t expect him to just stop so the Pirates get that top guy.

Winning isn’t a bad thing, ever. It’s the single thing everyone involved is trying to do.

Now, this is still not a good team obviously. They’ll lose more games than they win, and they’ll wind up getting a top 5 draft pick. Basically what I’m saying is, it’ll be ok. You want them to try to win, and you want to see improvement, especially when you see younger guys come up.

If you want to get frustrated about something, start wondering what took this team so long to get Kevin Newman to stand up straighter like he was this Spring. Start asking why it took 3 months to realize Ke’Bryan Hayes hadn’t pulled a base hit in the air to left once this season until the Dodgers series last week. Wonder aloud why almost nobody seems comfortable running the bases on a team that doesn’t have the power to make it moot.

But don’t waste time crying that they refuse to tank. More importantly realize you wouldn’t want a player who’d participate in that kind of crap in the first place, or a coach for that matter.

Practice winning. Practice treating game situations like they matter. And more than anything, finally start changing the culture in this club house. Shoot for “hey rook, can’t wait to see how you can help us win” instead of “welcome to hell”.

If this club finishes strong and winds up with the 5th pick in the draft led by players that will be here next year, it’s worth the slight reduction in slot money. Part of this effort is to improve players already here, not just acquire new players.

So as the Pirates beat a bad team that just swept them last month, calm down and really think about what you’re asking for when you cry about the draft position.

This franchise has a long way to go, and no matter when they start the uphill climb back to relevance there will have to be a first step. If that’s this last month of the season, fine by me.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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