3-30-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
In a word, No.
That’s not my job.
I can tell you about who I feel comfortable believing will come up from the system, and when. I can probably talk about reasons to believe a GM would take a job like this if he didn’t know he’d be given the tools to succeed. I mean if you dig through this site at all you’ll find bits and pieces of this from Craig or I.
One thing you won’t find is a guarantee ANY of this will work.
There’s a reason for that folks, and I mean beyond the far too easy there are no guarantees in baseball fodder. How could I or anyone else tell you with a straight face to trust this team’s attempt will work when it’s literally only worked once in a small market (KC-2015), let alone in Pittsburgh, with this owner.
I can’t, we can’t.
Further, it’s not my job to help this team create fans, or to strengthen the resolve of their fanbase. I’m glad you read my stuff, happy you listen to my podcasts, but I’m not creating fans, players do that, winning does that, not my explanations of why they seemingly do the opposite of what would make you happy at every turn.
As soon as an outlet like this decides something like that is their job, and this applies for all potential outcomes, like overt failure, World Series certainty, blind optimism, hell bent negativity, it becomes impossible to objectively talk about what’s actually happening without destroying your narrative.
Having a narrative at all beyond simply trying to cover the team fairly is going to skew what’s done here, or anywhere.
In a given week, I’m probably called a Nutting shill 20 times and a Nutting hater 20 more. That’s good, it’s exactly what I’d expect. I’d of course prefer people see it as well rounded, but good or bad we live in an increasingly red pill/blue pill world where everything has an agenda.
So when something emotionally charged happens like yesterday with Oneil Cruz getting optioned to AAA, oh man does it ramp up.
Say something entirely true and reasonable like every team in baseball does this, and some just aren’t going to see that as anything other than caping for Nutting. Remind people that the kid legitimately does have to do some work on his feilding and you might as well tell them you personally went and Will Smith’d him across the face in front of his mom before telling him to stop sucking.
I’ve even written that I personally would have brought him North, while still mentioning that the defense isn’t just ‘a work in progress’ but instead really not good enough. I just happen to believe this team, where it is can afford to allow that development to happen at the MLB level just to get the bat involved.
None of this matters, because see I either have to say Nutting sucks and Cruz is a nailed on rookie of the year winner or Nutting rules and Cruz isn’t close to ready. That’s really the point, you aren’t ever going to get that here. Not from me, not from Craig, Ethan, Anthony, Jud, Joe, none of us are ever going to take the bait.
If you really want to have an interesting conversation about trying to convince people to stick by this team, perhaps you should focus on whose responsibility that really should be, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Travis Williams, Ben Cherington, Bob Nutting, Derek Shelton, and anyone else whose name you bother to recognize need to convince you it’s worth sticking around, not me.
Just last week on the Pirates Fan Forum I said, why should I sit here and try to help the Pirates with their self inflicted PR problem?
If those four men don’t recognize that the fans are restless, tired, frustrated and at the very least not seeing their vision, here’s an idea, maybe come out and try to talk to them. Frankly, and honestly.
Ben Cherington in particular has on record talked about being competitive earlier than most think. Now if you’re a weary fan trying your best to patiently believe in this new regime, even when things they do seem counterintuitive to you, a statement like that makes you think what? Right, you’re thinking ok, they’re gonna sign some guys. Alright, finally the extensions are coming. Sweet, he thinks these prospects are getting closer!
All the while you’re told how dumb you are by other fans who just think it’s all crap.
Then the hits start coming.
Bryan Reynolds is asked if the team approached him about an extension and he flatly says no. You’re thinking damn, if extending this guy isn’t part of the plan, how the hell are we really going to be better sooner than many expect? You probably talk yourself into it being ok because they’ll get to it before arbitration.
Uh oh, here comes the arbitration story with Reynolds, all over 650K. You repeat the same question to yourself and know this won’t help an extension happen. Those fans who told you that you were dumb, well they pull out the receipts to make sure you remember your foolish optimism.
And the team is absolutely silent.
Not one of those big 4 ever bother to address it in any way. Nobody comes out and says this process takes place every year, with every team and we still very much so want to extend him. They just don’t make a peep. So, how are you, a fan, really trying to buy in to the process supposed to take that? Add in that everyone associated with the team tells you nothing short of Reynolds is the best player on the team, and the undisputed leader of the players. Hell one coach in particular Tarrik Brock told us while mic’d up for a broadcast that he literally leans on Reynolds to help him improve the fielding of others in the outfield. They go out of their way to tell you how unflinchingly important he is to what they’re doing, and that just doesn’t match up with taking him to arbitration over a piddly sum and not offering an extension.
Point is, I or anyone really, can tell you what they think of the situation, and of course I have, but the team is who you really need to hear from.
Boom, another hit, Oneil Cruz gets optioned down to AAA. Oh sure lots of folks told you he would be, some, me included, told you it was most likely going to happen but also showed why it didn’t have to be.
Still it hurts. It says to fans we aren’t going to play our best 26. The team did speak this time, well at least Shelton, and I’ll be honest, what he said is absolutely true, in fact probably would have been what he said if Cruz stayed on the team.
This is from Dejan Kovacevic at DK Pittsburgh Sports…. “I think it was a development decision,” Shelton would say. “There’s still room for development, still things that we feel he can maximize on. We feel he’s going to have a major impact on the Pirates, but right now, we feel like there are things for him to do moving forward that are going to help us win games.”
See what I mean? He could have said the same thing answering why he wasn’t starting every day. Same answer if he’s up here and making a bunch of errors. Shelton is the coach and he’s rightly going to have a take entirely devoted to development which the team and Shelton himself continue to say doesn’t stop at the MLB level.
This is all part of the game in MLB. Teams manipulate service time, GMs don’t acknowledge it’s happening instead pretending you’ll all just accept that 100 more at bats were needed, or 50 more chances at Shortstop in AAA would take a poor fielder and make him Ozzie Smith. For the most part, they’re right, most fans do eventually just accept it, but a team like this, where you’ve been pointing down to the system for the best part of 3 years (it’s not fair to hammer this regime with what the previous did) finally has a player who looks transformative on the doorstep and fans have had enough.
The next time Ben Cherington is made available to the media, the question will be asked. His answer will be word salad like all his answers and the fans are tired of that too. Now, no GM is going to tell you ‘of course we’re manipulating his service time! Have you ever watched the sport?’. But something better needs done.
I can honestly say if Oneil Cruz is up here crushing balls over the Clemente Wall this June, after the initial mocking period where everyone has to make sure they’ve said he could have been doing this in April too, most fans will just calm down and enjoy watching him play, but I’m just as sure it’s not the last PR puddle this franchise is going to step in.
Listen, I’ve spent most of my adult life in marketing, I get it, selling a product that isn’t 100% clearly developed is a near impossible task, but not trying to sell it is easily the bigger sin.
The Pirates have alienated so many fans and the game itself has driven so many young fans away it stands to reason the Bucs should know most of their audience at this point are adults, perhaps they should start talking to us like we are.