4-7-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
It’s opening day in MLB and seeing as how we didn’t feel confident we were going to get this before June or July about a month ago, it feels good knowing we’ll see 162 games.
Oh I didn’t miss the Pirates roster before writing some semblance of feeling good about any aspect of this season. At the end of the day despite all the warts of the league and this team I still love baseball, and this day will always be special to me.
The en vogue thing to do today is to get out in front of how terrible this team will be. Far worse than last year even. We can even make some outlandish claims like they only have 3 or 4 MLB players on the roster.
Listen, you do you, if planning for the worst season ever and hoping for better is your method of protecting yourself, have at it. If believing there was some 10 million dollar guy out there that would drastically affect things is your thing, cool, I won’t argue that.
I tend to look at this entire event as one big story.
I thought I understood the plan in 2020, and I think where they are right now is right about where I expected.
I can say that while simultaneously saying I completely get why this sucks for fans. Fans who don’t ingest all the minor league goings on are just never going to see anything other than a poor MLB roster. And I’ll be blunt, they shouldn’t.
This is an MLB city, and anyone expecting fans who watch the Penguins and Steelers have at least .500 records for the best part of 2 decades to float on over to watch the Pirates when the other two are on break, to a team that likely is already 10 games under .500 by the time the Penguins are done mind you, isn’t just silly it’s unrealistic. Don’t expect them to care about the cap vs no cap stuff either. They aren’t blind, they know teams in cities of similar size are doing things differently and having success.
Oh the Pirates can try to sell the future all they want. Bloggers and journalists can tout what’s coming til they’re blue in the face. At the end of the day, they’re (we’re) selling to seagulls. The people reading/listening/caring about all this stuff, those folks are already here. In fact they’re largely already just as into it as those covering it.
At some point the Pittsburgh Pirates have to be about the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It’s one thing for me to say, hey, this is what I expected for 2022. I certainly did, but that doesn’t mean I’m all about it. Certainly doesn’t mean I thought they should just leave it be and just be bad another season.
Of course many of these guys are young, and many of them have ceilings they haven’t reached, but man, it’s a bit unhinged to think all of them, or a majority even will do so. I do think that people are leaning a bit too far into the rookie or first year numbers of some guys as though improvement isn’t possible, but again, only a fool would expect a normal fan to look at a guy who won 5 or 6 games and had a high 5’s ERA as an opening day starter, and think they should see his potential. If that’s your 4th starter, ok, maybe potential is enough, but opening day, man you want to see something you really trust.
That’s really where the Pirates err more than any other single place. They guarantee themselves that when this finally does start taking shape, those regular fans won’t be around to see it. That’s not an indictment of the fans, it’s a criticism of the team not seeing the damage they do to their own efforts. Those fans will check back in mid season when and if the team really improves. If they’re good in 2023, most regular fans won’t watch until mid 2023. So on and so on.
Even if by some chance this team overachieves this year, this roster isn’t built to last. With what’s coming and who’s almost assured to be going the fans who did find their way back home to check out the “freak show” would be almost immediately met with the realization a bunch of those scrappy overachievers won’t be back next year.
This whole phenomenon gets boiled down to name calling like “bandwagoners” or whatever but in reality the team creates it by never prioritizing giving the fans something to watch.
Say the name Mitch Keller at a bar with a bunch of people who aren’t invested like you are and what reaction will you get? Head case! He’s a bust! Another guy this team oversold! He doesn’t belong on an MLB roster! They didn’t see what he did this Spring. They don’t know he changed his delivery. Probably heard something about the velocity but who cares he’s a head case right?
You can get mad about that I guess, or maybe you could just understand where they’re coming from. He quite literally hasn’t done anything at the MLB level, in games that matter. I can say he looks better, but even I have to admit, Spring is Spring, and I’d rather just embrace that he looks improved than pretend it’s a nailed on fact he’s turned the corner.
At some point the responsibility for supporting the team isn’t on fans, it’s on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
They could have started Oneil Cruz in MLB, he has zero track record in MLB beyond 2 games, but fans would have probably been excited to see the physical freak who can hit the ball a mile take aim at the Clemente Wall. And I don’t mean the prospect wonks, I mean regular, split attention fans. In fact their record could be exactly the same as it will be with or without him and regular fans would have a better perception of the team just from seeing highlights of he and Reynolds crushing balls on the evening news. And I’m a guy who can and has made an argument he isn’t ready defensively.
They could have gone and got a real starting pitcher who’s actually done well for the past couple years and tossed him in the middle of this rotation instead of Quintana. Again, it probably doesn’t change the record all that much, really doesn’t change the underlying effort the team is working on, but to regular fans, you know, the people who buy tickets, it might have put some butts in seats.
They could extend someone, anyone, but especially their best player Bryan Reynolds. Again, it wouldn’t effect the record, but at least it would be a foot down. A signal to regular fans that the foundation is starting to set.
To those fans, watching the Pirates is like trying to fill a damaged bucket with a colander. Eventually I guess you’ll get the job done, but man it’s a lot more work than plugging holes as you go. If you never stop the leaks, the situation feels hopeless.
Again, I get where we are, and I’ll enjoy this season in my own way. I’ll continue to be fair in my evaluation and criticize when warranted. One thing I won’t do is expect that people paying attention out of the corner of their eye while watching the NFL draft and sitting outside PPG Paints Arena’s big screen to watch the Penguins make another run, to take this team seriously.
That’s on the Pirates and quite honestly they shouldn’t expect it until they treat those fans in the same fashion. New bars and hot dog stands are nice, but the park wasn’t and isn’t the problem, the roster, and communication is.
As I sit here, I can honestly say this team is building something and I think we’ll all like it when it comes together. Just don’t expect everyone to put in the effort to pull together the archeologist level dig you do so they can see it and furthermore, don’t expect your word to be enough to convince them.
Excitement is there to be had, but this team actively chose not to take any of the options at hand. Excusing that is not my job, even if I understand it, and it’s not yours either.
Now all that said, I’m ready to sit down and watch a real ballgame. I love it, even when it’s not good baseball in my own way, for my own reasons. One day soon I hope there are a lot more people around me doing the same, hopefully we won’t have to dig to find reasons to care by then.