12-8-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
The Pirates have hurt this fanbase. Even if you don’t feel that way, read the comments under this story from people who obviously only read the headline.
Over the years and administrations they’ve fractured the trust between their intentions and the expectations of fans.
They’ve done this all on their own. It’s not the media’s fault, it’s not the players, it’s the franchise and the global MLB system they play in.
I say all that because while I’m going to touch on the overtly negative takes media has been going with this off season, the first reaction is going to be that I’m trying to chastise them for “telling the truth” or “pressuring Bob to sell”, but in reality, I’m not a gatekeeper for opinions on the Pirates, I’m just a guy who has wanted the whole story to be told.
For example, Bob is cheap and under his stewardship he’s not provided enough to allow the Pirates to avoid becoming the utter laughingstock the franchise has become, AND the league has proven over time his max effort would probably not have them avoid that fate at least half the time.
Both things can be and are true. Believe it or not, that’s fair.
People often point to the Brewers as an example of doing everything your market allows. I do too. The difference is, I saw and talked about the eventuality of where they are right now. A maxed out payroll, lacking the offensive talent to truly swim in the pool they want to be in. Completely in the throws of arbitration hell, and lacking the ability to extend many of the star pitchers who have fueled much of their success.
Now, I don’t say that to crap on Milwaukee, far from it. They took an admirable, and far more entertaining for the fans path to get here. They developed the hell out of their pitching staff. They traded for star power and extended those they could.
I’m simply saying I’m sympathetic to them. Because if we’re honest, they’re everything we supposedly want Bob Nutting to be. They spend as much as possible, they develop incredibly well, and they put an entertaining product on the field.
Sadly, in this league, that nets you in this case one legitimate crack at a World Series. One year where they were truly in it.
I feel awful for the Brewers, and their fans.
Look, the offseason isn’t over, they could stretch themselves even further, but looking at their offensive roster, seeing them forced to move Kolten Wong and let Hunter Renfroe go just to try their damnedest to keep most of their arbitration guys, I simply think they have to far to go and not enough resources to do it.
Is all that more attractive than watching your team lose 100 games in what amounts to 3 consecutive years? Absolutely.
When success is purely defined as World Series Championships, all the teams they’ve outspent and outplayed probably feel like they’re in the same boat. You know, except richer.
This is MLBs system.
That’s what it creates.
It also creates stories like the Cleveland Guardians. They sold off many of their star players for prospects surrounded by their always stocked pitching staff they develop at an elite level.
Still, during last year’s off season calling for the Dolan’s to sell the team were deafening. They were castigated for callously selling off stars, not trying to win, pocketing money, Boycott the team! Profiting off the loyalty if their fans, you name it they heard it.
And then they won their division and made the ALDS and almost took down the mighty Yankees.
Now this year, they’re the ideal small market organization. Oh why can’t the Pirates be like the Guardians!?
Indeed, why can’t they? Development? Drafting? Poor Trades? ALL of that?
More importantly, can they do it again? Maybe. If they do though, despite the addition of Josh Bell it won’t be because they bought it, it’ll be because of doing well at all the things small market clubs have to simply ace the exam on.
Major League Baseball loves this. It proves their system is fair right? Easy to point to the Guardians payroll last year and say, “see, it can be done, money isn’t everything!”, and they’re right. Until they aren’t.
If Shane Bieber had required TJ last year, nobody ever stops saying all the things they said in the off season. The roster wasn’t as clearly good as what you’d need as an executive to go out and replace him as best you could. Dolan would still be a demon, the Guardians a team in disarray.
Hell if the White Sox had half a brain amongst their management team and performed close to what their roster said they should Dolan would still be the great Satan.
That’s the razor’s edge that small market teams have to play in and with hanging over their necks like the executioner’s blade.
So when journalists here in Pittsburgh pen an opinion piece about Bob Nutting sucking, or needing to sell the team, I get it entirely. What I don’t get is why they so often stop at that.
Get a really great owner, and Pittsburgh is in reality a bit better than the Brewers. The market is slightly bigger here, and therefore their investment should be capable of getting slightly bigger.
Is that enough?
I mean is that really what we want? I’d be absolutely fine with, screw that, I’d be ecstatic if Bob Nutting would sell the team to a good owner who legitimately wanted to do as much as he or she could every season. But it wouldn’t fix the biggest problem in this league.
It just might make you feel like it a bit more. You still wouldn’t be in on Judge. Verlander still isn’t coming here. You can carry a few 140 million dollar deals but you can’t carry 2 or 3 300 million dollar deals like the top tier.
Again, that’s baseball’s system.
That’s the reality here friends.
Imagine if NASCAR had 30 racing teams. Every team has the same races on their schedule, and you can have whatever tires, motor, you want. There are about 10 teams that have sold the most lucrative sponsorship deals there are and routinely make 300 million more than the other 20 racing teams. They make cash win or lose.
Those 10 “super teams” if you will, they have V8 supercharged engines, the very best in tires, fully spare body replacements lying around. The best mechanics, the top pit team in the sport, and top engineers constantly innovating new ways to gain half a mile per hour.
The 20 non super teams run every race, some of them have V6 engines, it’s all they can afford. Nice tires, but if they wear them faster than they hoped they might have to finish with a bald set.
Some of them run a bunch of those races not even trying to win, they know they can’t with their motor, but NASCAR will give a free motor upgrade to whomever finishes the league calendar in last place. New Tires for the worst 5.
Stupid sounding right?
Is it possible this eventually leads to one of those 20 winning? Sure, if you’ve ever watched NASCAR, even the best teams have accidents (See White Sox) and leave room for one of them to finish in the top ten, get some of that badly needed prize money to put back into their team and that’s if they’re a good owner, many will just happily take a bigger than normal profit.
Instead, NASCAR and every other major sports league move heaven and earth to ensure every entrant has a legitimate chance to win, every year, not if and when the culmination of a decade of perfect moves and excellent development provides it.
Other leagues, the best management wins. The best athlete can legitimately be in Pittsburgh, or Edmonton, or Green Bay.
Cheap isn’t a thing, ineptitude is. Daniel Snyder isn’t a bad owner because he won’t spend, he’s a bad owner because he does horrible things, AND he hires people who have no idea how to improve systematically an NFL team.
You can still stretch things. The LA Rams traded off almost all their draft picks seemingly, in an effort to win the Super Bowl, and they did. Now they’ll pay the price. In a cap league that’s part of nature.
In a cap league, you have to allow stars to leave sometimes. You simply can’t fit everyone under the cap. It doesn’t prevent NFL players from setting new records every year for highest paid whatever position, it just prevents teams from having a disproportional amount of veteran talent. It spreads the wealth. It means your Jacksonville team should be able to beat the big bad Dallas Cowboys on any given Sunday.
It gives Green Bay, a relative village, the same chance to win as a team from LA, or NY.
That’s not MLB.
So, I can hate Nutting, and genuinely want him to sell his baseball team, but I’m sorry, I won’t do it without also acknowledging all it does is make it better, IF he sells it to a good person.
Fans are mad, and rightfully so. Nobody should like losing, nobody should excuse it, nobody should have to accept it as part of the process. The fact that it simply is part of the process isn’t entirely on the Pirates.
People who do this stuff, you know, writing or talking about the Pirates thrive on the connection with you the readers or listeners. The interaction drives us forward, gives us ideas of what you like to hear about and read about.
When fans are angry, it feeds the beast. Angry writing get’s angry fans piped up. Calling for things you know the team won’t do as evidence they “care” serves to only make you look prescient and give angry fans more to chew on.
The Pirates should sign “star player X” for X amount of years and they have the money and they can do it and if they don’t they don’t care!!!!! Angry face emojis!!!
You know what I’m talking about and you know it isn’t happening. You might even kinda know why even if they had the money they probably shouldn’t do it because they have 3 guys in their top 10 due to be here next year, but you quietly nod and agree because F Bob right?
So back to the original question, why bother?
Well, I can’t tell you that. That’s your business honestly. In fact, I’ve been doing this for 4 years now and not once have I uttered or written the words, “This Will Work”.
I can’t write that honestly. I can tell you they will improve next year. I can tell you I like a lot of what I see. But make no mistake, they need to get lucky, they need Cruz to be a bonafide super star. They need everyone else to play to their potential and they need a pitcher to become a top of the rotation stud.
I bother personally for a few reasons. One, my dad always told me you have to F with the D you brung. I grew up here, I love Pitt athletics and they haven’t really won in a longer period of time than the Pirates. I love the Pirates because they’re my team. I love the city, the colors, the players and everything else about them.
So I deal. I allow myself to enjoy watching players grow, and I prepare myself for knowing the next star player I see play their entire career as a Pirate will be my first. History is on my side folks, I’m 45, and I can’t think of a single notable player who hasn’t eventually been moved.
I do this writing, because I think you all deserve hearing the whole story. All the warts, bruises and cuts included. I do this because while the audience that wants to think about the process instead of feeding their anger is smaller, it still needs an outlet. Someone who gets their anger, probably feels it himself, but still can take a clear eyed look at what is and help make sense of it.
Lastly, I write things like this because of how often I get asked to comment on what readers have seen elsewhere. I do owe you all that on occasion, because silence about people pitching for campaigns to oust the owner tends to create the belief I’d prefer it not happen.
In reality, it’s no different than explaining why I don’t often say things like the Pirates should go sign Aaron Judge.
It’s not gonna happen, and now I’ve told you more reasons than just who has a nameplate at 115 Federal Street.
The Pirates may never change, the league might not either, good or bad neither will I.
Bottom line, they can win, any team can, the Pirates path is simply covered in land mines and their bomb sniffing dog has to be incredible.