Being a fan and follower of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the last couple decades has been a wild ride. Well okay, for about 18 years there it was a really boring, terrible ride. The last five years or so, however, the ride has gotten very wild.
To set some context here, I am a 26-year-old guy who spent way too much of his time between the ages of 18 and 22 watching, talking, blogging and tweeting about the Pittsburgh Pirates. For some strange reason, I latched onto the team when I was really young and followed them as closely as I could all through my teenage years before finally starting the blog and finally getting something back for all my pain (which was mainly self affirmation from mouse clicks and a few hundred dollars in T-shirt sales).
Now here I sit after a few years of keeping my opinions largely to myself, and I have something to say.
Human beings have a tendency to be incredibly stubborn. When a person formulates an opinion on something, it can be nearly impossible for another person to convince them otherwise. Any resistance to one’s ideas is met with unrelenting force, especially when the topic at hand is something that is unimportant in the scheme of things (like sports).
I would like to do my part to argue against one main issue that today’s stereotypical Pirate fan (some would say “yinzer”) has with the organization.
That issue is the old story that Bob Nutting and the rest of the Pirates front office are greedy and don’t want to spend money to help the team win.
Okay, so I’m not going to completely disagree with this thought, but I would like to offer up some logical counterpoints.
My first reaction when someone says “the Pirates didn’t do anything this offseason to make the team better!” is “okay, what specifically would you have liked to see them do?”
This year especially, I hear people all the time attacking the fact that the Pirates didn’t make any significant moves in free agency. My retort is this… what would you have them do? I have yet to receive an answer that wasn’t completely ridiculous. What, you want them to trade for Chris Sale? Sign Edwin Encarnacion? You really want the small market Pirates to pay these guys that ridiculous amount of money? I realize it’s not our money, but giving one player $80 million has major long-term implications for a small market team like the Pirates. If you want another 20-year losing streak, throwing away that much money for a couple good years of Chris Sale is a good way to start.
Back in April I actually heard with my own ears a Pittsburgh sports talk personality say that he thought the Pirates should have signed Bartolo Colon in the offseason to “eat some innings” for them. He used the Pirates passing on Colon to prove his point that they aren’t interested in winning. Yeah, Colon is making $12.5 million this year and has a 6.35 ERA. Paying that guy minimum wage would’ve been a bad deal for the Pirates.
Those examples may be a bit extreme, and I don’t think the majority of fans would’ve agreed with them. One deal that many fans were all in on was the Pirates trading for Jose Quintana, seemingly no matter what the cost. The rumored price of Quintana in the offseason was Josh Bell, Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow. What the Cubs gave up in July to get him proved that that was just about right. Quintana has been pedestrian this year, and even with the unknown of what he’ll do the next few seasons with the Cubs (because of those years of control), it’s seeming right now like a pretty good call that the Pirates didn’t give up that haul to get him.
Trading all of your prospects for past-their-prime MLB players as a small market club is just not the way to go if you’re interested in avoiding years and years of futility, which the Pirates and their fans just recently experienced. Oh yeah, wow! Remember those 20 years? Remember from 1992-2012 when the team didn’t have a single winning season? Remember their 82nd win in 2013 and how big of a deal that was? Remember later that year when they finished the year with 94 wins and won a playoff game? Remember then the next two years when they won 186 games, more than practically the entire rest of the league, all the while maintaining their prospects, not over-spending in free agency and keeping their hopes of being competitive in the future alive? Pretty amazing stuff, wasn’t it? Now all of the sudden with two years of not making the playoffs, the fans have completely flip-flopped their demeanor, ignoring all of the successes those three years brought. I do not think that’s fair, especially since the team of subject is one facing a built-in uphill battle due to financial restrictions.
More seriously, getting actually upset about a sports team you have no stake in seems like a terrible way to live your life. I was that way before—but I was a teenager. I support any kind of criticism more than anyone, provided that that criticism is informed, logical, fair and that the critic is willing to listen and consider counter-points, and I do not believe that most Pirates critics fit that mold.
Thanks for reading. If you want to fight me, please don’t. But if you can’t help yourself, I’m @JonPGH on Twitter.