Monday, October 1, 2007

Another Losing Season for the Pirates

I don’t complain about the Pittsburgh Pirates. I mean, not a lot at least. Usually when asked about them, I’ll mention how blessed Pittsburgh sports has been. Just in my time, I’ve celebrated a Steelers Super Bowl on the streets of Pittsburgh. As a kid I enjoyed Mario Lemieux and back-to-back Stanley Cups. I joyously danced around my living room after we won the Sidney Crosby draft lottery. We’ve seen our share of All-Star players and post season appearances.

But on the rare occasion that I’m being honest, I’ll tell you, I absolutely hate it. I hate not winning. The Pirates are wrapping up their 15th consecutive losing season. I don’t even remember what the Major League Baseball post-season feels like. Sure, I’ll tune in and follow the interesting series. I do my best to enjoy playoff baseball, but I’m sure I’d enjoy it more if the Pirates would make an appearance.

The other stuff, about Pittsburgh sports being blessed and all that, that’s just good karma. I shut my mouth, I take the losses, the unearned runs allowed, the José Bautista errors, the poor bats, the weak starting rotation, and the nonexistent bullpen. I take them, because I’m somewhat certain that at some point in the future we are going to turn this ship around. Someday we may make the playoffs, or even, dare I say, win the World Series. Though I’m not entirely sure how.

Ultimately, the blame has to fall on the owners bottom line thinking. The ownership group bought the team ten years ago for a measly $92 million, and the public paid $216 for the best stadium in baseball, PNC Park. Forbes now estimates the franchise is worth approximately $276 million. In return the Pirates organization has put what most closely resembles a minor league roster on the field. This season they will finish 3rd in the league in revenue, while 27th in team payroll and last in the National League.

It has become undeniably clear that only one thing guides decision making, and that’s the financial report. So as a fan, I just cross my fingers and hope that they’ll cash out and sell the franchise to someone who cares about fielding a competitive roster. Because they can hire a new head of baseball operations, and they could replace Jim Tracy, and it’s not going to have any effect on the Pirates playoffs chances. You can’t make a stone bleed, and you can’t take a $50 million dollar team to the playoffs. It’s just not possible.

But I’ll watch playoff baseball. And someone will be crowned the World Series champion. And I’ll try to forget the 2007 season. The temperature will fall. The ground will freeze. Thanksgiving will come and go. Then Christmas and New Years. Perhaps, I’ll be fortunate enough to be able to build a snowman. But eventually springs bound to return, and with it, baseball. And even with no evidence to support the hope, I’ll dream about it being the season we turn it all around. Because eventually we’ve got to put together a winning season, and this season could be it. I know I’m doing my part, I’m not complaining.

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