Now let’s see…“let the dead bury the dead.” No that’s not right; that’s the Holy Scriptures. “Nothing from nothing leaves nothing.” Not that one either, it’s the title of a Billy Preston song. Just two short years ago this was the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup on opening day: Nate McLouth, center field; Freddy Sanchez, 2nd base; Jason Bay, left field; Adam LaRoche, 1st base; Xavier Nady, right field; Ryan Doumit, catcher; Jose Bautista, 3rd base; Jack Wilson, shortstop; and Ian Snell, pitcher.
All are history except Doumit. Is there some sort of method to this madness?
There is an ugly and egregious pattern that has developed and been maintained by the Pirate brass over the past 17 years regarding on the field personnel decisions. Their out of sorts mantra seems to go something like this. Draft ’em, develop ’em, sell ’em. And ya know what? The chickens have not come home to roost because to roost means you have to stay, at least for a while.
I am going to get a tad mushy. I am a baseball lover. No, not just some run-of-the-mill baseball writer that happens to be a fan. No, I am just the opposite. I am a fan who just happens to be a writer. The bloodletting over at the Pirates pad has to stop. Someone has to call 911.
The Pirates began their annual “get ’em for nothing” garage sale disguised as franchise reconstruction during the winter of ’92. That winter was particularly harsh on the city because the Pirates “mis” management” cut loose a ton of experienced athletes like Jose Lind, one of their most talented infielders. Also during the year of the “great sale” with no apparent logic, they allowed 1990 Cy Young winner Doug Drabek and two-time MVP Barry Bonds to find greener pastures as free agents. Ex-Pirate catcher Mike LaValliere reacted to the trades in a prophetic fashion by calling the Pirates a “joke” and “a Major League farm club.” At that time everyone, including yours truly, thought the outburst by LaValliere was based on pure emotion. Over 17 years later no one, including me, suspected how true his words would ring.
Pirates’ management has to worry about winning for the short-term and get their heads on straight as opposed to what bobble- heads are going to be handed out on any given Friday or Saturday. The Pirates need to have a “non-player” giveaway night. Remember the Republican Party had a contract with America that dissolved into a contract on America? Over 100 years ago the Pittsburgh Pirates signed a contract in blood with a working class city that was the center of the baseball and industrialized world. They vowed to compete and attempt to win at all costs in a smoke and sweat- filled city that was described by some as “hell with the lid off.” However, the ballclub fought and scrapped to assure a population of steel-working, soot-breathing fans that they would win “by any means necessary.” Now it appears the only necessity that the management recognizes is the necessity for profit. What started out as a rebuilding phase in 1992 has evolved into a building phase. The team no longer has a structure to rehab. All that remains standing where a proud baseball franchise once stood is an empty lot.
Oh there is a sparkling new ball park that is a showcase for Pittsburgh and America but where is the team that is supposed to inhabit it? On most days, teams look forward to a stint against the Pirates at beautiful PNC Park just so that they can have the opportunity to compete against the ugly spirit of losing and to emerge out of a slump or to pad their stats. PNC Park may now be known as “hell with the lid on.” The spending “lid” is so tight over in Bucco land that something, somewhere, may very well ignite and explode soon. The loud boom that may be heard over at PNC Park may be the human fireworks of disgruntled Pirate fans and baseball lovers.
Let’s bring back the “smokey” city image. At least opposing teams and the public knew when you played the Pirates you had better pack a lunch, post a “men-at-work sign,” and most of all, make sure that you had a team doctor on the roster. Most of the time you were still going to lose. Competing against the Pirates of the past was relative to a wide receiver in football making a great catch while coming across the middle. The receiver remembers the hit more than the catch. The majority of games that teams played against the Pirates left the opposition more worried about if they would be healthy enough for their next game as opposed to basking in the spotlight of a shallow victory.
There are only a hand full of Bucs from the 2008 team that will take the field as Pirates in 2010. Even the ghosts of former Pirates seem to be a bit leery in regards to being seen over at the Pirates relatively “new” crib. The specters of the past, like everyone else nowadays are worried about their image, which seems more than can be said about the present management group.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. or 412.378.9834.)