The Spring Follies

Thursday, February 21st, 2008, 2:47 pm

Spring training is under way and as always that seems a bit odd because it’s about 10 friggin’ degrees outside. Of course I live in PIttsburgh and thus I’m far more interested in the NFL Combine that starts today in Indianapolis. And when April rolls around I’ll be far more excited about the NFL Draft than Opening Day.

Because, as I said, I live in Pittsburgh, and thus root for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that has progressed from periennial heartbreaker to sad sack to laughingstock to…whatever it is the Bucs are today. The team hasn’t had a winning season in 15 years, won’t have a winning season this year, and probably won’t be even a threat to finish over .500 until 2010. And that’s assuming that the team’s new leadership operates on a Belicheckian-level of savvy, malfeasance, and menace. Which no Pirate fan with an IQ above 28 is counting on.

This afternoon the Post-Gazette published a little piece about a pep talk the team got from the big shots. This paragraph caught my eye:

"We have a 15-year stretch that we can’t dwell on," owner Bob Nutting said afterward. "For most of our history, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been a tremendous, respected franchise, with players who were proud to wear the uniform, who had an expectation of excellence. I believe we’re in a position now to begin that execution."

That last word leaps out–"execution". Reminds me of the classic quote from former Tampa Bay Buccanneer head coach John McKay. After his winless team lost yet another game a reporter asked McKay what he thought of his team’s execution. "I think it’s a good idea," McKay said. I can’t help but think that Nutting’s choice of that word perhaps let on more about inner feelings that he might have wished. Not that Nutting is in any position to be fed up with the Pirates horrid ways–he’s made serious bank keeping the Pirates payroll near the bottom of the league and last year he apparently signed off on former GM Dave Littlefield’s acquisition of Matt Morris, the Worst Goddam Trade in the History of the Pittsburgh Pirates. A responsible owner not only would’ve rejected this idiotic deal, he would’ve had the offending GM placed in restraints and removed from the property. Nutting lived up to his name and gave the thumbs up. Unbelievable.

The article says that the Pirates had "a relatively inactive offseason". When your two biggest acquisitions are Doug Mientkiewicz and Byung-Hyun Kim, I’d say that’s an accurate assessment. The rest of the Pirates roster does not exactly send hearts to racing–in their Fantasy Baseball preview ESPN said that five of the Pirate starting position players aren’t even worth drafting, and the same can be said for three of our starters. The Pirates’ best player is Jason Bay, who (like the team in general) is coming off a disastrous 2007. If Bay’s troubles were due to his bad knee and he roars back with a monster year, all that means is that Bay will be traded. The thought that every productive at-bat will bring him closer to parole from Pittsburgh Purgatory will no doubt motivate Bay to an All-Star performance this year.

What glimmers of hope the Pirates possess rests in their young arms. Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny look like actual big-league starting pitchers. The scary thing is that they’re both PIRATE starting pitchers and are therefore years overdue for Tommy John surgery. If our starters can escape the curse that’s befallen just about every other high draft pick who’s dared taken the mound for the Bucs, they mght put up some impressive numbers…just in time to be traded to the Yanks or Red Sox or Cubs at the trade deadline. And thus the Circle of Life (Pirate edition) is renewed.

Sigh. It’s so very depressing. Then again, PNC Park is the best place to watch a baseball game on this planet. And they serve beer there. Cold beer. After 15 consecutive losing seasons, I can handle a couple more standing on my head. Just keep that Penn Pilsner coming.

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3 Responses to “The Spring Follies”

  1. cc Says:

    I do wish that MLB could figure something out so that every team would have a chance to start the season, at least most seasons. That the dysfunctional nature of Major League Baseball competitiveness is even more problematic since it hasn’t really impacted the overall business of baseball.

  2. cc Says:

    Don’t know if you saw this in the NY Times yesterday: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/sports/baseball/24pirates.html?_r=1&ref=baseball&oref=slogin

  3. Drizztdj Says:

    Doug M. will at least provide some laughs for the clubhouse regardless of the team’s record.

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