PITTSBURGH — The Pirates hired Ben Cherington as their new general manager in November. Pittsburgh sports fans wanted to talk about Sidney Crosby’s sports hernia surgery and its potential impact on the Penguins.
The Pirates hired Derek Shelton as their new manager later in November. Pittsburgh sports fans wanted to talk about the Penguins goaltenders, the rise of Tristan Jarry and the fall, at least temporarily, of Matt Murray.
The Pirates traded Starling Marte in January. Pittsburgh sports fans wanted to talk about Antonio Brown’s arrest.
Pittsburgh sports fans never have cared less about the Pirates.
The apathy, for me, is worse now than it was in 1985. That was the season the team lost 104 games and fired manager Chuck Tanner. It also was the year of the Pittsburgh drug trials, which embarrassed the sport, the city, the Pirates and the Pirate Parrot.
The plight of the 2020 Pirates strikes me as being worse, at least in terms of fan interest.
It’s a crying shame for those of us who love baseball. It’s always been my favorite sport, but not anymore. It hasn’t been my favorite for years and years. How can you like baseball in our city? I get that you like PNC Park, but baseball?
The Pirates have brought this upon themselves. The 23 losing seasons in the past 27 years. The failure to add on to a team that won 98 games in 2015. The drop in attendance from 2.5 million that season to 1.49 million last season when the club won 69 games. The trade of Marte for two young prospects. The constant building for a winning team down the road, always down the road, never this season. The constant drivel from a variety of general managers about spending more money when the time is right when we all know that time never comes. The reduction of the current payroll to a laughable $48.3 million, according to spotrac.com. The predictions that the team will lose 100 games this season.
All of it.
This must be what it’s like to be a Cleveland Browns fan.
I wish Cherington and Shelton nothing but the best. Both are highly regarded in the industry, just as new Pirates president Travis Williams is highly regarded by those who understand the business of sports. I’m willing to give them a chance to be successful. They deserve that. I just don’t like their chances as long as Bob Nutting owns the team.
On one hand, I think we beat up Nutting too much. He is what he is, a terrific businessman and a lousy team owner. He’s not going to change and suddenly start spending big dollars to finance a winning team. He is not going to sell the club because he is making too much profit off it. He has talked about having his daughters take over control one day.
Cherington and Shelton are left to deal in their first season with cheap additions Derek Holland, JT Riddle, Guillermo Heredia and Luke Maile. They are forced to hope that Gregory Polanco, Chad Kuhl, Edgar Santana, Nick Burdi and JT Brubaker come back healthy and contribute. They are left to count on Chris Archer and Trevor Williams, among others, being a lot better than they were last season. They have to try and get by without adequate replacements for Jameson Taillon and Felipe Vazquez.
But on the other hand, maybe we don’t go after Nutting enough. Did you see what happened in Boston this week when Mookie Betts and David Price were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a blatant salary dump? Red Sox fans are screaming that team owner John William Henry II is interested only in making money, not in fielding a championship-quality club. The Red Sox payroll still is $178.8 million, according to spotrac.com.
I’m assuming Pirates fans don’t have much sympathy for Boston fans.
No baseball fans know suffering like Pirates fans.
Sadly, there is no end to it in sight.
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