Depending on who you talk to, my fanaticism regarding the Pirates is stupid, sadistic or unwarranted. Or perhaps all of the above and then some. It has been too long since the team has made a string of moves that put the club in better shape. It reminds me of my golf game. Having played baseball and basketball up through high school and generally shunning golf because it was expensive, time consuming and didn’t involve playing defense, my golf game as it stands now is terrible. I play once (maybe twice) a year. However, on any given hole I’m liable to make one decent shot – off the tee, from the fairway (if I’ve found it), out of a bunker or the rough or maybe sink a decently long put. However, I am unable to put together several decent shots in a row. If I did, I maybe could be a bogey golfer. Instead I normally break 120. That’s like the Pirates – they might make a good move (getting Jason Bay for Brian Giles, getting Brian Giles for Ricardo Rincon), but they have failed to make several good moves in a row. So, instead of being respectable, the Pirates are quite poor. Year after year.
Instead of addressing the situation head on – playing more golf, taking some lessons, studying the game – the Pirates have relied on patch work moves (going to the driving range and hitting 50 balls a few days before my annual round) like signing aging veterans and hoping that maybe the club will reach respectable win total (bogey golf). It hasn’t worked.
Given that I’m headed to Pittsburgh on Saturday for my annual weekend of Bucco games at PNC with my brother, I’m saddened that I won’t see many players that I’ve seen in the past. However, Neal Huntington recognizes that the strive for mediocrity is not the way to get the fan base excited. His trades have been difficult, but his philosophy is correct. Rebuild the team from the ground up. Maybe, maybe in two to three years this club will be shooting par and making a run into September. That’s what I’m hoping for.
In the meantime, how do you sell this club to the casual fan over the next couple of years? How do you get people in a down economy to buy tickets to watch a team that won’t compete? Clearly this team will not contend in 2010, barring some unforseen move(s) or player development. The “come see ’em while they are young and hungry” approach has been used before by this club. And if the players don’t hustle (Lastings Milledge on Tuesday night for example) when they hit infield grounders, the fans aren’t going to want to watch a club that loses and doesn’t play hard. Huntington has his work cut out for him in two areas – building a talented club and keeping the operation profitable while the product struggles on the field. Whether the club posts a bogey or a snowman, I’ll be watching (and still avoiding improving my golf game). Call me what you will.