Pirates Building Brand, But Achieving Excellence Is Goal


The Pittsburgh Pirates brand building has certainly won the hearts of the city.  So what’s next for the Bucs?  The short term goal is grabbing the series from the Cubs tonight when they send Electric Stuff Charlie Morton to the mound on Buc Night against the Cubs.  Looking down the road,  the Pirates need to win the Central, and then win in the playoffs and at the very least get to the World Series.  Ultimately the ball club needs to win the World Series in 2014.

Sep 22, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly reacts on the field before the Pirates host the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We listened to Frank Coonelly say the Pirates “brand has never been stronger.”  One could argue that the Pirates are the Apple of Major League Baseball.  15 years ago, Apple was broke.  15 years ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates were broke, but just couldn’t or refused to admit it.  Fortunately for majority owner Bob Nutting, Coonelly and Sr. VP/GM Neal Huntington recognized the bankruptcy in talent in the organization and went to work on bringing back the ‘Pirates brand.’ The President of the team has plenty of firepower to back up his brand building claim.  Hollywood always helps and of course ‘The Million Dollar Arm’ isn’t going to do any harm to the brand next month when it hits theaters everywhere. Bringing in new corporate partners like Coke sucks for me personally, because we don’t buy the ‘open happiness’ slogan, but it’s great for the Pirates brand.  Nearly $2 million dollars worth of have-a-Coke-and-a-smile greatness for the gem of Federal Street.  Getting the powerhouse 84 Lumber’s iconic lollipop back in PNC Park, just one of many partners returning after being absent for years,  is also very good for the brand. There is absolutely no doubt, the Pirates are hotter than they have ever been.  The majority of that credit goes to Coonelly, who has been successful in his time on the job, despite having Bob Nutting as the man he must answer to.  We believed it could have happened sooner, but that’s an argument for another day.

April 1, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (center) receives his 2012 silver slugger award from Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neil Huntington (left) and his 2012 Rawlings gold glove from Jerry Williams (right) before the game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

But while we agree with the Bucs President, the Pirates brand can’t become the Oakland A’s brand.  I don’t mean that to slight the Athletics who are, by far, the team that I admire the most in baseball.  But like the haters say, what have the A’s ever really won?

As a ten plus year Billy Beane apologist, we point to the fact that Oakland has won the AL West for two straight years.  The team put up 96 wins last season.  The team is always in the hunt, always young, always building successful regular season teams.  Using Oakland as a model organization has been out of fashion for some time, but Beane always gets it done.

But it’s all about now in baseball.  So what what if the A’s won 96 last year and the Pirates won 94.  Who cares about last year?  So while Beane’s offseason pickup, closer Jim Johnson, was getting booed off the mound on Opening Day, Huntington’s shark tank of Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli and our pick as breakout reliever Bryan Morris were firing zeroes.

Clint Hurdle said everything we needed to hear on Opening Day.  The Bucs can’t sustain.  Sure the Bucs can chase success and sustainability, but the Bucs need excellence.  Being successful defines the A’s every season.  But look deeper.  Their last World Series appearance happened during the inaugural season of The Simpsons.

Being excellent describes the World Series winner every season.  To me, being the best, means your excellent. (We paraphrase the Bucs skipper poorly, but trust you understand the point.) The Pirates need whatever it is to get over the hump that has stopped the A’s pursuit of excellence.  We think that it will be the offense that will be the Achilles heel, it certainly has been for Oakland.

So while guys like Joe Starkey think first base production wont decide a season.  We beg to differ.  The Pirates decided to give Gaby Sanchez another shot.   Sanchez did his part this offseason, now he needs to produce.

We are confident that while the fans lack patience, the Pirates are trying hard to practice it.  Especially when you look at Oakland and see the familiar face of Brandon Moss, a player who simply stunk his way off the Pirates roster a few years ago.

The Bucs went for it last year with the Justin Morneau addition.  Pirates fans were told the veteran was the best available option.  At the time, we thought it was a good move, but Morneau couldn’t produce.

It was another example of chasing excellence.  It would be cool if the Pirates did more this past winter, but the Pirates have shown they will invest when it’s appropriate.

We thought the offseason would have been perfect.

The Pirates didn’t think that way.   Acquistion attempts were made, but came up empty. So back to reality.  The only solution is to trust that the Bucs roster put themselves in place at the trade deadline to do what didn’t happen this offseason.

The Pirates are counting on unlikely bounceback seasons from numerous players. While modeling the Oakland A’s  is wise, I mean, what team wouldn’t want to win 96 games?  That’s success.

But excellence is what the Boston Red Sox accomplished.  The Pirates need to rip the World Series title from their hands.  It wont be easy, but there wouldn’t be a better time. A World Series title might make Coonelly update his brand comment after a WS title–our brand just got stronger–we can see the headline now.

We would be cool with that.

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