I’ve been a Pirates fan for my entire life. I first started watching baseball at the tail end of the Dave Parker/Willie Stargell era but I was too young to remember the last championship team of ’79. My favorite player in my early years was Jason Thompson and I remember watching games with my grandmother who kept a box score of every single game. I wish that I would have kept them as a memento of the huge Pirates fan she was too.
I remember the 3 straight playoff teams in the early 90’s that was so heartbreaking when Sid Bream slid across home plate to send the Pirates home instead of the World Series. I have gone through the entire 20 years of losing trying to be the eternal optimist that the new “5 year plan” would work. I can recall sitting with a good friend of mine saying that we may be suffering now but we will be the happiest bunch of guys when the Pirates finally make it to the playoffs again.
I was not wrong about that and it was truly an honor to be a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. Jump ahead to this season, with the questions of “When?” gone and the new questions of “For how long?” now being asked, the passion I once felt first as a little kid, then to early adulthood and all the way to today when the Pirates team is alive and well.
When the Pirates were the laughing stock of the league, making no moves or making overly bold moves was just fine for the casual fans. At least the team was trying to do something but after seeing guys like Derrick Bell, Jeremy Burnitz, Joe Randa and many other players trying to re-gain their star status, the front office had a change over and a new philosophy on how to do business.
The team now is focused on drafting and development, making smart signings and trades when needed and taking a chance or two on players that could make a comeback. We saw this hit the forefront of the Pirates strategy all of last season. We finally started to see our draft picks and international signings play a role on the team with Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole. We saw the team sign a bounce back candidate who led the team all the way through the playoffs in Francisco Liriano. The management team even made some big moves to try and bolster the team for the playoffs with Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd.
The point of all of this is that, with passion and love for the game and team, will come criticism for anything that people and huge over-reactions when people try to make connections with short-comings they perceive happened. The Pirates did not sign AJ Burnett and now Jameson Taillon may miss all of 2014 with an elbow injury. The Pirates did not address 1st base by signing guys who either didn’t want to come to Pittsburgh or were priced far too high for the production they could provide. James Loney wanted to be over-paid to come to the Burgh and was content with the deal Tampa Bay offered. No way should the Pirates give up a 1st round pick right now for Kendrys Morales.
The Pirates failed to bring in an impact bat for Right Field yet they have super prospect Gregory Polanco ready to come up in June. There is the impact bat for a need position and superior defense as well. The team can address 1st base and possibly a pitcher or two, if needed closer to the trade deadline with the many prospects that no one would ever miss. Want proof? Name one player the Pirates gave up that is having a huge impact elsewhere. I’ll give you maybe the best player so far. Robbie Grossman with the Houston Astros, quite possibly the worst team in the league.
It’s in our nature to over-react when something we perceive as being the wrong move or not enough done to make the team better than they ended last season. It’s not really how the team looks at the start of this season comparing it to the end of last season. It’s how the team looks at the end of this season compared to the end of last season. Again, I say to stop over-reacting and allow the management team who gave me the thrill of being a fan again the overall chance to improve the team by the season’s end.