What I’m thankful for as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan
By Tyler Waite
First off, a very happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there. Most Pittsburgh Pirates fans aren’t thinking about baseball today, but I thought I’d keep baseball near and dear to our hearts today and share a few things we should all be thankful for as Pirates fans.
For as good of a baseball team that we have in the city of Pittsburgh, many fans tend to focus on the negatives. They look at the back-to-back Wild Card game losses as abrupt finishes to otherwise fantastic seasons. They complain about the payroll of the team and the unwillingness of ownership to spend gobs of money to improve the team. They complain about Clint Hurdle and his in-game management techniques, despite the success the of the team under his leadership. It’s easy to focus on the negatives after the end the team had after the 2015 season. But let’s not focus on the negatives today. Let’s turn to the positives and why we should be thankful that we have a great baseball team in our great city, which only a few cities can brag about.
For starters, the Pirates are one of only three teams in baseball to make the playoffs each of the past three seasons, the other two being the Cardinals and the Dodgers. That’s impressive company to be in, especially considering the Pirates are a small market team. Small market teams have to work harder to keep a winning team together over long periods of time than large market teams do. No, the team hasn’t managed to have success in the postseason, but putting your team in a position to win year-in and year-out increases the chance of success.
The Pirates also have one of the premier stars of the game in Andrew McCutchen for at least the next three seasons. His play declined somewhat this season, but he’s still arguably one of the top ten position players in the game. Not many teams can boast that they have a superstar on their team, but the Pirates can. What’s more, the way he carries himself both on and off the field is what you want to see from the face of your team. He never creates controversy, he’s always open to answering questions and talking to fans, and he conducts himself in a stand-up manner. There are players out there like Bryce Harper, who may not be a bad person or may not try to create controversy, but has still managed to bring attention to himself in a negative way. McCutchen has never done that, and while Harper may be a better overall player, it’s still a blessing to have a player and a person like McCutchen as the face of the Pirates.
Many ownership groups and management teams across baseball spend money recklessly or make questionable trades that put their respective teams in a terrible position if those moves don’t work out. Take a look at the teams that are rebuilding around baseball: the Phillies, the Braves, the Reds, and the Brewers, just to name a few. Other teams that did poorly in 2015 that aren’t in complete rebuild mode but are in a state of flux this offseason include the Red Sox, the Mariners, the Tigers, and the Padres. What do all of these teams have in common? They all have bad contracts or have made bad trades in some way, shape, or form that they’re paying for now. The Athletics and the Rockies are retooling, and are the exceptions to the rule, but big market teams generally hurt themselves with big-money contracts and have to eat money on those contracts just to get rid of them. Couple that with terrible trades, and you have teams that are stuck with average to below-average aging players that they can’t get rid of and barren farm systems. Yeah, that’s not a recipe for success.
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What does all of that mean? The Pirates aren’t one of those teams, and they never will be under the management of Neal Huntington. They may not spend a lot, but their thrifty free agent signings and their reliance on their farm system to feed the major league team means that the Pirates may not have to face a complete rebuild for a very long time. They may have to retool if they have an off year due to injuries or a signing or trade not working out, but that’s all it will be. I don’t envy Phillies fans, who have had to see poor play on the field due to aging players on horrible contracts, coupled with one of the worst farm systems in baseball. We should be thankful to never have to face a complete rebuild like that in the foreseeable future.
Those are just a few of the things we should be thankful for as Pittsburgh Pirates fans this Thanksgiving. Try to remember these as each of you enjoys friends, family, and food today. I know I will.