Welcome to our regular Saturday feature “What Aggravates Me”
Living in Pittsburgh, we have the good fortune of having two of the best run franchises in sports. In the last decade, the Penguins have been to the Stanley Cup finals three times and won twice. In just about that same time frame, the Steelers have been to three Super Bowls and won two. The Penguins are the current champions and the Steelers are one of the favorites to win going into this season.
Then there are the Pirates. Yeah, you can say they made the playoffs three straight years. The thing is, if it wasn’t for the addition of wild card teams, they wouldn’t have. They also were one of the worst teams every year for twenty years. When you finish at or near the bottom, you get the best draft picks. Eventually you should be able to put together a pretty good group of players. I wonder why the hell it took twenty years.
Last year they won ninety-eight games but had the misfortune of being in the same division with St. Louis, who won a hundred. Coming into this season they just needed a few pieces to put them over the hump. Did you really think “tight-fisted” owner Bob “Ka-ching” Nutting was going to let that happen?
No, instead they let half of the pitching staff walk because you have to pay those guys. Then “Kaching” had his staff drive around and see what other teams were throwing out. Not anybody that could pitch more than three innings without getting lit up apparently. They also gave away popular second baseman Neil Walker because…Well, because you have to pay home run hitting second baseman. They didn’t actually give him away. The Mets traded them Johnathon Niese, who we will get to in a moment. If they would have waited, the Mets were about to put Niese out by the curb, but the Pirates were anxious to unload salary and make it look like they got something in return.
So last week at the trade deadline, the Pirates were close to a playoff spot but not quite there. They needed pitching help. Do you think they went out and got it? Hell no, pitching costs money. So instead they used the deadline to trim salary. First Mark Melancon, one of the best closers in the game was dealt. He was going to be a free agent at the end of the year and the Pirates weren’t going to pay him. So might as well get something for him. They could have gotten more than they did but other teams can smell desperation.
Next the Pirates sent Johnathon Niese back to the Mets for Anthony Bastardo. The Pirates had Bastardo at the end of last season but let him walk because…that’s right, they didn’t want to pay him. Niese actually had the gall to question the way the Pirates played defense behind him. Sorry, they aren’t allowed to position outfielders in the seats where most of your lobs were being hit. Good thing about Niese is when the Pirates go digging through the Met’s trash in the offseason, they can get him back if they like.
The final insult was when the Pirates dumped Francisco Liriano. Now he was having a horrible year and was their highest paid player. It made sense to get rid of him. The thing is, for the last few years management has been telling us that they didn’t want to trade prospects for a short term upgrade. You know, like a chance to maybe win a World Series or at least make it past one playoff game. Then the Pirates throw in two of their top ten prospects to get Toronto to take on Liriano’s salary. In exchange the Pirates received a minor leaguer and CASH!…Ka-ching!
That day when Pirate fans were calling into the sports talk shows livid, Bob “Ka-ching” Nutting was dancing around his house in sunglasses and his underpants.
So Pirate fans, here’s the message. This is as good as it’s going to get. They aren’t going to go all in and try to win it all. That costs money. This is a business. When other kids were playing baseball, little Bob Nutting was playing banker and foreclosure. Do you think he gives a damn if the Pirates ever win a World Series again?
There also is no end in sight. The Nutting’s are making so much money that he plans to have his daughter take over for him some day. I’m not sure but I think her name is “Ka-chinga.”
So what can you do? Well, we could stop going to games and drive down his profit margin. If there were less than five thousand fans a night you can bet there would be a “For Sale” sign going up in a hurry. Then you take the chance of getting an owner that will do what it takes to win.
I know you people though, you can’t stay away. The Pirates will continue to be just good enough to peak your interest. Oh what the hell, go to the damn game. Maybe there will be fireworks after.
Follow John on Twitter @jknight841