PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 01: Derrek Lee #25 of the Pittsburgh Pirates, newly acquired in a trade from the Baltimore Orioles, is congratulated by teammate Ryan Ludwick #36, also just acquired in a trade from the San Diego Padres, after Lee hit a solo home run against the Chicago Cubs in the fourth inning during the game on August 1, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Gone, too, are Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee, the remnants of last season’s ill-advised go-for-it push in July. The Pirates sensed the NL Central was winnable when they were 53-47 and tied for first place July 25. They finished 24 games behind Milwaukee.
The Pirates have dipped to third place, 4½ games behind Milwaukee and just two above .500, but they’re close enough that trades for outfielder Ryan Ludwick and first baseman Derrek Lee came across as reasonable. It’s been 18 years since anybody called them this, so why not: The Pirates are winners.
Now, I'm probably more sympathetic than most to obvious, obvious contradictions like these, because I spent much of 2011 writing about 3,000 words a day, and it's really hard to be completely consistent when you're writing that much. I certainly don't want to throw stones here. Also, Passan has, in the past, done some pretty good work, including being among the first to report details of the new CBA.
In this case, though, it just sounds like this guy is stretched way too thin or, more likely, just doesn't care too much if he writes something that completely contradicts what he said six months ago. Because hey, that was six months ago, and why bother actually thinking about stuff, when snark is so easy?
Even leaving aside the fact that Passan's more recent comment is a complete 180, it also makes no sense. Why would the trades for Lee and Ludwick have been ill-advised? The Pirates gave up practically nothing of consequence, and the only real cost of acquiring those players was money. One could certainly make the argument that the Pirates could have traded Joel Hanrahan at the deadline instead of acquiring players, and some of y'all did make that argument. But first, that's a slightly different point, and second, there is absolutely no doubt that doing so would have made the Pirates the trade-deadline loser for Passan and every other what-have-you-done-for-me-lately MSM baseball columnist. I'm sure he also would have reamed them at the time if they had chosen to stand pat at the deadline, given that they were very much in contention after nearly two decades of losing seasons. It would have been easy, easy copy, after all.
This is why commenters on this site love to attack articles like this one, and why Bob Smizik is such a villain here. These people are just writing around pre-established narratives about who the Pirates are, rather than actually engaging with the decisions they have to make. (It's a shame that Passan does this, because he's actually pretty talented; Smizik does it because he simply isn't capable of better.) After all, why bother with consistency when you've got some stupid Twitter hashtags to dream up? #nutrisystempedro LOLOLOL!!!! Pedro Alvarez is totally fat! Wait, he isn't? Oh well -- fat people are funny! Also, the Pirates lose a lot and they're dumb!
Alvarez aside, you can make the case that the Pirates deserve this. After all, they do lose a lot. They'd been running themselves into the ground for over a decade before Neal Huntington came along, and until he or someone else digs them out, this is the kind of treatment they're going to get from many in the national media, as well as the more troglodytic elements of the local media. That's just a fact. But it's a shame that silliness like this has to pollute our conversation. This is the stuff our friends and coworkers are going to be reading.
This year, I'm going to make more of an effort to highlight articles from the mainstream media -- from whatever perspective, whether praising the Pirates, or criticizing them, or something in between -- that get things right. Not just by linking to their authors, but by going out of my way to point out that they took the high road when the low road would have been so, so easy.