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On The Pirates' Winning Record: A Plea For Coherence

I'm going to keep this short, because I don't want to call anyone out by name right now. Apologies, then, to anyone who reads this and doesn't know what I'm talking about. This is a theme I'm probably going to explore more throughout the season, as I collect my thoughts about it.

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One thing we're learning about the Pirates' relatively good season is the importance of coherence. It feels like the tenor of a lot of the chatter about the Pirates, locally and especially nationally, has completely changed.

Now, of course things should be somewhat different. The Bucs were losing, and now they're winning. So now people should sound a little more positive about the Pirates. And if they start losing again, that should change. It's much easier than it used to be to watch the games, in particular, and so it's much easier to sound happy after you've watched one. I don't have any problem with that.

What I think is strange is when a sportswriter or commentator articulates one view about an organization, and then when that team starts winning, completely changes it, with no explanation or apparent self-reflection. We're seeing a lot of people now who didn't have a single good thing to say about the Pirates last year now tripping all over themselves to be nice, even though the Bucs are being run by most of the same people and feature most of the same players.

When that happens - when an organization seems to be in much better, or worse, shape than you thought it was - a responsible person will try to figure out why, or explain that the team's current won-loss record doesn't match its actual organizational health, or something. The solution is not to write extremely dismissively or negatively about an organization one year and then glowingly positively the next, unless you can pinpoint concrete changes that have made things so radically different.

You might say I'm gloating here, in that Pirates blogs have appeared to be way ahead of much of the rest of the local and national media in saying that the Pirates' organizational health has been improving for the last three years. And not just because we're homers - before Dave Littlefield was fired in 2007, most of the Pirates blogs that existed at the time were actually much more negative than either the local or national media, and mostly, as it turned out, with good cause.

But this isn't about that. The Pirates are currently three games above .500. Paths toward rebuilding often are not directly linear, and we shouldn't be at all surprised if the Pirates suddenly perform much worse in the second half of the season, or in 2012, and then how will it look if we gloated about it?

Instead, I'm saying that we in the blogosphere should be coherent in our views as well. When our outlook needs to be adjusted, and it will (everybody who's in the business of giving opinions gets things massively wrong sometimes, certainly including me), we should reflect about what changed, and what we can learn from that. We should also acknowledge the roles that luck and variance play in winning and losing baseball games, and be thoughtful about that. And we shouldn't jump off the deep end in either direction just because our team happens to be winning or losing for a couple of months, because that can quickly change.

What we should not do is pretend the organization is in great shape after a couple months of winning and in awful shape after a couple months of losing. Obviously, winning and losing are indicators of organizational health, but they're hardly the only ones, and any commentator who can't see beyond a team's won-loss record isn't much of a commentator at all.