Brady McCollough of the Post-Gazette wonders how much longer the Pirates can keep winning:
A loss would mean that the team with the second-best record in baseball — yes, that’s the Pirates — would not have the chance to prove itself in a series. A loss would mean that, once again, Huntington’s lack of bold, masses-pleasing moves to improve the club will be under the microscope from diehards and bandwagoners alike. A loss would nudge the Pirates’ growing fan base toward the first queasy looks toward the future and the asking of a question that, thanks to three straight magical regular seasons, can’t be avoided:
How much longer can the fun last?
McCollough interviewed me for the story, and pretty quickly asked about the possibility that the Pirates could one day trade Andrew McCutchen. I do think McCutchen's situation might one day present an interesting problem for the Bucs if they keep winning. But -- and absolutely no disrespect to McCollough, who's a really good writer and who was incredibly nice and thoughtful in conversation -- that's not what I want to think about today. On days like these, the present gets to drive, and the future can take a nap in the back seat. (And for the record, if I were GM, I'd be really, really reluctant to trade McCutchen unless the Pirates did much worse in the next couple years than I think they will.)
Before we get to the heart of the issue, a couple minor points:
1) The Pirates are really, really good. No one player is all so important to the Pirates that losing him would turn them into a bad, or even mediocre, team. The Pirates finished 14 games better than the first NL team to miss the playoffs. They would have made the playoffs handily this year even without McCutchen. Losing McCutchen, or losing McCutchen's productivity, will be a blow to the Pirates whenever it happens. But it's far from clear that it'll be a fatal one.
2) As Tim Dierkes notes elsewhere in the article, the Pirates' success this year has been built on all kinds of smart moves by the Bucs' front office -- Jung-Ho Kang, Francisco Cervelli, J.A. Happ, and so on. If the front office is going to be this good, the Pirates can keep their "window" open for an awfully long time.
What struck me most about the question, though, was that I hadn't really thought about it, at least not recently. And not because I'm not naturally prone to thinking about those kinds of things -- if you were here seven or eight years ago, you remember that thinking three or four years in the future was pretty much all we did. That was the time to wring our hands about abstract questions involving trades that might or might not happen several years down the road. Now is the time to dress in black and go to PNC Park and scream our faces off.
In other words, what the Pirates will do in the future is an important question. But not today. And what I want to say about Andrew McCutchen today has nothing to do with whether the Pirates will trade him two years from now.
What I want to say is this: Andrew McCutchen is awesome. Also, Gerrit Cole is awesome, and Starling Marte is awesome, and Francisco Cervelli is awesome, and Mark Melancon is awesome, and Jung-Ho Kang is awesome, and PNC Park is awesome, and Pittsburgh is awesome, and Andrew McCutchen's mom is awesome, and all you people who will be wearing black are awesome, and Jake Arrieta looks like a hawk with a Chia Pet taped to its face. These are the things we should be thinking about today. Days like today are why organizations plan; the Pirates thought about things four or five years ago so that we could enjoy this moment. So let's enjoy it. We can worry about tomorrow some other time.