Once Again, With No Feeling

Missing Will Craig yet? Too soon? Oh well, Korea's a long way away, and Pirates' thoughts regarding the KBL tend to be unhappy ones. (On the other hand, those of us old enough to remember KBL-TV are not so fussed.) We can set great store in the travails of Mr Craig when it comes to the matter of looking forward to Pittsburgh actually developing a winning team. (As the PG's Gene Collier once said of another recently released prospect, whose name in the Collier piece rhymes with Blonko, I wouldn't be blowin' up any bloons.)

Last night, the pathetically bad Chicago Cubs saw action. The Pirates are far worse than the Cubs, obviously, but having settled on the pathetically bad Cubs being pathetically bad, which they most certainly are, I couldn't think of any suitable phrase to describe the opposition, until it occurred to me that the words Pittsburgh Pirates would suffice.

In this latest installment of the long-running episodic series Learning To Lose, the Pirates managed to give themselves multiple chances to win, but opted instead for a misplayed pop-up by Wilmer Difo to let in the game-winning run. Derek Shelton, for his part, whilst allowing for the vagaries of the breezes at prehistoric Wrigley Field, did not give a Clint Hurdle-style assessment, choosing instead to make it clear that Difo did not get into position to make the play.

Were you really surprised when Difo didn't catch the ball? Were you surprised the Pirates lost? If you saw this as a jokey highlight wherever you get your news, were you surprised that it was a Pirate who couldn't work out how to catch a pop-up? The answer to all of these should be No. When your owner and general manager conclude that your big league roster should be largely indistinguishable from the one in Indianapolis, and not just for the near-term, things like this are bound to happen, and not just once in a while, as they will on the best of teams, but more often than not.

It is difficult to care what happens next. Let's be honest -- the guy who owns the team doesn't really care what happens next, so why should I? My DNA is still there, so instinct causes me to at least keep an eye on things, but after nearly 50 years of watching the Pirates, I have come to the conclusion that Pittsburgh is a great city with much to offer, including two big league sports teams, a number that is apparently enough in Kansas City, St Louis, Buffalo, Nashville, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee (unless you count Green Bay).

When MLB threatened to move out of Pittsburgh if a new stadium was not built, I was in the "pay any price and bear any burden" segment of the fan base, and that if Three Rivers Stadium, barely thirty years old, had to be razed to save baseball, so be it. Perhaps some other civic works could have been done with the money, but as the Steelers and Pirates presented a unified front, there was no choice. But now, as Bob Nutting hangs on to the team like Grim Death -- I never thought I'd say this -- it would have been better if the Pirates had moved. With the exception of a brief fling, this has been an appalling twenty years, and it shows no signs of getting better. If anything, it might get worse, particularly after Ke'Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds are translated to pastures new. Yes, I would miss it, but with the benefit of prior knowledge, not so much.

I gave up the Steelers, and the NFL, for Lent (no, not really) in 1993, and have no intention of going back, but there are other sports (Bob Walk and I will always have Formula 1) and other things to do. Baseball has increasingly become, for me, like hockey or basketball, which I follow only after the home-and-away season ends. In those sports, I take a rooting interest, and so if the Pens, or Golden State, are eliminated, I move along.

With baseball, rooting interest largely extinguished, I watch or listen to the playoffs and World Series -- one month per year of professionals playing at a high level, when the games mean something -- instead of the godawful cluster-buc that continues to be baseball at PNC Park.

I've never been one of those fans who just picks a contender to support, or even changes sides during a game; I won't find a new team. I've never minded losing if there were some purpose to it going forward. I have always defended the players, who with rare exceptions, try their best. But this organization is set up to fail, and any success the Pittsburgh Pirates have on the field will be by chance, unintended, ultimately unsatisfying, and most of all, fleeting.

I will hang in there for the rest of the ride because I'm a lifer, but I'm giving up my window seat, and I may read a book, take a nap, or watch the movie. If you are not a lifer, my sincere best advice to you is to get the hell out. Find a hobby. Cultivate an interest. Go to Hell, or Hadleyburg. But don't waste your time or money on Bob Nutting's Pittsburgh Pirates. They are not the Pittsburgh Pirates, as once we knew the term. They are shop soiled, damaged goods, beyond repair.

The last time I posted, I ended by quoting John Lennon: We'd all love to see the plan. In this case, I'll quote Gordon Lightfoot: The feeling's gone, and I just can't get it back.

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