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Sunflower seeds on the basepaths? Not the end of the world

Yeah, it makes for embarrassing social media, but no, not the end of the franchise.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies
Mountain. Molehill. Seriously not the end of the Pirates.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

No, Ke’Bryan Hayes eating sunflower seeds during a play that didn’t involve him isn’t the end of the world or the franchise. Was it dumb? Absolutely. Young men do dumb things on a pretty regular basis, I’ve found. But one would think that Hayes singlehandedly blew up the franchise by the whining seen on Pirates-related social media.

Yes, the Pirates are having a terrible season, there’s no two ways about it. But then there’s this: I was watching the game and didn’t notice it. It was only when the Mets blew it up on their social media that it came to light. By Todd Zeile of all people.

My opinion is that if it had to be pointed out, it couldn’t have been that bad.

But of course, social media went insane, with tons of people trying to get in “hot takes.” Even some of the Pittsburgh sports media have lost their heads. You know, people who should know better. I won’t name names, but one guy in particular seems convinced that Ben Cherington is literally telling the Pirates to lose so the team can get more prospects. “He doesn’t want to win!” he moaned. And of course there’s always Bob Nutting, the favored scapegoat, even though he acts just like every other small-market team owner.

Oh, by the way? Nutting’s not going to sell the team no matter how much people whine. Now whichever daughter takes over after he retires or dies might, even though Dad sets the example for hands-off ownership (as I’ve written here and elsewhere, Nutting’s big Pirates-related passion is Pirates Charities).

So let’s turn our attention to Ben Cherington. Again, as I’ve written before, Cherington was brought in to beef up the farm system, not necessarily build up the big league team. Next year, when some of his picks should come up to the show, will be the true test. I believe his plan this year was “bring up some of the kids and see how they do, then go from there.” We’ve seen a lot of rookies this year—in fact this season has seen more Pirates rookies since 1954. And there’s been some rookieing. Jack Suwinski hit 14 home runs before his bat went silent. Oneil Cruz needs to learn not to swing at pitches in the dirt—although he’s gotten better, old habits die hard. And people need to stop going crazy about him throwing 100 mph on the basepaths. Throwing that hard means throwing a lot past people and, in Cruz’s case, over heads. He’s 6’7”, but he needs to remember that his main first baseman is 5’10”. Throw the ball TO the first baseman, not AT, Oneil.

Then again, if he can throw 100 mph, teach him to pitch and maybe the Pirates can have their very own Shohei Otani. Why not?

But getting back to Ke’bryan, I’ve heard people complaining that he doesn’t play hard. No, he’s not constantly diving for balls, which is how “playing hard” is interpreted by the kids these days. When I was a kid (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I remember my dad and uncles saying that if you saw someone diving or running hard on a hit ball, he’d misjudged it, and I’ve seen enough baseball to realize this as truth.

I also don’t think this (or Rodolfo Castro’s now-infamous phone incident) means Derek Shelton has lost control of the clubhouse. Place whatever blame there is on the player. Grown men don’t need to have their pockets checked before a game. Shelton’s on a learning curve just like his players, and I don’t think his job is in jeopardy just yet. As many other than me have pointed out, he doesn’t have much to work with. This is not a team full of Bryce Harpers and Mike Trouts. Oscar Marin’s job also is on more solid ground than it has been, thanks to Mitch Keller being good Mitch on a regular basis. Andy Haines? Yeah, I’d be nervous if I were him. When your whole lineup isn’t hitting, that’s not good. Maybe players aren’t the only people that need to be brought up from the minors.

I think we’ll see a lot of changes on the 2023 Pirates. But let’s chill out about the sunflower seeds, okay?