This fanbase isn’t stupid, at least I don’t think so.
The Pittsburgh Pirates lost their 50th game of the year Friday night, their first game after a five-day sabbatical in the form of the All-Star break.
The bullpen, specifically Colin Holderman, could not hold the Pirate lead as they fell to the visiting Giants 6-4, another disappointing loss in a stretch of baseball where fans have come to expect a disappointing loss or five in any given week.
But no mere disappointment can rival the pungent smell of another putrid performance from starting catcher Austin Hedges: 0-2, two strikeouts, 0-2 on throwing out stolen base attempts, an error coming on a passed ball.
Speaking candidly, I try to leave my fandom for this team at the door as much as humanly possible when I’m writing. Not that anyone cares about my impartiality, but the passionate lifelong fan of the sport inside of me can no longer help but be downright sickened by the current catching situation.
It's as though this is some kind of twisted practical joke, one that Henry Davis, Endy Rodriguez and everyone who watches is the butt of.
I am a believer in catcher framing, there is a value in a player who is skilled in it. There are players who consistently rank among the league’s best, and those who consistently place among the worst. It’s not a fluke, it is real.
But I don’t think you’re stupid. You know just as well as I do that the two to four calls you can “steal” per game, while their value adds up on paper, does not have a significant impact on the outcome of that many games.
I could pontificate on about how bad Hedges has been offensively, quote statistics about how it would be the fourth-worst season ever from a catcher should he reach the 100 games played mark, or about how many weighted runs created below even just a replacement level player he is.
I won’t, because you can see how terrible he is, you watch the games.
I also don’t need to tell you the incredible tear Rodriguez has been on these past few weeks; you probably already know. I’m sure you saw that he collected three more hits and hit a grand slam last night.
The average Pirate fan, at least that I interact with, is one of the more aware in the sport.
You are aware of management’s apathy, the disregard for any kind of positive short-term results.
When asked if the team had any plans to make changes to the catching reps after the game, manager Derek Shelton had this to say.
“No. Not right now were not.”
Further confirmation of the aforementioned apathy. Of course, you didn’t need any more than what they show in their actions. Because you are not stupid or ignorant. No matter how much management may wish you were there just for the “instagramable experience” at PNC park, as team president Travis Williams would say.
They’ve been apathetic to positive results for years.
Some think it disrespectful to boo and that it accomplishes nothing. I argue it achieves exactly what fans set out to do. Make their displeasure known.
The fans made their displeasure known with the situation by booing another poor performance from Hedges.
What the team does or doesn’t do in response doesn’t really matter. They cannot escape the unmistakable sound of thousands of unhappy fans dissatisfied with the product in front of them. They have to take it.
I am not advocating for fans to jeer or boo, I leave that choice to you. I simply refuse to tell paying customers of a business how to review what they paid for. You should not feel bad about making your opinion known in one of the few ways that you can.
But yes, it is exactly as bad as you perceive it to be. The 2023 Pirates are seemingly very comfortable with not meeting the most reasonable expectations of their customers. The simple expectations that come with being an MLB team, that you care about winning the games in front of you.