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The fate of the Pirates organization rest on the shoulders of Paul Skenes

The Pirates No. 1 pick signed on Tuesday.

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The weight of the world rests on the shoulders of Paul Skenes. Better yet, the fate of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization lies in the hands of Skenes.

It’s not fair in the slightest, but the hopes and dreams of many rests on the hands — or right arm — of the 2023 No. 1 overall pick.

The Pirates introduced Skenes to Pittsburgh this week and met the media Tuesday after signing a contract worth a reported $9.2 million, the most ever allotted to an MLB selection. Detroit’s Spencer Torkelson held the previous record of $8.4 million.

The Pirates have not won a game since selecting Skenes last Sunday. Yes, you read that right. Partly due to the All-Star Game providing four days off, but after being swept by San Francisco and losing two of three to the Cleveland Guardians, the skies continue to grow dark.

Quinn Priester and Endy Rodriguez debuted Monday in an 11-0 Cleveland route. Priester allowed seven runs in five and a third innings, and Rodriguez made the final out of the game to close the book on an 0-for-4 day with three punchouts.

Paul Skenes is the Pirates’ best hope. Despite pitching every five days and not being an everyday player, Skenes has the chance to have as high an impact as anyone in Pirates history this century. It’s a significant reason why Pirates broadcaster Greg Brown dubbed it one of the most important days in team history.

Pittsburgh has seen multiple generational talents spanning its three teams since 1970. Terry Bradshaw set the standard for quarterback play after being first overall that year, eventually leading the Steelers to four Super Bowls. The franchise has not picked first since.

Mario Lemieux single-handedly saved the Penguins and hockey in Pittsburgh as we know it, thanks to a ping-pong ball bouncing the city’s way in 1984. Two championships later and three more as an owner, and No. 66 is regarded as one of the five best players ever to step foot on the ice. Marc-Andre Fleury stabilized the net for the Penguins’ 2008 Stanley Cup loss to Detroit and redemption year in 2009, ultimately winning his first cup alongside the greatest player of my generation.

Sidney Crosby changed hockey in Pittsburgh and saved the franchise once again, this time with Mario by his side. The MVP and three-time Stanley Cup Champion is the ultimate ambassador for hockey on and off the ice and will be a member of the Pens for the rest of his life.

What do these four legends have in common? They won. A lot. A combined 12 championships between them in their playing days. 15 counting Lemieux’s run as owner.

Skenes became the sixth player chosen No. 1 overall by the Pirates in club history, the second in three years (Henry Davis - 2021), and the third in the past 12 years after selecting Gerrit Cole in 2011. Davis is in the midst of his first full month in the big leagues and the jury is out on what he can become, offensively and defensively. Cole was an integral part of the Bucs last postseason team. The others left significantly more production to be desired.

Jeff King (1986), Kris Benson (1996) and Bryan Bullington (2002) never made it as a star in Pittsburgh. They never really had an impact at all.

There is a lot of pressure on Skenes to be the savior of baseball in a city dying for something to cheer for. Something to be excited about all summer. Something to pack PNC Park for and return the feeling of a blackout on the North Shore once again.

His leadership, passion for baseball, and oh, ability to throw 102 mph with his slider potentially a better pitch leave room for optimism. It provides hope as the 2023 season continues to be hopeless.

Ben Cherington will be judged the most by how Skenes performs, especially depending on how Dylan Crews, Wyatt Langford, and Max Clark pan out. This could be the biggest and most defining move in Bucs history following the 1992 NLCS loss to the Atlanta Braves, falling one out away from the Fall Classic.

The Pirates are scrapping for answers, and Paul Skenes is priority No. 1. Referred to as a ‘unicorn’ and ‘someone you can build a statue for,’ expectations are exponentially high.

All top teams have an ace. A pitcher no one would trade away or ever believe to give away if possible. The Pirates’ best shot to acquire a legit top arm starred them in the face. Pittsburgh is not a market a No. 1 star pitcher will sign with or be traded to for a ransomware amount of prospects. They made their choice. Now it’s time for Skenes to show it was the right one.