The Pittsburgh Pirates dealt away a fan favorite, resulting in their fans crying foul. Despite the optics, the reaction is a good thing for the club.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans were able to raise the jolly roger 130 times over the past three and a half years due in large part to the efforts of one Mark Melancon.
The good solider who embodied the new, competitive era in Pirates history – the one who coined the phrase “Shark Tank” – is now on to the next stop in his baseball career. Fans are left in a curious state of mourning and appreciation. Despite seeing this tale time and again – team finds closer, team maximizes closer’s effectiveness, team deals closer away – the wounds were reopened, and reaction was understandably a bit mixed.
This is good for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Baseball is unique in that fans can get attached to players just as easily as they do teams, and it was easy to get attached to Melancon. He was even keeled yet fiery. He was alternatively serious and goofy. He said all the right things and played the “right way”. Oh, and he was pretty damn good on the bump too. Those 130 saves are good for fourth all time in Pittsburgh Pirates history. During his three and a half years in Pittsburgh, Melancon carried a 1.80 ERA and .93 WHIP. He had an amazing SO/W ratio of 5.74 during that time.
In the heat of the moment, those stats matter to Pirates Fans. But on-the-field considerations will soon give way to an empty feeling. I think it fair to wager that fans will remember Melancon’s tenure in a much different light than, say Joel Hanrahan.
Melancon’s loss will be mourned. And the Pirates should be thankful for that. Despite continuing debate about their attendance, fans come out for the product on the field and not just fireworks or bobbleheads. Results will always matter, but in certain cases such as Melancon’s departure, they now matter just a tiny bit less.
A club that was so moribund, so entrenched in losing now finds a large chunk of its fan base emotionally invested. And that investment goes beyond on-the-field results.
As Clint Hurdle is fond of saying, the Pittsburgh Pirates desperately needed to re-bond its city to its baseball team to truly put away the 20 consecutive years of losing.
Fan reactions such as those seen today point towards that mission being firmly accomplished.
Featured Photo Credit – Daniel Decker Photography