With 23 games left to play in the 2018 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates are three games under .500 (68-71). Playoff hopes are shattered but a wining season is still on the table. Does it matter? Does anyone actually care?
Six years ago this answer would be a resounding yes. The Pirates were obviously losers for a long time and the very possibility of winning put excitement into the city.
But the answer is no
Times change. The Pirates did give us a taste of winning even if a taste was all that it was. Following those three exciting yet unfulfilling seasons from 2013-15, the Pirates have been nothing more than mediocre.
Combine that with an owner that has never showed a real interest in spending a substantial amount of money on major league talent and you have a betrayed feeling fanbase. Last night’s paid attendance of 8,855 was the lowest in seven years.
There are some cupcakes on the remaining schedule that would make a winning season possible. The Pirates will have four games with the Cincinnati Reds and three each with the Miami Marlins and Kansas City Royals. In the other 13 games, they will try to play spoiler against the Milwaukee Brewers (6 games remaining), Chicago Cubs (4), and St. Louis Cardinals (3).
But yeah, nobody really cares. A winning season does not matter at all. The Pirates could get really hot one last time, win 85 games and still be an afterthought. Fans are still mad. The media is still mad. People just want to see a playoff contender. Anything short of that is a failure.
Right now, the current front office and coaching staff feels stale. A change in leadership is needed. A new energy is needed. Winning a few meaningless games in September only delays that process even if slightly.
On the other hand…
I would say the Pirates are in a better place now than they were a year ago.
One year ago, the questions about the futures of Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen put a heavy weight on this organization. Finding a trade partner followed by the inevitable fan pushback made for an uncomfortable offseason. Personnel wise, the dust has now settled.
For better or for worse, the Pirates now know what have after those trades. They can finally build on that. In fact, they already have with the additions of Chris Archer and Keone Kela.
What’s left now is a team with a promising pitching staff built for years to come. The upside with both the starting rotation and bullpen is there. This current core of pitching has a chance to be the driving force in the Pirates becoming a contender once again.
Consistent good pitching is always harder to find than a good offense. The Pirates are a few solid bats away from having a complete team. It shouldn’t be an impossible task to find said bats.
Finishing over .500 would put a good taste in the mouths of the players. Perhaps it would allow Bob Nutting to justify the spending of his precious money in the in the offseason (yes, I realize how sad that sentence sounds).
Anyways, winning is never a bad thing. Even if a playoff berth is out of reach, finishing over .500 would be nothing but a good.
For that reason, it matters.