Pittsburgh Pirates Wake Up Call: The Harsh Realities of Baseball

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In our daily Wake-Up Call, we get you ready for the day with a complete look at all things Pittsburgh Pirates.

I have good news! The Pittsburgh Pirates are done playing the first place Los Angeles Dodgers! However, they will now begin a series against the nearly first place Philadelphia Phillies. In a testament to how quick baseball can change, the Phillies are now the contending team and the Pirates are mired in mediocrity. It feels like yesterday the Pirates were rolling to 98 wins and the Phillies to 99 losses. 

Sadly, A.J. Burnett, Neil Walker, and Andrew McCutchen aren’t walking through that door any time soon so the Pirates have to deal with the reality of the situation and that’s they’re about to begin a series against a superior opponent. The Phillies are a very good team so far this season and they don’t seem to be going away. The National League is in the middle of a mid 2000s throwback as the Phillies and Atlanta Braves are battling for the division crown and the Pirates are struggling to avoid last place. 

The other day following their sweep-clinching loss to the Dodgers, I decided to watch some highlights from the 2015 season. I wasn’t trying to live in the past but that season seems like it was another lifetime ago. When your team is in the middle of a good run, it seems like the fun times will never end. If you told me on October 1st, 2015 that the Pirates would soon embark on three straight losing seasons, I wouldn’t have believed you but here we are. This isn’t a fall from glory, it’s a suicidal leap. 

The Pirates are stuck in the worst position any team can be in. They need to rebuild but don’t carry many players with a ton of trade-value. They could get some decent pieces but nothing that will alter the future of the franchise. Neal Huntington spent years preaching consistent success, which is why the team never went “all-in” for any one season. Well, we’re far away from the team’s last taste of postseason baseball and it doesn’t look like the Pirates are particularly close to returning to October. 

This is tough for me to admit but I feel like a fool. I bought into management’s nonsense hook, line, and sinker. When they said they were trying to sustain success organically, rather than sellout for one season, I believed them. However, I do believe we’re having a different conversation if the young players relied on to carry this team were leading them to contention. 

If Jameson Taillon was the ace he was supposed to be, if Josh Bell was on-pace for 40 home runs, if Gregory Polanco was the MVP-caliber player we all dreamed of when we first saw his raw talent… Obviously, none of those things have happened and Neal Huntington looks like a liar and a con-man. Let’s be honest with ourselves, if the previous things mentioned were happening and the Pirates were fighting for a playoff spot, we’d once again be calling Neal Huntington a genius. The line between success and failure is razor thing both on and off the field. 

The facts are what they are and right now the Pirates lack a truly homegrown impact talent. That reflects poorly on the GM and his scouting department. If that continues, that’s the kind of thing that gets a General Manager fired.

The Pittsburgh Pirates so-called window has slammed shut and it’s hard to figure out when the team will be a contender again. We’re simply left with memories of 2013-2015 and that is a sad realization. When the team was in the midst of their playoff years, it felt like the good times would never end. However, the cold reality is back and that is the Pittsburgh Pirates are a losing baseball club. 

I do not regret how much I enjoyed those seasons because they were the most fun I have ever had watching baseball. However, I wish I knew how brief the good times were going to be. To quote Andy Bernard: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

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