I grew up an ardent and zealous Pirates fan, listening with my grandfather to Bob Prince on the radio and staying up late to watch road games in San Francisco, confused why anyone living in California would be wearing a jacket when it was 80 degrees at midnight in West Virginia. In October 1992, when former Pirates first baseman Sid Bream and his body by Lego somehow tried to score from second on a routine single and Barry Bonds somehow couldn’t manage to throw him out, I knew that the exodus of Bonds and Bobby Bonilla would plunge the Pirates into mediocrity for an extended period of time.
I never dreamed it would last 18 years.
But it has, and it could last for another 18 years. And 18 years beyond that. In an industry where being truly competitive on the field typically requires a very large financial investment and where failure in the standings nevertheless results in a high profit, the Pirates have no incentive to spend the money that it takes to win, especially since there’s no guarantee that spending the money actually will result in winning.
That’s why I’m not surprised at all by the news that the Pirates have done very well in the statistical category that matters most: average bank deposits.
So will the news that the folks who own the Pirates are digging up plenty of treasure while one of the proudest brands in baseball continues to be synonymous with losing? Maybe not.
With their thirst for sports relevance satiated by the always-competitive Steelers and Penguins, many Pittsburghers regard the local baseball team as providing an excuse to spend several hours at the open-air restaurant and bar known as PNC Park, with the game merely contributing to the ambiance.
Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd. Buy me a beer and a beer and a beer. I don’t care if they never win here. For it’s root-root-root for the home team, if they don’t win . . . well, that’s a shame.
But it’s not a shame. The Pirates don’t need to win, especially since no one really expects them to.
So if the Pirates truly want to make good use of all that extra money they generate, they should give some of it to the two teams in town that actually have a chance to win a championship or two this decade. Or century.