Sometimes I'm amazed that I have become so jaded as a Pirates fan.
I mean, baseball has been a major part of my life since I was about five years old (that was 1969, for those of you scoring at home). I've played baseball or softball every year since then, including my 20 years in the Navy, up until about four years ago, when I hung up my spikes for good.
That's why it irritates the hell out of me having to endure the incompetence and outright ignorance of the Pirates ownership group and management.
I have to give some credit here where it's due. My anger for years now has been directed at MLB itself, as well as the evil empires of New York, Boston, and the other big spender teams. Granted, certainly, the economics of MLB does indeed give relatively little hope for small market teams every year. However, my good buddy Pojo Risin has been telling me for years now that I shouldn't be angry at the Yankees, per se, but rather at the dipshit-edness of the Pirates' leadership. Poj, I'm here to fall on my sword and finally admit that you are 100% correct.
The Pirates have received tens of millions of dollars by the big spenders of MLB, in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreements' luxury tax and revenue sharing. It has been widely speculated, if not admitted by Kevin McClatchy, that the Pirates did NOT spend those millions of dollars on improving the product on the field, as they are supposed to be doing, per the CBA, but rather they've been using those millions on paying off debt.
If that were not bad enough, a General Manager worth a crap could at least swing a decent trade or two each year and/or sign a decent free agent to fill the team's needs every year. Is that too much to ask, I should think not. Well, not in Pittsburgh, my friends. GM Dave Littlefield is now at the unenviable position that he is now the laughing stock of all aspects of the baseball world, that being the press (check out this blistering assessment from CBS Sportsline's Larry Dobrow), the Pirate fans, and most importantly, his peers around MLB.
It has been common knowledge that Littlefield notoriously expects WAY too much during trade discussions, so much so that it has gotten to the point that GM's simply don't waste their time attempting to make a deal with Pittsburgh.
And what of the free agents ?? If you're a decent MLB player, probably making between 5 and 10 million per year in this inflated MLB market, why would you possibly want to sign with a team whose ownership doesn't spend it's money on the on-field product (unless you count bobbleheads and fireworks) ??
That leaves the fans. The Bucs got a gift from good 'ol Bud Selig when they awarded the '06 All-Star Game to the Bucs in PNC Park, even though Pittsburgh had just hosted the game 12 years earlier in '94 at Three Rivers. But let's not be naive. Everyone who has an ounce of common sense knows exactly what that was all about. McClatchy and his cohorts desperately needed a fanbase boost as their streak of losing seasons hit the decade mark. Of course, the Pirates parlayed the awarding of the All-Star Game into a much-needed marketing ploy for the purchasing of season tickets. You want All-Star tickets ?? You give us your money for season tickets. And of course, season tickets are those seats that are previously paid for, and always counted as attendance, even when those people don't actually go to the game.
The '06 All-Star game was lauded as a great success, which I have to say, I have no reason to disagree with that, it looked as much. And the Pirates reap the rewards of not only the millions of dollars that come along with the hosting of the All-Star Game, but the thousands of season tickets that were bought to garner those All-Star Game tickets, tickets that probably would not have been sold otherwise.
But now we're preparing for the '07 season. The '06 All-Star game is history. The season ticket purchase requirements have been fulfilled. No longer does Pirates ownership have the All-Star Game to use as a crutch for season tickets.
So where does that leave them ??
At the turnstile, I'm sure I'm not the only one who believes that the season attendance for the Bucs is definitely going to take a hit. There simply aren't enough bobblehead and firework nights, combined with the snowballing effect of now 14 straight losing years, to justify 30,000 fans coming to the ballpark night after night.
Trades ?? Littlefield as recently said that "it's likely that we won't talk trade for any of those four starters", in reference to Duke/Snell/Maholm/Gorzelanny. So most likely you'll see a trade made to garner talent to the level of, oh I don't know, Tony Graffanino.
Free agents ?? We've already beat that dead horse. All you need to do is look at the FA's that the Bucs signed last year (Randa, Burnitz) to get a snippet of what's to be expected this year. As was already stated, don't expect anyone that's going to make a difference to sign on the dotted line.
You know what ?? After typing all of this, not I'm not so amazed that I'm so jaded.
But you go get 'em in Orlando anyway, Dave. Bring back some Mickey Mouse ears.