Thursday, June 25, 2009

A LOOK AT "TWEENER" SEASON

ABOVE: The deadly "Black Mamba," not to be effed around with unless you're crazy like this guy. Pittsburgh now has its' own "Black Mamba" and he's not to be effed with either!

Since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup on June 12th and the Steelers don't open training camp until August 1st, we are officially in the heart of that season, once known as "baseball season" but now increasingly known around here as "Tweener Season"...the season in between the end of hockey and the beginning of football.

So yer Pittsburgh Pirates are basically in their "prime time" right now in Pittsburgh, and I thought it would be interesting to do a review on how things are going for the local baseball club especially since the 49 day "Tweener Season" is already 24.48% over.
Despite the immediate success of number one prospect Andrew McCutchen, a.k.a. Andrew "McClutchen", a.k.a. "The Black Mamba" (for his snake-like quickness, nothing else) Pirate fans continue to grumble over the Nate McLouth trade. The perception is that while Charlie Morton may well work out, the other two players in the deal will probably never see Pittsburgh, so the deal will essentially be Nate for Charlie. So all that we did was assure a few more wins for Lynchburg.

While many have been quick to point out that the Pirates need depth in the minors, Pirate fans are quick to point out that they need players in the majors too. The most common argument over this is the recent debacle that has been right field. "Why couldn't Nate have been moved to right," Bucco fans ask? Wouldn't the team have been stronger with a sure-handed, albeit slower McLouth in right rather than the non-hitting Brandon Moss or the out-of-position Steve Pearce? I sure think so. Best of all, it wouldn't have appeared to be another salary dump to the fans.
If the Pirates needed Charlie Morton so bad (and I'm not suggesting that they didn't) couldn't they purchase his minor league contract? What about a call-up like Brad Lincoln? How can a team with no power trade one of the few that hits homers for them? Granted, he's not Babe Ruth, but he's also not Brandon Moss or Steve Pearce either. Plus he was very popular with the fans.

Of course the biggest joke around town is that McCutchen should be able to fetch plenty of prospects if he keeps playing like this.
Therein lies the biggest frustration among Pirate fans. They can no longer hope to get "attached" to any of their favorite players because if they're any good, they're just going to get traded for prospects because we in Pittsburgh could never afford to sign them. Why is that? Why is it that the two other major sports teams in this city can win championships in their respective leagues and the Pirates can't even break the mythical .500 mark for 17 consecutive seasons?

Why is it that the Steelers and Penguins can draft, sign and retain the greatest players in their respective sports and the Pirates would have us believe that they can't afford to do this? Basically, it's because there's a greedy ownership group in place here. They only want to play with the luxury tax money that they get from major league baseball and keep everything they make at PNC Park. They only need keep up the illusion that they are trying to field a competitive team and they can continue to walk away with millions upon millions of dollars.

When the Pirates bring up a McCutchen and trade a McLouth, make no mistake about it, they are once again lowering payroll in the process. Very soon you can expect to see Jack Wilson, Freddie Sanchez and Adam Laroche going through this "minor league restocking process" as they have contracts that are either too expensive for the Pirates' taste buds (Wilson) or have contracts that are about to expire (Sanchez and Laroche).

The Nutting family is highly invested in the newspaper business and with papers dropping like flies these days, it's not a stretch to believe that some of the profits being raked out of the Pirates franchise are being used to keep other Nutting enterprises afloat. Pirate fans should have noted the major purchase of the Seven Springs Resort as further evidence that the Nuttings are diverting cash away from the Pirates. The Pirates will remain as a gigantic cash cow for the Nuttings as long as they keep salaries among the lowest in baseball. Of course, while they're doing this, they're also insuring that there will never again be a winning baseball team here.

This exasperating process will continue as long as Pirate fans continue to buy tickets, hot dogs, Cokes etc. As long as the Nutting family owns the Pirates, they will never put a winner on the field, ever. But their bank accounts will continue to overflow with untold millions in profits.

Isn't it a shame that a city that supports its' teams as rabidly as Pittsburghers do, has to have an ownership group here that really doesn't care about winning? The way the system is structured now, the Pirates can generate millions for the Nuttings each year just by them showing up to play! Nobody ever said that the Nuttings were dumb, they're actually very smart. The Pirates, as their salaries are structured now are a cash cow, pure and simple. Why should they change that as long as they can keep getting crowds with fireworks, bobbleheads and concerts?


ABOVE: Bob Nutting: The guy who is continuing the tradition of pathetic ownership that he inherited from former "superfan" owner Kevin McClatchy.

Meanwhile it's "Tweener Season" here in Pittsburgh. Last night, incredibly, over 30,000 fans jammed PNC Park for a good look at Andrew McCutchen and the hated, last-place, Cleveland Indians. The Bucs played a scrappy game, won 3-2 and sent the crowd home happy. The Pirates are six games below .500 and in last place, but the park is full, the hot dogs are grilling and the Cokes are ice-cold.

It's "Tweener Season" in Pittsburgh and life is good if your last name is Nutting. Only 35 more days until a meaningful season begins!

ABOVE: A rare shot inside the vault at PNC Park. "P.B. & G's" crack photographer, Dave Navis, managed to sneak in last night posing as a security guard. "Each week, Nutting orders the cash transferred to an unknown site in the hills of West Virginny," said a "fellow" security guard. "God knows how much they have stashed there".