Here’s a guest post from Mizzou’s own Pat Henseler chronicling the fall and fall of the Pittsburgh Pirates and how they need their own inspirational movie character to lift them up.
Photo courtesy of MajorLeagueJerk.com
17 up, 17 down. That’s not a breaking story about a perfect game going on in the sixth inning. That does stand for the seventeenth straight losing season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, which was clinched this Labor Day.
Seventeen seasons? Seriously? Damn, even the “Bad News Bears” and the “Kekambas” stumbled into winning seasons with downtrodden drunk gamblers as coaches. And it took an old-school chain smoking badass manager like Jim Leyland to give the Pirates a chance back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The Pirates last winning season was in 1992 with a team that included Bobby Bonilla, Barry Bonds, when his body didn’t resemble Conan the Barbarian, (“The Killer B’s”) Stan Belinda, and Doug Drabek under Leyland. After leading Game 7 of the NLCS 2-0, the wheels fell off the bus and the Pirates lost for the second straight year to the Atlanta Braves.
The next year Bonds, with his biceps still not the size of King Kong’s, took a big free agent deal out in San Francisco and the team went through a “rebuilding phase” that seemingly has never ended. To this day Pittsburgh, a proud sports town boasting the current champs in both football (Steelers) and hockey (Penguins), hasn’t seen a winning season for its’ Pirates. They came close in ’97 and finished second in a weak NL Central, but still lay below the .500 mark. The current Pirates 17-year losing streak is the record high for any American sports franchise, ever.
In July of 2001 general manager Dave Littlefield was installed and followed his boss’ order to radically reduce the team’s payroll. He made a huge move during the 2003 season, for the Cubs, and traded severely underrated third baseman Aramis Ramirez for almost nothing in return, but a salary dump. The move gave the Cubs a star and nearly led them to an appearance in the World Series if not for an eighth inning collapse against the Florida Marlins.
Littlefield then traded away Giles, but for an honestly acceptable return of Jason Bay and Oliver Perez. After Littlefield was fired in 2007, new GM Neal Huntington began his cost-cutting career as a Pirate employee. He has been giving away decent MLB talent at alarming discounts. I’m almost positive I could get him to trade me Zach Duke and Andrew McCutchen for my iTunes library, including the Eiffel 65 record I own.
This Pirates team only has four players on their current roster that began the 2007 season with the Pirates. That is absolutely embarrassing. It’s understandable if they couldn’t retain some players because of the future price of their contracts like Jason Bay. But why trade Nate McClouth, Nyjer Morgan, Adam LaRoche, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, John Grabow, and Tom Gorzelanny all in the same season? My only guesses are that Huntington wants to A.) be fired as quickly as possible so he doesn’t have to watch this terrible Pirates baseball any more B.) thought the goal as GM was to make your team worse C.) wants even less Pirates fans than when he came to the team or D.) is acting out some sarcastic live piece of modern performance art to display how we buy and sell ourselves as capitalists or some shit.
Huntington even admitted to the team web site recently that, “We in the front office own the 17-year losing streak. We are a part of it. These players, their job is to get better on a nightly basis and to consistently win games. Their job isn’t to worry about how we’ve lost for so many years.”
I’m sure it seems hopeless as a Pirates fan, if there are any of you left, but I think it’s time for your front office to get creative. If for some reason they read this, I hope my one idea could get some creative juices flowing at the very least. My belief is that they should follow their personal history as well as the plot lines from countless Disney or family oriented sport movies. In other words: Find their own Gordon Bombay!
Essentially, my theory (based solely on feel-good movies and how big of a badass I view Jim Leyland as) is that the Pirates hire some coach or former player that has truly messed up and must complete community service in some way. (Another major plus is they don’t waste their small payroll on a coach if they take a court ordered one). Now this court appointed coach could have done anything from getting a DUI to having huge gambling debts to dog fighting. All that matters is that he hates kids and as given up on the sport that once gave him everything.
The next step is to have one of the player’s moms scold said coach for not giving a shit during the first practice. The coach must also receive a vibe from this mother that a future relationship could develop. Then with mixed feelings of attraction for this mom and the advice of some shady, yet deep thinking friend this coach will begin to truthfully coach the rag-tag team, the Pirates are sure to put out there. And by giving these kids a chance and being blown away by the resourceful use of their somewhat lacking athleticism the coach will be born again into his original love for the sport.
Of course there will then be the inevitable injury to the actually gifted athlete on the team and a disappearance of the coach for an important moment of the organizations choosing due to a drinking episode or some other vice as they see fit. Even with those setbacks the team should be able to use some of their guile to muster at the very least a winning season following an awkward, yet inspiring speech ending in tears and/or hugs. And to tell the truth a season like that would most likely be gratifying enough to the fans in Pittsburgh to at least sell a couple hundred tickets to some home games. And leave room for the sequel.