Yes, Spring Training has been underway for one week now, and you are probably wondering, "Why hasn't The Grandstander written about the Pirates yet?", or maybe you aren't wondering that, but the fact is, I am having a tough time getting my usual jolt of springtime optimism when it comes to our favorite baseball team. The reason for that can be laid at the feet, I believe, of the Pirates themselves.
Consider that following a season when the team took a 20 game step backwards and which featured a trade deadline deal where the team gave up two highly touted prospects, not to obtain a key player to help them win games, win championships, or even get better, but to dump a salary (I am speaking of the Francisco Liriano to Toronto
- The team spent most off their time trying desperately trying to trade Andrew McCutchen, probably their most popular player, and easily their best player over the last ten seasons or so.
- Re-signed pitcher Ivan Nova, who despite two good months (5-2, 3.06) with the team, is still a pitcher with a career ERA north of 4.00.
- Signed free agent pitcher Daniel Hudson. Hudson, who has had two Tommy John surgeries in his career, may well be a good pitcher, but at this point he is destined to be a seventh or eighth inning set-up guy.
- Obtained a bunch of no name pitchers in hope that Ray Searage can turn water into wine with them.
- Had to deal with a DUI incident involving Jung Ho Kang. That's not the team's fault, but it sure has cast a pall over the off-season nonetheless.
That's it. That's the list. If I left out any big blockbuster that inspires visions of overtaking the Cubs and Cardinals in the NL Central, I will be happy to be corrected.
Now, Spring Training has begun, and the main story seems to be gearing up all Pirates fans for what will probably be final season, or maybe even the final half-season, of McCutchen's tenure with the Pirates.
Yep. That ought to have people storming the PNC Park tickets windows.
And today, we have been treated to stories detailing Bob Nutting's annual address to the team, and his various tete a tetes with the media.
Of course, McCutchen's status is still Topic A, and Bob assures us that he "loves" Andrew, and hopes that he will "always be a Pirate", but well, you know, business is business, and sometimes things just don't always work out the way you want them.
Don't get me wrong. Yes, Cutch underperformed last season, but at the age of only 31, I'd say he deserves the benefit of the doubt before he's written off as being done. Also, no player should be untouchable, and if the team can be made better, anyone could and should be subject to being traded. However, how confident are you that value on a par with what McCutchen has given the Pirates will ever be received in a trade for him? And no matter what, he deserved better treatment than being dragged through the public prints and airwaves all winter as so much excess baggage that the team needs to jettison.
And one other nugget from Bob Nutting's interviews. Since he has taken over as Chief Bigdome at 115 Federal Street, he has never, not once, taken a salary from the team. What a prince!
Oh, I am sure that the fires will still burn within me. I think that the first televised game from Florida will be sometime next week, and I am sure that I will be planted in front of the TV set when it comes on, at least for a couple of innings, but it's going to take the players that they have - Marte, Polanco, Bell, Harrison, Cole, Taillon, and, yes, Andrew McCutchen - generating excitement for me on the filed of play to stoke those fires, because all the Front Office has done since last October is throw buckets of water on them.