Monday, July 03, 2006

PNC: the new Wrigley Field

In his previous post, Zeke wrote, The more this team loses, the closer we are to seeing change. It's a common assumption in the Pirate-fan blogosphere that if this team repeats its failure in the second half, the effect would precipitate major changes such as the firing of Littlefield or even, we dare to hope, the sale of the team to more enlightened owners. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that this assumption is incorrect.

After attending last Saturday night's sell-out and listening to the Littlefield show on KDKA the following day, I don't think that anyone in management at the Pirates perceives any serious problem that needs to be solved. With the exception maybe of McClatchy's recent interview, there is no detectable sense of urgency or consternation anywhere to be found except within that small segment of the fan base represented by blogs, message boards, and fan-protest movements.

Here's what I think the bad guys think:
  1. We're making a profit.
  2. We have a very young starting rotation. Teams that have young starting rotations often struggle but eventually improve.
  3. We have a lot of other young players--Paulino, Doumit, Castillo, Sanchez, Duffy, Eldred, Bautista, McLouth--who are going to get better, and when they do, we will too.
  4. Because of (1), the worst thing we can do is to panic. We need to stay the course and be patient.
  5. Our new manager is the perfect leader to implement a strategy of patience. (UPDATE: Tracy articulates his philosophy, such as it is, here. Via Bucs Dugout.)
  6. We have a great PR/marketing staff that is adept at accentuating the positive.
  7. While the signings of Burnitz, Randa, and Casey may not have worked out, they did show the fans that we are willing to spend money and are not simply shameless profiteers.
  8. Our success and profitability don't depend on wins and losses. We have the best stadium in baseball, and the fans love coming to it. We are selling something larger and more sustainable than just the fortunes of one baseball team; we are selling The Baseball Experience in Pittsburgh's Field of Dreams.
  9. This strategy is working, and there is no need to change it, because
  10. We're making a profit.
The Cubs have been failing forever. They're Chicago's lovable losers. The fans still love to go to Wrigley, and they love their Cubbies. As a business plan, owning a team of lovable losers that plays in a beautiful facility is every bit as viable as a plan that is built around on-field success. Maybe more so, because it is more predictable.

Should the fates ever allow the Pirates to blunder their way into a post-season, all who read this are reminded not to be too quick to lunge for souvenirs and not to interfere with foul balls while they are still in play. Chances in the post-season for lovable losers are extremely rare.

3 Comments:

Anonymous bucdaddy said...

I'll buy that.

12:09 AM  
Anonymous BenM said...

I think the closest comparison to the Pirates would be the NBA's Clippers. Donald Sterling has been one of sports cheapest owners and it has shown in their own the court product. With the exception of this year they have had some of the worst teams in basketball over the last 15 years, and yet they have kept the same GM since

Sterling is happy, he puts as little money into the team as possible in order to turn a profit and has a GM who is willing to be the butt of a lot of jokes (what's a NBA draft lottery without Elgin) in order to run the franchise in a way that almost inevitably leads to year after year of failure. Sounds like the Pirates gameplan. Sterling hasn't felt a need to sell or find a new GM and I am increasingly thinking that McClatchy/Nutting won't either.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Che said...

All of those listed are true, and I don't agree with those who believe that the Pirates continuing to lose will cause any real changes. As in the past, when the Pirates have a particularly bad season, the PR department makes a big deal out of the improvements that are being made. I can't even count the number of times the story about the increased payroll was rammed down the fans' throats. Even so, those strategies work. The team is performing worse this year than ever, yet I predict a similar show being put on by the Pirates at the same time next year.

We can only hope for the aforementioned young players to take matters into their own hands; I still see hope in a team that contains Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay, among others.

6:10 PM  

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