I've been thinking about this article for over a month now. After reading about the intense drills contributing to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ development system being considered the laughingstock of baseball, I am now firmly convinced that the Pirates are trying to lose on purpose, and my decision that I made to stop paying attention to them once they officially finished with another losing record is more than justified. I thought this was the year that they would finally break the most pathetic streak in the history of professional sports. Boy, am I a sucker.
Being from Pittsburgh, I have been following the Pirates for the entirety of my life, as long as I can remember. I have always liked the Penguins and Steelers more, but I've had room for more than them. One of my first memories is the 1992 NLCS. Obviously the end of that series was a very sad moment, but I remember the entire series, not just Sid Bream sliding into home a (debatable) step ahead of Barry Bonds' throw from left field. I remember the Sea World Shamu blimp being in town for the series, to fly above Three Rivers Stadium. I also remember most of what I did on the day of Game Seven: hanging out with my Grandmother, then going to the Beer and Pop Warehouse with my Dad so that we could buy snacks to enjoy during the game.
A big part of me wishes that somebody would have told me about the horrors that awaited me in my dumb, naive fandom that would continue for the next twenty years. I could've done so much more with my life than watching and following a collection of over-matched, under-prepared, mismanaged players year after year after year. However, if not for recent events, I never would've considered this. In a way I am glad these things all occurred.
The biggest reason I am done with the Pirates (and baseball, for the most part) is the new rule stipulating that there is a cap on signing bonuses for draft picks for every team. This is a complete joke of a rule, seemingly suggested by the richer teams so that the smaller markets have less of a chance to draft talented players. The MLB drafting system is different than that in the other three major sports. There are 40 rounds, and the slotting system that exists everywhere else didn't exist until this new cap. As a result of this, smaller market teams could draft and sign talent to higher bonuses and keep them away from bigger markets.
The Pirates had been taking advantage of this for several years. Not only did their first-round drafting turn around, thanks to a renewed focus on talent over sign-ability, their overall drafting became a huge priority. They spent a record $17 million on their 2011 draft class. Gone, seemingly, were the days where they purposely chose lesser talents in an attempt to control and artificially reduce salaries. But the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified by every team, including the Pirates, who didn't dare complain about the new rules that take away their only economic advantage. Knowing the team-wide philosophy for the past 20 years, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that it was their idea in the first place.
Another sign that the team has no interest in success? The management staff has received a vote of confidence from president Frank Coonelly. After two straight total collapses, the same faces will be in the same places for a third straight season. What must the players think of this? I know if I worked for a company that failed for two years and made no attempt to fix anything, I would show up to work every day treating my job like a joke. Who can blame anybody for such an attitude?
The last straw for some fans may very well be the completely ridiculous military training that is injuring top prospects like Gregory Polanco for no good reason. This is a team that has trouble with the fundamentals of baseball at the highest level of the organization, and now they're teaching Minor Leaguers to run across the outfield, through an above-ground pool of ice water, and then jump into a sand pit! I don't know much about military training myself, but I'm pretty sure there aren't a lot of scenarios where that will help you when you're caught in a rundown, or a wild pitch is thrown, or a ball is hit to a spot between three different fielders.
Anybody that continues to sit idly by and keep handing over money to this organization is a part of the problem. If you ever want to see a winning team in this town again, stop. It's the only way. If you like to see a nice stadium and watch a game between real Major League players and a bunch of players that for the most part wouldn't be employed by any other team, be my guest.