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The Cutoff Man: Pirates Preview (CMU Orientation Issue)

August 14, 2010

Published in the Tartan, 8/14/2010.

Any returning student or a native of Pittsburgh knows that, in 2009, the Steelers won the Super Bowl, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, and the Pirates tied the record for most consecutive losing seasons by any professional sports franchise in any professional sport. Ever. But I guess I just gave away the punch line.

Hey first-years! Welcome to Pittsburgh. Enjoy the pierogies.

One of the first things I noticed upon arriving in Pittsburgh was what a beautiful ballpark PNC Park was. As a baseball fan, I’d seen it on TV many times, but I think the ugliness happening on the field took the glamour away whenever I’d see it on the screen. My first trip to the Pirates’ beautiful home was in September 2006, when I came to see my Mets clinch the division, needing just one more win to do so. Who better to face than the Pirates, I thought.

The Pirates beat them and actually swept the series.

With a talented young core then consisting of center fielder Chris Duffy, second baseman Freddy Sanchez, left fielder Jason Bay, and catcher Ryan Doumit, and veteran leaders like first baseman Adam LaRoche, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Pirates would start clicking like this with more consistency. Then, finally, the Pirates would bring a winning record to their wonderful ship.

Well, at least Doumit’s still around. But the Pirates’ acquisition of once-promising catcher Chris Snyder from Arizona earlier this month almost guarantees that Doumit should prepare to be traded in the offseason. Start packing up the house, Ryan.

The best word to describe PNC Park is “facade.” Behind the glory is the dim reality that anyone who’s been here briefly enough already knows: Pittsburgh hasn’t won, isn’t winning, and won’t win any time soon. Every so often they’ll give a glimmer of hope — in 2007 they opened the season with a sweep — but in the end it’s always the same result. They started off this year with a winning record — even in the running for first place — for two whole weeks before getting swept at PNC Park by Milwaukee in grand fashion: with 8-1, 8-0, and 20-0 losses.

So, enjoy Heinz Field and its Steelers, enjoy the new Consol Energy Center and its Penguins, and enjoy PNC Park. The Mets of the early 1960s were nicknamed the “Lovable Losers.” Unfortunately, the Pirates can really only be nicknamed the “Sell the Team Already and Bring In Someone Who Actually Will Do Something to Try to Win.”

I’m surprised the Jolly Roger hasn’t quit yet. It rarely ever gets a raise.

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