Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, Gettysburg Address, November 19th, 1863
"Nothing I say will cause the fans to turn their opinion of me, but what we do will cause the fans to turn their opinion of us."
Neal Huntington, Pirates new General Manager, Pittsburgh Address, October 10, 2007
Let's say I own the Pittsburgh Pirates and you my dear friend are a long-time die-hard fan, who, when cut, bleeds yellow and black for your beloved Pirates and Steelers. Maybe you live in one of the fabled Pittsburgh neighborhoods such as Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, or with the well-to-do on Schenley Heights.
Or maybe you live out in the shot-and-a-beer 'suburb' of Mt. Lebanon, where the Blue Devils football game with Upper St. Clair is a little sister to a Steelers' - Browns game.
Perhaps you teach or take notes at one of the finer bastions of education in Pittsburgh such as the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, or at Duquesne University, where first year basketball coach and Pittsburgh native Suzi McConnell-Serio--the pint size point guard with a five-gallon-drum-size heart and the pride and joy of Seton-LaSalle High School and the Nittany Lions, and U.S. gold medal winner in Seoul in ' 88; bronz medal winner in Bacelona in ' 92--leads the Lady Dukes on and off the court.
But no matter where you live or what you do, if you are a Pirates fan, life...is not good.
Your team hasn't had a winning season in 15 years. Meanwhile, the exodus of good ball players beginning in1992, when your skinny left fielder exercised his right as a free agent and you watched him surpass The Babe and Hammerin' Hank going yard, all the while mysteriously gaining weight and looking more like Shaq than Barry.
But what do you expect? With a miserable payroll of $38.5 million, which, doled out, can afford you a few good ball players but way too many Double AA players in major league uniforms. And the good ones, as soon as they reach either arbitration or free agency, leave town faster than your steel mills which at one time turned day into night.
To rub salt into open wounds, the money I did have to attract free agents to Steel City I burned up on more dead body mistakes than the drug dealers had this year in the Hill District: A four year, $15 million extension to Pat Meares who hit .230 in 219 games-and-gone; and a two year, $9 million contract to Derek Bell who played only 46 futile games-and-gone. Ouch!
(If you want extra credit homework, Google Raul Mondesi and report back to me on what happened. I want a two page, word processed (double spaced) report entitled: 'Another Pirate Dead Body Mistake Goes Dominican Republic')
Oh, and clueless draft picks, did I mention them? Too numerous to list all of them here so I'll just pick one: In 1999 I selected Bobby Bradley, a stiff you can add to a long list of Pirate pitchers who blew out their arms. Meanwhile, I passed over Barry Zito, Ben Sheets, Bret Myers, and Alexis Rios. Wait, I have to mention this one too: In the 2003 draft I let Lastings Milledge (left) go and selected Paul Maholm instead; another blown-out-arm pitcher. Sorry about that.
Which brings us around to the Pittsburgh Address.
Given all the failure for a baseball proud city--home to hundreds of great ball players: Clemente, Hoak, Face, Friend, Groat, Stargel, Wagner, Mazeroski, Traynor, Sanguillen, Van Slyke, Parker, Kiner, etc., etc. and etc.--what do I provide you for the ' 08 season?
- A club president that has never run a major league team or even worked for one.
- A general manager, Neil Huntington, who issued the famous Pittsburgh Address, see at top of page, and who has never been a general manager and wasn't even an assistant general manager.
- And a field manager, John Russell, who has never been a major league manager--in fact, I fired him as the Pirates third base coach two years ago because of his dismal success rate at getting Pirate runners home safely..."runner's outttttttttttt"--and last year managed the Phillies triple A Ottawa team to a 55--88 season. Wow. Impressive.
But you know what? Maybe, just maybe, this group of the blind leading the blind will stumble over each other and end their losing streak. By the way, if the Buccos do lose for the sixteenth season in a row, they tie a record held by...
The Phillies, of course!
(Remember the Pirates theme song for the championship year in 1979? Sister Sledge in We Are Family.)
If inner-city school districts try to change, it will cost big money won't it?