No one can tell you how to be a Pirate fan

Every so often, a tweet or a headline or a story comes out in a Pittsburgh newspaper or on a Pittsburgh website that drives me crazy because of one little mistake. "McCutcheon." When I see this, I flip out. It's not because I'm the personal protector of Andrew McCutchen's honor or because I'm some kind of insane stickler for spelling, it's because no one in Pittsburgh would ever let "Crosbey" or "Roethlisburger" or "Lemeiux" slip through the cracks, even if it was the result of a mindless typo the way that "McCutcheon" most often is. The reason that it upsets me is that it's not just laziness or a lack of awareness or disrespect to Andrew McCutchen, it's direspectful of Pirate fans that this kind of laziness and lack of awareness is allowed to slip by only when the Pirates are involved. 

This is the same reason that this enrages me

When I started this website in 2005, I was a dumb kid. I was under the impression that there really weren't any Pirate fans anywhere anymore. Attendance cratered rapidly after PNC Park opened because the Pirates were terrible, and it only started to perk back up when the All-Star Game became part of the equation. I found out pretty quickly how wrong I was; within a few months of starting my site, I had e-mails from across the country from Pirate fans, telling me how happy they were to find a Pirate blog. Pirate blogs started sprouting across the internet like wildfire. 

Most of those blogs had a common theme back in 2005 and 2006 and 2007, too. Pirate fans were angry. The Pirates' payroll hit an all-time high at $50+ million when PNC Park opened in 2001, then quickly faded back to the $35-40 million range. The money that was being spent was being spent idiotically; the drafts were bad, the minor league system was barren, the Latin American scouting department was so awful that no fans even knew enough about it to be angry about it, and yet every season had its Benito Santiagoes and Jeromy Burnitzes and Matt Morrises — real players getting paid real money and cost in prospects that had no chance of helping the Pirates. The Pirates were quite literally one of the two or three worst run organizations in baseball. 

The fans flipped out about it. During the run-up to the All-Star Game in 2006, a group of message board posters formed "Irate Fans," to point out how badly mismanaged the club had been and a few of us bloggers jumped on board to write articles. There was some coverage in the local media, but it eventually fizzled out because, well, it was mostly college kid bloggers and middle aged message board guys and we all sort of realized that there's only so much fans can actually do about this kind of thing in sports, especially without real activists involved. The Irate Fans movement (if you want to call it that) did manage to grow into the Summer of 2007 Walkout, though. There was a big rally before the game, Dock Ellis talked about how the Pirate fans deserve better than they'd been getting, and there was a ton of media coverage of it (it was in all the papers, on the news, I even got a call to talk about it on Sporting News Radio that night) even though the actual walkout itself during the game was kind of a dud. 

I can't pretend to really know if the small amount of negative local media coverage that the Irate Fans generated for the Pirates in 2006 or if the larger local coverage and small national coverage that the walkout got in 2007 made any difference, but before 2007 started Bob Nutting stepped out of the shadows and became the team's official owner (something he'd actually been for a few years) and things started to change. Kevin McClatchy announced early in 2007 that he'd step down as CEO when the season ended, and then in reality he was gone by mid-summer. That lead to Dave Littlefield's firing and the hiring of Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington, which put the Pirates on the path they're on now. 

The results haven't been much different to this point under the new front office, but the process has been; money immediately started pouring into the draft, money's been spent in Latin America and all over the globe, and the Pirates have mostly stopped signing guys like Jeromy Burnitz so that they can play in front of guys like Craig Wilson. There have been bad draft picks and bad free agent signings and bad trades under the new front office. Not signing Miguel Sano when they had a chance to do so was an absolute disaster for the team, no matter who you think ultimately deserves the fault for botching the situation. 

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.