The Pirates want to win. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
This 11-4 stretch isn’t just a happy accident, but what might be an early best case scenario in their intentions to win this year.
When they won from 2013-15, it wasn’t just a lucky stretch that they happened to stumble onto. And when they weren’t winning in 2016-17, or anytime before 2013, the main goal was winning.
That often gets contested, and a narrative grows about how the team doesn’t really care about winning. Arguments are made that the team takes a relaxed approach toward winning, and that their main goal is making money first.
I’ve looked at the other side of those arguments, and I see where people are getting that idea. The problem is that people are often confusing a questionable strategy with a lack of desire to win.
Take, for example, the 2015-16 offseason. I hate talking about it, because there have been no new developments since that offseason ended, and yet it’s a topic that gets brought up daily. I’ve written how the Pirates had a bad offseason that year, and didn’t do enough following a 98 win season.
Some view that as a sign that they didn’t really care about contending. They spent up to their budget, didn’t spend more, traded and cut a few bigger contracts, and had a losing season.
The reality here is that it was just a flawed approach. The Pirates believed they could contend on a yearly basis, with no end to their window of opportunity. They just had to wait on their prospects to arrive, while adding a few placeholders to keep them in the mix until those younger players were ready.
That approach is flawed, as there is strong evidence that small market success is limited, and can no longer be extended indefinitely.
The approach they have can cover other moves, whether they’re good or bad. They made a great pickup in 2015 when they added J.A. Happ at the deadline. They didn’t make a big splash for someone like David Price, and didn’t get credit for upgrading the team, despite Happ being better down the stretch. The decision to not go all-in was again seen as a lack of desire to win.
The reality is that this was another case where they were hoping to contend over the long-term, rather than going all-in and cutting their window short. They wanted to win. They just had an out-dated view of the best approach when you’re a contender.
The Pirates have a boycott going on right now with some of their fans, which I personally think is ridiculous. Fans are boycotting for a lot of reasons, with the biggest seeming to be that the Pirates don’t have a desire to win. This continues, even though the Pirates stated their intention to contend, made moves and additions aimed at contending, and have been off to a hot start in part due to those players they’ve brought in to boost this year’s team.
The issues with the team have revolved around communication, along with an approach where they try to win every year, which can make it look like they’re not trying enough in a single given year in today’s MLB. It didn’t help that they traded away a fan favorite who was in a decline, and they won’t get a ton of credit for bringing in a younger, cheaper, and better option to replace him.
It’s important to point all of this out. A team that really doesn’t care about winning? That’s a problem that doesn’t get easily solved. A team with a flawed approach, or that made mistakes? That’s easier to fix. And I feel they’ve already started to fix some of their problems, or at least improve upon some of the mistakes made in 2016.
The key thing here is that they want to win. You can disagree with a move that tries to get them there. You can disagree with their lack of aggressiveness and out-dated approach to windows. But disagreeing that they’re even trying is looking beyond a simple explanation for criticism, and trying to find a bigger issue that doesn’t exist.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 7-3 over the Miami Marlins on Sunday. The Pirates will send Steven Brault to the mound today as they begin a three-game series at home against the Colorado Rockies. Brault allowed four runs over five innings in his start against the Chicago Cubs last week. In his previous start, he gave up one run over five innings. The Rockies will counter with TBD, who will likely be replaced by a real pitcher later today.
The minor league schedule includes the second start from Mitch Keller, who had his start yesterday rained out. Keller threw six shutout innings with eight strikeouts in his debut. Indianapolis was rained out during each of the last two days, so they could shuffle their rotation a little. Braeden Ogle will start today after getting rained out yesterday. This is the second time that his start has been pushed back due to the weather. Bradenton has off today.
MLB: Pittsburgh (11-4) vs Rockies (9-8) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Steven Brault (3.46 ERA, 10:7 SO/BB, 13.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (4-4) @ Syracuse (6-3) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (81.00 IP, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.2 IP)
AA: Altoona (6-2) @ Akron (4-5) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (0.00 ERA, 8:2 SO/BB, 6.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (8-3) vs Palm Beach (7-4) 6:30 PM 4/17 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Low-A: West Virginia (5-5) @ Charleston (5-5) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Braeden Ogle (9.00 ERA, 4:4 SO/BB, 3.0 IP)
From Friday night, a look on Statcast at the nice catch by Corey Dickerson
4/14: Pirates claim Enny Romero off of waivers.
4/13: Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez recalled. Clay Holmes and Josh Smoker sent to Indianapolis.
4/12: AJ Schugel assigned to Bradenton on rehab
4/11: Pirates sign Denny Roman and Cristian Charle
4/10: Bryan Reynolds placed on Altoona disabled list. Jason Martin activated from DL.
4/5: Pirates claim Jesus Liranzo from Los Angeles Dodgers. Placed on Altoona disabled list.
4/2: Kevin Siegrist placed on suspended list for Indianapolis.
4/2: Pirates place Joe Musgrove on DL; Recall Clay Holmes
3/31: Pirates release Clark Eagan
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
On this date in 1903, one of the greatest Pirates players of all-time was born. Paul Waner played 15 seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .340 during his time in the city. Waner has the highest career batting average among any Pirates player with more than 2,000 plate appearances. He is sixth in OPS, second in runs, third in hits, fourth in total bases, first in doubles, second in triples, third in walks and fifth in RBIs. You can read his full bio here.
There are two other former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and one small trade of note. Also on this date in 1903, the same day Paul Waner was born, the Pirates opened up their season with a 7-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds. This team went on to play in the first World Series and the lineup from Opening Day (which is in the link above) was nearly identical to the one that started game one of the WS. For more information on that first World Series, click this link that recaps game eight of the series. At the bottom of the link, there is an article on the comparison between the Pirates and Boston Americans (Red Sox) along with the recaps of the first seven games.
The other two players born on this date are 1942 catcher Babe Phelps and 1891 left fielder Piggy Ward. Their bios can be found in the link above. Phelps came to the Pirates in a trade for for Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan, then left in the not-so-famous “Babe” trade, going to the Phillies for Babe Dahlgren.
On this date in 1937, the Pirates got pitcher Joe Bowman from the Phillies in exchange for 1B/RF Earl Browne. Bowman ended up playing five seasons for the Pirates, while Browne was out of the Majors by early 1938.