The Pittsburgh Pirates are a virtual reminder of the movie "Groundhog's Day."
With the most recent news of Nate McLouth being traded for prospects, sounds of "I Got You Babe," were ringing in my head. For the past 16 years, the Pirates have been using a cookie-cutter management style that has simply been a disaster.
It's the ownership, past and present, and the puppets hired in the front office, which has been the problem.
The front office staff has not been efficient, to date, in scouting the top talent. Their faults basically stop there. The rest is all ownership-related. When good talent is found, it's developed, brought to the majors for a test drive, then sold to the bidder with the most prospects. Hey, why not? It's better than having to scout out and find your own talent, I suppose. And it beats having to pay stars the going rate.
The ownership of the Pirates has been satisfied to simply make a profit over the past decade or so (thanks to PNC Park). It is clear, beyond any doubt, that the ownership and front office are not smart or competent enough to spend money wisely, put together a winner, and make money.
Is it possible? Examples exist all over sports today. They have spent $40 to $50 million and made a couple million (thanks to PNC Park). They have no confidence in their abilities to spend $120 million, and make $10-$20 million and win in an average division in Major League Baseball.
We keep hearing that the new manager, the new GM, the new ownership, the new scouting division, the new ballpark -- it's all going to be different. It's just going to take time; be patient.
Give me a break.
You keep the wool over our eyes long enough, you figure we'll go blind eventually. Apparently it's worked for some fans.
The difference between being a Steelers or Penguins ticket representative and being a Pirates ticket rep is like being an ice-cream vendor at the beach versus trying to sell the same product at the North Pole.
I mean, even up there, every once in a while, the average human has a craving for ice cream. The difference is that ice cream won't melt there.
And I really don't even like baseball that much..anymore. But I do like ice cream.
LL priorities off base
I was watching my son's Little League game the other night, and two coaches were discussing their win-loss stats, how to beat upcoming teams, who has the best pitchers, etc.
I heard nothing about what kids are learning, trying new positions, having fun or what the coaches do to help the players form a team of supporting each other and camaraderie.
What if we took one week of the season, put a tarp over our scoreboards and only counted strikes, balls, outs and innings? Let all players play a new position in these games they never tried before and wanted to experience.
Encourage supporting each other when screwups occur given the kids never played certain positions. Keep the game to two hours, end it wherever it ends, laugh and have fun seeing what happens.
My son was a valuable player last year in Pee Wee. He played six different positions. This year he is low guy on the totem pole in Little League. He rides the bench a lot but he was told at the first practice all kids would see bench time.
Our infield of starters has never seen bench time. I don't expect special treatment nor a total disregard for winning, but for the most part what I see in Little League is direct focus on wins and losses, period.
The coaches start out with good intentions focusing on the values of Little League. Soon into the season, we are all about W&Ls. At ages 11 and 12, are we to teach that winners get the attention? Is the big hitter and star pitcher always in the spotlight game after game? Are the benchriders never going to experience a breakthrough play that gives them confidence to improve and believe in themselves?
I have coached basketball and baseball for kids, and I can state with no reservations that they all saw bench time equally, including my son.
He never questions it even when he is the star in one game or another. I was the star in Little League myself. Home run king both years, star pitcher, blah blah blah. I carried it through high school and then raced bicycles at a high level in college.
I remember most vividly my teammates who would have breakthrough plays or games and coaches that helped me find my skills and encouraged me. They did not berate me or focus on strictly winning.
When breakthroughs would occur, everyone stood and cheered because we achieved more than we ever had to that point. Yes, I recall home runs and wins as well, but not with the detail I do when something happened that really mattered to a person - a defining moment, if you will.
OK, I will step down from the podium and ask you who wins during the week we cover up scoreboards: Is it the win-loss column or the kids?