PITTSBURGH - Major League Baseball is radically different than it used to be for a number of reasons. That includes wives.
The Pittsburgh Pirates completed a trip to St. Louis and San Diego where players were allowed to bring their wives or girlfriends (just one per player) on the team's charter flights.
The wives' trip debuted for the Pirates many years ago when GM Cam Bonifay thought it was a good idea. Then it disappeared for a long stretch, only to be revived when Jim Tracy became manager.
Most teams have them. In theory, it's a chance for wives to see what life is like on the road for their husbands. But of course, it isn't a real look at that, precisely because the wives are there.
Most baseball travelers aren't much on sight-seeing or shopping. Jim Leyland identified his typical day on the road this way: Morning coffee, cigarettes and box scores at the hotel, then a cab to the park at noon for a 7 o'clock game.
There's a bit of Pirates history that illustrates how attitudes have changed over the years. In 1974, Jerry Reuss joined the Pirates in a trade from the Houston Astros.
His wife would occasionally fly to the Pirates' road city on her own to join her husband. The Pirates fined Reuss $500 for violating a team rule that prohibited wives on the road.
Reuss filed a grievance with the Players Association. The Pirates realized they couldn't win and refunded his money while rescinding the rule.
When you think of all the players who may have been co-habitating on the road, it's odd that the guy who got in trouble was sharing a room with his wife.
These days, wives on the road are fine. Once a year the team even provides the transportation.
The Pirates' slide has led to fan outrage, some of it over the presence of Chad Qualls in the Pirates' bullpen.
This presumes that the 10th man on an 11-man pitching staff is a major reason the team has been fading in August.
Qualls had one horrible outing in an already-lost game, but he's had many more effective appearances.
That doesn't seem to matter to a segment of the fan base apparently willing to overlook more pressing issues, like Andrew McCutchen's prolonged slump or the sharp decline by starters A.J. Burnett and James McDonald. Pedro Alvarez, who had four home runs in two games in June, has hit two over the last month.
Obsessing about Qualls is like being concerned with worn floor mats in a car that doesn't start.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org