PITTSBURGH - The standings don't lie. The Pittsburgh Pirates are not only contenders, but as of a few hours ago, they had the second-best record in Major League Baseball.
Of course, we're not even halfway through the season, and the pennant races don't really start until Aug. 15.
There's still a long way to go, and the Pirates have some weaknesses. The offense has more holes than a donut shop, for one thing. They're inefficient and squander too many opportunities.
The pitching has been very good, but there are concerns that it will be able to maintain the standard that's been set. The relievers are logging a lot of innings, and everyone in the rotation except Jeff Locke has spent time on the disabled list.
So a lot of people are looking for help on the trade market. The non-waiver trade deadline comes at the end of July, which is still six weeks away.
It's still too early to determine precisely what the Pirates need, although generally speaking, a power bat and another starting pitcher would be helpful.
It's also too early to determine who might be available, and what the asking price might be. Will teams be looking for genuine prospects, or will they be satisfied just to get an especially onerous contract off the books?
That remains to be seen.
But as speculation grows, a lot of people are far too comfortable with giving up prospects. Understand there are two different kinds of prospects: There are those who are viewed as genuine building blocks, and those who will likely play in the major leagues without being main cogs.
The Pirates gave up two of the latter last year to acquire Wandy Rodriguez from Houston. Rudy Owens and Robbie Grossman were considered expendable.
When you're talking about sacrificing the likes of Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco for a short-term gain, you need to tread carefully. Economic reality says the Pirates will always be an organization that will need a steady flow of home-grown talent.
That becomes more challenging as the team enjoys success and its position in the draft drops. When you're picking at the top of the draft, Gerrit Cole and Taillon are available. If your turn comes in the second half of the draft, those players are off the board.
The Pirates need to improve the major league team in 2013. But they can't sacrifice the talent base that's growing now in the minor league system. Keep the potential impact players and take advantage of what they can do in the six or seven-year window that they're under team control.
The standings are reality, but so are MLB's economics.
All for show
Those heightened security procedures at PNC Park are just the illusion of security.
There's no need to draw a map, but someone intent on evil could accomplish that without carrying contraband through the turnstiles.
So rather than nabbing any bad guys, the metal detector checkpoints show that grandma's artificial hip sets off the alarms.
They do the same thing at Heinz Field. It's always a special moment at the media gate when the security person addresses someone by name when asking to see identification.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.