Battered Expectations 

A Pirates fan gives up all hope

I learned my lesson a few years ago. I never get sucked into the hype. Not any more. I can beat my head against the wall a few times, but it takes only a couple of resulting migraine headaches for me to get a clue … quit beating your head against the wall.

And that's why I never get sucked into the hype that the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to be good this year. Oh, the starting pitching is coming around. Hey, the bullpen looks like it'll be good this year. Man, we may have the most solid lineup in years.

A new manager, yupper, that'll fix everything. Thank goodness we replaced that old general manager. What a screw-up he was. He paid too much for bad players and let good ones get away. With the new GM, it's much better.

Back in 1997, I sat in the stands dozens of times. That was the year the Buccos actually competed for the division crown, battling Houston until the last few days of the season. It's been explained to me that that happened only because everyone else in the division sucked just as much that year. But I just got to town in '96: What did I know?

I hosted dozens of talk shows on the endless debate about building the Buccos a new stadium with taxpayers' money. I once asked Steelers owner Dan Rooney why the public should put up any money for privately owned sports franchises. "Because that's the way it works," he said. That's it. That was his explanation. And over time, I've come to believe that for the owners it's really that simple. The public has been suckered into believing "that's the way it works," so … that's the way it works.

But at least the Rooneys brought us a Super Bowl victory. We got something for our investment in Heinz Field. How many ways are there to say the Pirates are pathetic?

I'm just knocking out one column to vent my frustration. Can you imagine being a sports columnist at a daily and having to crank out copy on this crap constantly? Are there limitless adjectives for "stinking up the joint"? Is that how they spend most of their time?

And what of the Pirates management? Why bother to come up with an explanation after every embarrassing loss? Shrug your shoulders and say, "We suck."

I was actually a little bit excited when Joe Randa came back because I associate him with that one year when we flirted with the division crown. In retrospect, I see that was kinda like me "flirting" with Sheryl Crow when I saw her in concert: Chances that we were going to consummate the deal were pretty slim. I just lacked perspective.

I know Dallas Mavericks owner and Western Pennsylvanian Mark Cuban is loonier than a tune. I know he may be just blowing smoke up our collective posteriors when he says he might buy the Pirates. And I know he could suck out loud at baseball (even though he appears to be pretty good as a basketball owner). But we have nothing to lose, so …


Maybe Kevin McClatchy tries hard. Maybe he cares a lot. Maybe we still owe him a debt of gratitude for keeping the Pirates in the 'Burgh.

I'm still glad we got suckered into Plan B, because PNC Park is beautiful and the North Shore (I know it's a made-up name, but what the hell) looks better than it ever has. But this just flat-out ain't workin'. Next year there'll be more hype about the off-season acquisition of mediocre players who are expected to thrive here. The pitching always gets the supreme hype job. It never lives up to expectations.

I'm just a fan, not a sports expert. But I know a lousy president when I see one: He's the guy who isn't good at running the government. I think it's just as easy to recognize the folks who aren't good at running a baseball team.


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