It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. There hasn’t been much activity on this blog for a couple years now. It sort of makes sense. I started this site as a public declaration of my disgust: large market baseball, manifest in the Boston Red Sox, had eroded my fandom to the point of desperation. At the time, it felt like I was taking drastic measures. I jumped ship and boarded a foundering Pittsburgh Pirates vessel that had been, to quote a bigger fan, lost at sea for quite some time.
That was the tone of this blog. But that tone doesn’t work anymore. We now live in a world where free agents sign in Pittsburgh; the front office is winning bidding wars for international free agents (albeit from Korea – not Cuba); and guys like Buster Olney are picking the Pirates to win the World Series.
To be sure, this is all good news. This is the transformation every small market fanbase dreams of. Kansas City experienced long awaited success last year. The fan [sic] in Tampa has felt that for some time now. But there is indeed another side to this once buried coin of victory. Success breeds expectations which, in turn, breed entitlement. The media love affair with the Pirates has already started. There is now a legitimate bandwagon, as evidenced by the countless questions and conversations initiated by my Pirates toque this past (and continuing) winter in Vermont, of all places. It feels pretty happy to be a pre-2013 Pirates fan (even if I only pre-date the playoffs by a couple years…).
If all of this hype lives and dies at the fan level, I think we’ll be okay. PNC Park filled with fair-weather packs of newbies isn’t the worst thing in the world. They’ll learn the game and a new era of Pirates legends will deepen across a larger swath of the country. But I’ve seen a situation like this go wrong before. If the ownership itself (and management by directive) starts to buy into the hype, we could see personnel moves determined by sports page impact. In other words: baseball decisions can easily, but subtly, turn into marketing decisions.
If this happens, things will start to suck for Pittsburgh baseball fans. The revenue streams themselves could begin to trump their purpose. The lure of winning now (and now! and now!) could result in selling off the opportunities of tomorrow. All market brands (and people) crave attention and influence. Our hope is that the Pirates continue to strive for the means to achieve attention (high quality product) rather than settle for short-cuts to a financially desirable end. Because the fans’ desired end has begun to emerge: the Pirates have arrived. How this ownership handles the success or failure of 2015 will go a long way to define this era of Pittsburgh baseball.