Baseball

Pirates Spotlight: The Easy Cover Of Rebuild

It sounds funny now when you say the Cubs along with the Astros are something of the “model” teams are using to justify total tear-downs and rebuilds of their teams. But that’s still the case, though for how much longer one wonders. And the Cubs might not be the model anymore. The other thing is that it’s not going to work out as well even as it did for the Cubs. Look at the Phillies, who tried it and seem stuck in the middle forever. Not everyone gets the parade. And of course, the whole process can be used to cover up what is actually a simple “Producers” like tank to just cash checks.

The Pirates might be the prime example. This is an embarrassing end to the season for a team that just was never good enough because its management never tried to make it anything else. The cover story for them is that they’re still rebuilding from the ’14-’17 run, such as it was.

But did that really have to be? The Pirates watched the Cubs zoom past them, pinpointed by the wildcard game that Jake Arrieta and Kyle Schwarber essentially took from them. But over 162 games, those teams were exactly the same. Did they have to just watch instead of run with? They let Charlie Morton and AJ Burnett go their way, but they still had Jameson Taillon waiting and Tyler Glasnow not too far behind. But they added nothing to the lineup, and were caught standing still when everyone else was ready to move forward. It wasn’t attendance’s fault, as they drew three million fans the previous season.

No, what happened was ownership saw that it would take more money to keep up with the Cubs (and eventually Brewers and now Cardinals), and decided that it wasn’t worth it to them. Thanks to BAMTECH and other factors, they still get their money. So the Pirates of the middle of the decade were allowed to yellow, and that became a justification for trading Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen for essentially role players but no future stars.

The Pirates will claim that they’re remaking for a run in the next year or two, but what they’re really doing is just treading water and raking in the cash every MLB team gets before they even have to worry about gates and local television and the like. It’s a cover of a rebuild, but it’s hardly that.

There isn’t a team in MLB now that can’t afford to build a winner. The only team that might have that claim is Tampa, and they seem to come up with a contender every year anyway. But thanks to some teams that have found success going to the bottom to rise again, any team can use that as a life preserver when all they’re really doing is cutting costs. You’ve seen it in free agency the past two winters.

Until there’s a reason not to, this is the cycle the Bucs will stay in. Sure, maybe their system can produce a couple more players and Taillon comes back healthy one day and Musgrove really pops. And maybe they spasm a 92-win season or two. But as soon as that needs to be built upon and the foundations need to be paid, they’ll sink back into this, claiming a rebuild was necessary. It won’t be, but it’ll be profitable. Every team now can reach for “Springtime for Hitler.” The Pirates are just the best example.

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