Pittsburgh Pirates Sink Their Own Ship

There is really no way to sugarcoat it, the Pirates are simply terrible.

From chants of “Cueto!” echoing throughout a sold out stadium in the 2013 National League Wild Card game, to PNC Park only being half full of fans on any given Saturday night in 2019, saying that the Pirates have disappointed their fans over the course of the past four years would be a major understatement.

Not only has the team not made the playoffs since 2015, but they have only made the playoffs three times in the last twenty seven years. They have only advanced past the wild card game once during that span. On top of this, only four years ago the Pirates were the second best team in all of baseball with a final record of 98 wins and 64 losses. Compare that to the 2019 team’s record of just 69 wins and 93 losses, and it’s simply pathetic.

The team has performed so poorly that most fans don’t even bother to go watch a game anymore. According to Baseball Reference.com, the average attendance per game at PNC Park was 18,413 in 2019 as opposed to 30,847 in 2015. That is a 12,434 person per game difference in just four years. For reference, PNC Park holds 38,362 people at its max capacity. This means the stadium wasn’t even half full for the majority of the games this year.

Despite these dismal ticket sales and poor on-field performance, owner Bob Nutting is still profiting big time off of the Pirates. This is mostly due to Nutting allocating a very minimalistic amount of money towards player salaries. Statista.com stated that at the start of the 2019 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the second lowest payroll in all of baseball.

Since there is no salary cap in the MLB, typically the teams that generate the largest sums of money are able to sign the best players because they have the most money and are able to limitlessly spend it. This causes problems for the smaller budget teams who are unable to acquire higher skilled players due to a lack of money. 

Where the problem lies is in the fact that Bob Nutting does have the extra money to give to the team, he just chooses not to because he sees it as a business and only cares about the dollar signs. Instead, he takes all the revenue for himself. 

This creates a cycle for the team of not having good players because they can’t afford to pay superstars. This results in the team not performing well due to a lack of talented players, so then no fans want to give money to the team or go to the games, and resulting from that the team doesn’t generate large enough profits to finally sign those big name free agents. The cycle continues with the team struggling and Nutting still making lots of money.

Furthermore, the Pirates staff decided to fire manager Clint Hurdle, who had been with the team for nine years, at the end of the recent season. This outraged fans because it was not Hurdle’s fault that his players were just not of the same caliber as the opposing players on other teams. The staff then went on to fire Ray Searage, who was the pitching coach. This firing can be justified though because the Pirate’s pitching has been abysmal as of late. 

Although, this still didn’t distract fans from seeing that Nutting never dealt with the real problem which many believe is general manager Neil Huntington. For years now, Huntington has opted to make safe decisions and not take risks, which has led to flatout bad and uninspiring trades. He would rarely, if ever, bring in free agents over the winter who would actually make an impact on the team come the following season, and yet he is the one who still has his job. For these reasons, people across the city of Pittsburgh are calling for Nutting to sell the team to someone who will actually care about what the Pirates’s record is come the playoffs in October.

 If this administration doesn’t already have you in despair, then the team itself probably will. Each of the past four years the Pirates started the season off electric and fell flat after the first few weeks, and this season was no exception. Through the first 18 games the Pirates had 12 wins and just 6 losses. They then proceeded to lose eight consecutive games and fall from grace. 

They continued to play like a mediocre ball club before giving off a glimmer of hope by winning 14 of 21 games, going into the all star break in mid-July with lots of momentum. Unfortunately, the Pirates were never able to return to that form after the all star break and struggled greatly in the final two and a half months of the season. 

To pile on top of this, you have injuries galore, including Jameson Tallion undergoing his second Tommy John surgery of his career. 

Furthermore, Josh Bell was looking like a possible MVP candidate going into mid-July. He finished the first half of the season with 27 home runs and 83 runs batted in. However, Josh Bell was unable to continue that kind of production after the all star break. He finished the season with 37 home runs and 116 runs batted in. Don’t get me wrong, these are incredible numbers, but they are really not that great when you look at what he was doing in the first half of the season. 

There were also internal conflicts between players on the team throughout the season. And to top it all off, a player was even arrested. On September 17, Felipe Vasquez was arrested for solicitation of a thirteen year old girl.

Overall, the Pittsburgh Pirates quite frankly disappointed their fans with their lackluster 2019 campaign, and no one really knows what’s next for the Bucs. What I can say is that they have a lot of work to do this offseason, and hopefully they are able to make the right moves to return the team to that 2015 winning form.