Reporting Colin Dunlap
Aspire to be the best.
But don’t forget a dash of perspective along the way as these Pirates push through the remainder of July, into August and across September.
Certainly, Pirates president Frank Coonelly has the big dreams part down pat.
He’s got all the ambition in the world and, undeniably, the man aspires to be the best.
But here’s hoping, in his heart of hearts — even if he didn’t say it publicly — Coonelly also has room for some perspective.
God, I sure hope he does.
On Friday, Coonelly joined The Fan Morning Show and was, per his usual, tremendously candid for a front office member of a Major League Baseball franchise.
Keep in mind, these are high times for the Pirates. The club owns a 56-37 record with the ceremonial second-half of the season set to begin, one game behind St. Louis in the National League Central and a decent portion ahead of Cincinnati (53-42) for the first Wild Card and farther ahead of Washington (48-47) in the chase for the second.
Asked, matter-of-fact, what would constitute a successful season, Coonelly’s answer was straightforward:
“The only thing that’s acceptable is the National League Central crown,” he said.
Pressed next with a follow-up on whether or not a Wild Card berth would be sufficient, Coonelly added:
“We’d be disappointed, but we’d go in there and fight like heck to win that game, and then move on.”
Ambition — the guy has it. Bushel loads of it.
Now to the perspective.
Coonelly is on record as saying this organization — the one in which he’s second in command behind Owner and Chairman of the Board Bob Nutting — would be disappointed with a Wild Card berth.
Huh? Come again?
The same organization that hasn’t won more games than lost since the 1992 season?
The same organization that went through Collapse I in 2011 and then followed that up with Collapse II at the tail end of the 2012 season?
The same organization that, just a few short years ago in 2010, was marching out the likes of Dana Eveland, Hayden Penn and Brian Bass to try to get people out as they stumbled through the summer to just 57 wins?
The same organization that has won more than 75 games once since 2004?
This Pirates organization — at least in Coonelly’s view — would be “disappointed” with a Wild Card berth.
Sorry, that’s a preposterous notion.
I get it, certainly I do.
The Pirates right now are in the thick of it, they are fighting, clawing and scraping with all they have to win the National League Central.
And, quite frankly, that should be the goal here.
But, there’s a lot the Pirates could do the remainder of the season, without winning the NL Central, where this must be looked at as an overwhelming success.
Say, for example, the Pirates don’t win the division, make their way into the one-game Wild Card and are able to earn a victory in that contest. From there, however, they go on to get dusted in the Division Series, even swept.
Is that not acceptable?
Come on. Such a scenario would be overwhelmingly acceptable.
Or, how about this: How about the Pirates go through the teeth of a pennant chase in September, but still fall short to the Cardinals. However, the Pirates make their way into that one-game Wild Card game and get drilled. Get shutout. Everything in that game just, well, doesn’t go their way.
Know what would happen? Clint Hurdle would still probably win the National League Manager of the Year, the Pirates would have had the nation — or at least this city — captivated for the better part of a month and there would have been that one-game beyond the regular season proper where the organization was showcased.
I can’t, from where I sit, deem that anything less than a prodigious success.
Certainly, such a scenario would not be, considering where this organization has come in a short time, unacceptable.
Frank Coonelly is charged with the duty of making sure what comes out of his mouth, in his leadership role, serves to try to push others as far toward meeting their ultimate goal as possible.
Here’s hoping, when he said what he said on The Fan Morning Show on Friday, that he was just serving in such a duty.
Because, from where I sit, the Pirates can achieve a great level of acceptability this season without winning the National League Central crown.
Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.