PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – More than a couple of days removed from the MLB Trade Deadline, and the hue and cry from those of us disgusted with what the Pirates’ front office did – or more accurately didn’t do – to better their ball club in the month of July is just starting to die down a bit.
Get used to the silence. Many fans, brought back in to the fold during a 3-year run of winning baseball after two decades of futility, have already turned toward another autumn of football and hockey and teams that will exhaust all possible options to better their roster when the moment calls for it.
This isn’t about assigning blame for the lack of activity when the Pirates had swept the Brewers and crawled to within 2 games of 1st place in the N.L. Central. That’s a separate story that involves an owner who may or may not be keeping his general manager from spending money saved by the absence of two derelict players and the release or trade of others. It may or may not be the burden of that general manager for clinging to his prospects like a man at sea clutching his life preserver.
In all likelihood, as much as we’d like to have a black-and-white answer, it’s a little bit of both. A front office that abhors any and all kind of risk falls on the shoulders of all involved.
It should be understood though, that without great risk, the great reward of finally giving a city’s fans what they’ve waited nearly 40 years for will never be realized.
And when those fans can get that satisfaction five, six, even seven times over from the other teams in town, without ever having to question whether they’ll be ‘all-in’ or not, it creates a question for the average fan that should scare the bejesus out of Bob Nutting: Why should I care?
That’s the sentiment rippling through Pittsburgh sports fans as they see a second consecutive season go by with no hope of their ball club contending for a championship.
Passionate fans get whipped up in to anger by the moves made or not made by their favorite teams all the time. It’s why they’re FANS. ‘Fan,’ is after all, as you’ve undoubtedly heard many times, short for ‘fanatic.’
The only thing that’s worse than unbridled anger from a fan base though is what Pirates fans are currently teetering on the brink of: Apathy.
For an organization with a TV deal in the bottom third of the league, gate revenue is crucial, and the last thing any of us wants to see is attendance cratering. Because what follows will be another decline in payroll, another season with only a faint hope of contention, and more declining attendance when the most marketable face of the franchise in decades, Andrew McCutchen, is traded.
Before fans have completely checked out on the 2017 season, and some are lost until they check in again after the next Penguins’ playoff run, or perhaps perpetually checked out, the Pirates would do well to show their fans that they should still care.
Do everything in their power to extend Andrew McCutchen.
Not this winter after you’ve shopped him to half the league again.
Not next summer when he’s about to become a free agent.
There are other steps to take over the offseason, but the best way to compete for a championship in 2018 – and to bring your fans back from the brink of apathy – is to extend McCutchen now, before you’re staring down your lowest attendance of the Clint Hurdle/Neal Huntington era in what could be the final season for each.
And for many fans.