PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — OK, let’s get this out of the way to start things off.
I want the Pirates to win.
It’s really all I have ever wanted.
I root for them and I’m just fine saying it because I’m not a reporter anymore — I’m someone who simply opines about sports in my hometown that I love so dearly.
And, yes, I love the Pirates.
That said, when the Chicago Cubs finally ended their championship drought as Wednesday turned into Thursday with a Game 7 win in Cleveland, some of the first questions for me centered around the Pirates.
How should Pirates fans feel?
How will the Pirates overtake the Cubs in the NL Central?
Can the Pirates overtake the Cubs — and Cardinals for that matter — in the NL Central?
If the Pirates got into a playoff series, how could they match the Cubs over five or seven games?
With Rizzo, Zobrist, Bryant, Russell, Baez and Contreras all under the Cubs’ control until at least 2021, how are the Pirates ever going to win this division in the near future?
Will the Pirates do enough in the offseason to try to offset the seemingly limitless funds the Cubs have?
I started thinking about all those questions and then I got depressed. That’s the truth; that’s my reality as someone who has a one chief baseball rooting interest — to see the Pirates win a World Series before I die. You see, I was born Dec. 18, 1976 so I don’t remember the 1979 team that captivated this city and, for the most part, all of baseball. I’ve only read about them and seen the old video — for me, that isn’t good enough.
I want to see it with my own eyes.
Know what else isn’t good enough and I want to see with my own eyes? This Pirates ownership group pony up some more.
Talk all you want about how money doesn’t translate to wins and throw some jumbled and complex equation at me, and I’ll come back with a couple things:
First, I just saw the team that spent a whole bunch of money win a championship. I saw that with my own eyes. It happened, right there on my TV.
Secondly, just two teams in the past 20 years who spent in the bottom half of Major League Baseball’s payroll — the Marlins in 2003 and Royals in 2015 — have won a World Series.
That’s a fact.
According to spotrac.com, which tracks such things, The Pirates finished 2016 with a $105,866,836 payroll.
That ranked 25th out of 30 teams to end the season.
The Brewers (at about $75M) were the only NL Central team that paid out less.
For comparison sake, the Cubs’ payroll was $186M, the Cardinals’ was $166M and the Reds — who won just 68 games — paid out $114M in salary, or $9M more than the Pirates.
How is that good enough?
How isn’t all this an issue?
How shouldn’t the Pirates be spending more?
Look, I’m not a loon and I’m not asking for Bob Nutting and the ownership group to do something ridiculous such as the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers did by spending more than $200M on salary this season. That would be flat-out stupid for this franchise.
There is a middle ground, though.
What I’m asking is this: Why shouldn’t the fanbase of this franchise expect the Pirates — if the owner truly wants to be competitive – to spend on par with the Royals, Mariners, Padres, Rockies and Indians?
All those teams spent more.
Why can’t the fanbase expect, because of the successes of the last few seasons (this past year notwithstanding) the team to be right near the top half watermark of payroll in Major League Baseball?
Why can’t the Pirates be 16th or 17th or somewhere around there?
In my opinion, finishing fifth from the bottom in payroll simply isn’t good enough; it doesn’t show a good-faith effort to the fans of this franchise who have paid it forward by putting their butts in those seats and supported the Pirates.
Why does a team that won 98 games and had overwhelming box office success in 2015 only take on a nominal amount of salary moving into the 2016 season and not strike when many thought it was hottest to strike?
These questions are all fair.
In my estimation, more than fair.
What isn’t a question but seems damn near fact is that this is a really important offseason for owner Bob Nutting and, subsequently a very important 2017 season on the horizon.
The Cubs winning the World Series — and showing no signs of slowing down in the coming seasons — made it all that more pressure-filled.
I don’t know the answers for the Pirates, I really don’t.
But what I unequivocally know is all I’ve ever wanted is to see is a World Series title (or at least appearance) with my own eyes. And no matter what narrative someone spins at me, I really think a good start to cutting a trail down that path would be spending some more money.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.