It happens every year. Just like Mother Nature intended.
The swallows return to San Juan Capistrano. The buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio. The Pirates trade away their veterans for other people's prospects and suspects. Yes, it has become that automatic.
Pirate fans have known for at least a week that they would be waving good-bye to Jack Wilson and Freddie Sanchez after both rejected low-ball offers from the clubs on contract extensions that would have cost them millions of dollars.
Wilson has barely survived the last two offseasons to return in a Pirate uniform and Sanchez priced himself out of the market the second that his naming to the All-Star team virtually guaranteed him an $8 million bonus at the end of the season.
Those fans should also have expected that the deals would bring nothing in the way of known talent in return. Since his arrival Neal Huntington has been more concerned with a minor league system overflowing in bodies than saving the major league club another losing season.
Yesterday's moves simply connect those dots to places like Altoona and Charleston, West Virginia.
As it stands right now your Pittsburgh Pirates are guaranteed their record breaking 17th consecutive losing season and likely an 18th with at least one of those seasons tripping the loss column into triple digits.
Management seems perplexed that the moves have generally been panned in Pittsburgh and have all but guaranteed that the Pirates will vanish from the public consciousness the second the first Steeler sets foot at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. For the average Pittsburgh sports fan baseball season ends Friday night at 6:00pm.
What management still doesn't get is that fans have seen this movie before and they hate the ending. The Pirates have been through more five year plans than the Kremlin in the last decade and a half and none of them have worked.
Baseball America says that the recent deals have landed the club more than a handful of top 100 prospects. Then again the same publication told us that Brad Eldred and Chad Hermansen were can't miss prospects too. Remember either one of these guys?
Realistically the Pirates have put themselves in the position of lowering the payroll to the point that revenue sharing will pay for all of it both this season and next.
These moves also assure that the earliest that this club might compete for a playoff position of any sort is 2012 or 2013. How many more Super Bowls and Stanley Cups will have been paraded through town by then?
Pirate management needs to get a clue and spend some money, starting tomorrow. It's going to be very tough to get free agents to come here and it's more than likely the team would have to overpay most of them.
Still the club needs to make some gesture to the fans that it understands their pain and is ready and willing to do something about it. A .500 club with a handful of prospects knocking down the doors to get into PNC Park would go a long way toward making amends to the long-suffering fan base.
A $30 million payroll two straight years is not the answer.
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