The Pittsburgh Pirates no longer deserve to be a part of Major League Baseball.
There, I said it. I have an odd sense of relief getting that off my chest; it was admittedly hard to put that into words, but now that I have it feels good.
A few years ago, there was a time when the Commissioner's offices for MLB talked about contracted a couple teams that were having issues being competitive; the Minnesota Twins drafted and developed players well and have been good for most of the last decade, while the Montreal Expos were relocated to Washington and continue to be bad.
At that time, the thought of wiping a couple franchises completely out of the game was met with a wide range of emotional responses. Many felt that there are just too many teams in the game already, so taking two away would just raise the average talent on every roster. Others felt that it would be a disservice to those markets to take a team away just because of mismanagement.
So here I am bringing the topic back up for discussion. And I mean it. The Pirates should be asked to fold up shop and go home.
I know they have a relatively new, beautiful stadium. So do the Nationals (who I wouldn't mind seeing gone also). But the reality is that this franchise has done nothing to show it cares about competing at any level other than bottom line for almost 20 years.
The biggest excuse has been that Pittsburgh is a small market. That's why idiots like Dave Littlefield have kept the Bucs payroll at ridiculous low numbers for the last decade. In fact, 2009 is the highest the team's payroll has been since 2003 at $48.7 million total.
But I'm not making this point based purely on the team's unwillingness to spend money. In this rough economy, there isn't a requirement to spend money to succeed. Last year's Tampa Bay Rays made it all the way to the World Series with a payroll of just over $43 million.
But Tampa drafted, traded for, and developed talent well. When they moved veterans, they did so in a way that their farm system grew. They stole the top prospects from other organizations (like taking Scott Kazmir from the Mets) to build a team around speed, power and talent.
The Pirates have given away studs for nothing annually since Barry Bonds left for San Francisco.
It isn't hard to be really, really bad. But when you have high draft picks on a yearly basis, and you trade away All Stars like Nate McLouth regularly for prospects, you should have players to build with and around.
But no. Not these Pirates. Johnny Depp might do a better job as their General Manager.
I want to circle back for a moment and look beyond their ridiculous inability to develop talent and speak more to their payroll. Using that as a crutch is a load of bull.
The Super Bowl Trophy is currently in Pittsburgh.
The Stanley Cup is currently in Pittsburgh.
And yet there are paper bags over fans' heads at PNC Park.
They made more headlines this winter for bringing two "prospects" into the organization from a reality show in India than for anything else. Two guys that threw harder than anyone else in the village got a minor league contract to learn how to play baseball.
There needs to be a serious discussion in the commissioner's office about how the Pirates are doing business. Perhaps another franchise that can't get a new stadium deal could relocate to Pittsburgh.
Or perhaps a consolidation of the Nationals and Pirates rosters would create one uber-mediocre team instead of two train wrecks. They could be the Voltron of bad baseball.
Either way, there's no excuse for the Pirates roster to be crying for leadership and for their management to stop trading their best players away for nothing. In this age of analysis and scouting, there is no reason for the Pirates to continue to be this bad.
With two championships being won in their city this calendar year, there should be more of an effort coming from the Pirates to keep up with the rest of their city. Maybe Bud Selig should consider forcing them to keep up with anyone else in baseball.