It’s happened. It’s officially happened. I’ve remained mum on the situation for the past month or so, but tonight was the nail in the coffin.
The Pirates officially are a losing ball club with their loss to the Brewers tonight. .500 was the dream for fans for the better part of two decades and this had to be the year. There were nothing but talks of making the playoffs because .500 was a given. Seriously, 16 games over .500 in late July, how could it not happen?
The simple question is who knew that the Pirates being .500 in September could be this painful?
As I wrote in a column a few weeks back, fans would take this any day, but it’s the way that they got here. Oh yeah, that post was about if the Pirates missed the playoffs, would the season still be a success because they were “a lock” to finish with a winning record.
It’s not over yet. The playoff chances aren’t mathematically over, but yeah, throw those out the window. But what about this current team tells you they are going to even finish over .500? Their offense resembles the April/May Pirates of this year, but there is only one problem with that – the pitching is nowhere near where they were then.
So every team needs a scapegoat. The Penguins fans turn on Marc-Andre Fleury. Steelers fans don’t have Bruce Arians to blame anymore, but Ben Roethlisberger is still around. For the Pirates, it comes down to Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle. I’ve seen nothing but get rid of Hurdle and Huntington for the past few days. Is that the answer?
Is it really the answer to get rid of Huntington for not spending at the trade deadline? Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the team should have spent money on a Hunter Pence or Shane Victorino. Collier’s logic was that if they don’t perform, then that is on them. It’s the most asinine analysis I have ever heard.
Then there is Chase Headley. Ah yes, Mr. Headley. He has torn up the National League since the trade deadline and automatically, the attention has shifted to the Pirates and why they didn’t acquire him. Nevermind his asking price. Nevermind that NO other teams in the league did either. My biggest question to the Headley supporters, and don’t get my wrong, I do think he’s a superb talent, is do you really think that Headley alone would have stopped this collapse?
And that’s exactly what this is, it is a collapse. At first, I considered it a fading away by the Pirates, but going 15-31 since August 1st and 4-14 this month, it can’t be categorized as anything else.
But should Huntington be trusted to sign a free agent again after the failures that were Erik Bedard, Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas? What about the the signings before of Ryan Church, Ramon Vasquez or Eric Hinske. What about his ability to evaluate the offensive talent on his own team? Brandon Moss, Pedro Ciriaco, Luis Cruz, Ryan Ludwick and hell, even Nate McLouth are all contributing in big ways for their current teams.
What about Hurdle? Should he go? My answer is absolutely not. Sure he is the scapegoat for fans and he has suffered his second straight collapse with the team. Has he mismanaged at times? 100 percent yes. Let me go on record to say that Hurdle is not a great manager or even in the upper half of managers in baseball, but he is the right guy for the Pirates.
He’s had the collapses, but he’s had the Pirates to where playoffs were actually being talked about for two straight seasons. Yes they have to finish like his shirts said in spring training, but it’s not all on Hurdle.
Could it be on the players? Outside of Andrew McCutchen, A.J. Burnett, Garrett Jones, Jason Grilli, Joel Hanrahan and Neil Walker doesn’t deserve criticism? Could James McDonald have been pitching over his head in the first half? Is Hurdle to blame for Neil Walker getting hurt? Or is Hurdle responsible for the bullpen imploding despite the fact that he’s as careful with his relief arms as any other manager in the game? Does he deserve some blame? Undoubtedly yes. Is it time for him to go? No.
Regardless, this was the nail in the coffin for the Pirates. Sure they can still salvage the season, but what makes you think they will turn it around? Even worse, if the team goes 20, 30 or even 40 games over .500 in July next year, why should the fans buy in? Some may argue of the 19 years of losing, possibly extending to 20, this may be the worst.
With a collapse of this magnitude, who am I to tell them different.
Photo Credits: Bleacher Report