The Pittsburgh Pirates won the MLB draft lottery and will have the top overall pick in the 2023 MLB amateur player draft.
That’s the good news, I suppose.
The accompanying celebration as the Pirates’ management learned the lottery result was enough to make the most ardent pierogi muncher run for the nearest sickbag. Not only did the Pittsburgh Pirates organization celebrate like they accomplished something grand, but they also did so boisterously on video.
Typical tone-deaf Pirates. They have nary a clue why fans have graduated from disappointed to angry, rageful to … gone.
The moment we found out!! pic.twitter.com/sf18aKF1lr
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) December 7, 2022
The Pirates’ misplaced celebration was like watching a football team’s choreographed dance after scoring a touchdown despite trailing 56-7 in the fourth quarter.
It was like watching a hockey player ride the pony in a goal celebration despite trailing 6-1.
It was nothing short of stomach-turning and showed every bit of the Pirates’ tin ear to understand their lowly place in the sports world.
They’re not even a joke anymore. The butt of jokes must have some relevance, and the Pirates barely register in the consciousness of one of the most loyal sports towns. People go to PNC Park. People do not go to see the Pirates. Fans and the next generation of fans are so detached they no longer shrug when a crumbling pitcher in his late 30s signs a two-year deal worth well more than the Pirates roster.
(Justin Verlander has clearly beaten the Matrix).
Eventually, every prisoner gives up.
Yet the guards celebrated the fruits of losing.
They realize they won the top overall pick because they stunk, right? They not only stunk last season, but they have also wreaked for several seasons, racking up over 200 losses in the last two years.
Only a COVID-shortened season prevented the previous sentence from including 300 losses in three years. But understand, their rag-tag roster of reluctant free agents unable to catch on elsewhere and second-tier prospects burdened with the stench of disrepair confronting their development has reached a remarkable level of irrelevancy usually reserved for MySpace pages or Winger cassettes.
Yet, the look was jaw-dropping as Pirates president Travis Williams, who has not made a public appearance or statement in two years, fist pumped, and the boys celebrated like a frat party tapping the first keg on Friday afternoon.
The Pirates no longer bother putting their highest people in front of the media. There are no more good answers as 10s of millions annually pass through baseball fans to an owner’s “business” supposedly to be used at a future date when the team is competitive.
The chances to spend that money on the stated intentions have passed by with only excuses and obfuscated logic.
Ben Cherrington, now. Neal Huntington and Dave Littlefield, before. Five-year plans and GMs come and go. Each plied their trade before realizing it was a fool’s errand. First picks have come and gone, too. From Kris Benson to Gerrit Cole, unsurprisingly, they achieved greater success elsewhere.
You know the appropriate response, Pirates?
A polite clap. An acknowledgment the franchise earned the “honor” through failure — years of failure to produce prospects, attract competent free agents, and an absence of will at the highest level to do whatever it takes to be competitive.
The Pirates stink again! High Five! YEAH, FIRST-OVERALL PICK, BABY!
So, in 2026, if all goes well, this “celebration” will have yielded a major league player. Bryan Reynolds will be long gone. Big glove, soft bat Ke’Bryan Hayes will be heading toward free agency. Oneil Cruz will be eligible for arbitration and in line for a hefty payday if he’s any good.
We could probably craft the Pirates’ press release now for the 2026 Cruz trade. Something, something, “financial flexibility and cost certainty.”
And it isn’t like the Pirates have a crop of blue-chip prospects who will be MLB-ready by 2025 or ’26 to surround their first overall pick.
Maybe Henry Davis, the first overall pick in 2021, but at 23 years old, he hit .207 with four homers in 31 games at Double-A Altoona.
Nope, at best, the 2022 first-overall pick will probably stand alone as Cruz and Reynolds do now.
A barren roster. Echoing voices as hundreds of fans fill a beautiful ballpark built for 40,000 to ensure competitiveness. And a city that quietly aches to be treated better.
A rowdy celebration would be less vomitous if the Pittsburgh Pirates had a few more moments of success in the last 30 years. Rebuilding is a necessary evil for small market teams. Terminal surrender while hiding behind closed doors or spouting cliches about really wanting to win — despite no evidence to support the claim — is not OK.
A little shot of humbleness, a swig of contrition, would go down much smoother than another big gulp of celebrating more failure.