Last season, it was a baseball legend who took a shot at the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Eckersley, then in his final year as a Boston Red Sox broadcaster, said the Pirates’ lineup was a “hodgepodge of nothingness.” The Hall of Fame closer never apologized because, well, why be sorry for taking a shot at a 100-loss team?
This year, it was a baseball folk hero who took a dig at the Pirates. Chicago manager David Ross, the beloved backup catcher Grandpa Rossy from the Cubs’ 2016 World Series-winning team, was confounded that his team would lose two games of a three-game series to the Pirates at Wrigley Field.
“That’s not a good team that just took two out of three from us — or not our caliber team, I believe,” Ross told reporters last Thursday night after the Pirates beat the contending Cubs 8-6.
That caused a bit of a kerfuffle over the weekend. The Pirates were understandably a little peeved by Ross’ comments and a pocket of social media-fueled fans called the Cubs skipper everything but Grandpa Rossy.
However, Ross’ frustration was understandable.
The Pirates dealt a potential blow to the postseason hopes of the Cubs, who have stumbled down the stretch. Furthermore, the Cubs had gone 9-1 against the Pirates this season prior to last week’s series.
To his credit, Pirates manager Derek Shelton took the high road when asked by reporters about Ross’ comments.
“I saw them,” Shelton said. “It’s unfortunate that he chose to make them about our team instead of his team. Over the last 60 games, we’ve played really well. I would rather focus on our club and the fact that we’re playing good baseball right now.
“I know they won the season series against us, but I’m happy we finished strong against them. I’m more focused on the fact that we battled back against them after losing the first game to win the last two at their ballpark.”
Shelton has been around the game long enough to realize that nobody ever wins in a war of words. While it does make for interesting content, Ross’ comment essentially meant little.
Unsurprisingly, Ross texted Shelton with an apology.
Some angry Pirates fans might think Ross should have called Shelton instead of using electronic communication. This is 2023, though, and no one talks with anyone anymore, which makes me sad – and shows my age.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for every team we play, not just Pittsburgh,” Ross said. “Every team can win. I think Derek and that crew over there has done a really nice job. Part of this job, you’re not always going to be perfect in these meetings and sometimes after a game, postgame, you’re going to say things that probably don’t come out the right way.”
I believe Ross.
Perhaps only hardcore fans remember that Ross spent part of the 2005 season with the Pirates and appeared in 40 games. Pittsburgh was one of Ross’ seven teams during his 15-year career.
However, Ross made a strong impression during his limited time in Pittsburgh. Then-manager Lloyd McClendon loved Ross’ leadership skills. In fact, McClendon once told me he thought Ross would end up being a major-league manager someday.
Even though Ross was a short-timer with the Pirates, he has mentioned to me more than once over the years how much he enjoyed playing in Pittsburgh. Every time our paths cross, he always wants to be updated on the Pirates.
So, I’d put zero stock in Ross’ comments, which were made in the heat of the moment.
Eckersley was trying to be a wise guy. However, knowing Ross, one of baseball’s good guys, it’s hard to imagine ever being a villain.