Monday, June 8, 2009

The Pirates Scuttle the Ship

As a Milwaukee Brewers fan, I should be rejoicing at the trade that sent All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team's only serious offensive threat, to another division. Instead, I'm in mourning along with the fans of a once-proud American sports franchise.

The Pirates' wretched "trade" of McLouth to the Atlanta Braves for prospects is no cause for celebration by anyone in the league (except the Braves). A vibrant major league sport requires vibrant ownership, willing to invest in quality players. The Pirates had signaled that they were, at last, ready to sit at the big kids' table when they signed McLouth to a three-year deal, paying him a salary approximating his market value. McLouth responded in kind, leading the team this season in home runs, runs batted in, and slugging percentage.

With this stinker of a move, the Pirates resume their insidious pattern of removing any player of All-Star caliber; Aramis Ramirez, Jason Bay, and Xavier Nady come to mind as previous examples. The lone exception has been Jack Wilson, but they've tried to trade him, too. Pirates players and fans alike are seething, not only at the crippling of the team's current roster -- again -- but at the dishonesty of the new management team in claiming that this move helps the club (no, really!).

It's particularly appalling for Pirates owner Robert Nutting to stay in the shadows as his top management team spins and spins, trying to depict a financial move as a baseball move. Truth is, however, observant fans could see this coming; as soon as the new management group was hired, supposedly signaling a break from the low aspirations of the past, team president Frank Coonelly said in a press conference that the team could make substantial progress by changing the team's attitude and culture without increasing the payroll, yo ho ho! Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

In the aftermath of the McLouth trade, two of Nate's former teammates reportedly lit a candle bearing his uniform number in the Pirates locker room. The last, sad rites for a sinking ship. Lower the Jolly Roger.

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