I'm a huge fan of Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski. He's a great writer, insightful and thoughtful and always up for debate. He's a SABR fan but appreciates intangibles. Plus, he's a KC Royals fan, so I've always felt we had a kinship in our love of formerly-great-now-crappy franchises.
So I was a little surprised when, in his latest blog post, I saw the line: "The Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals should trade leagues."
His argument is: KC would get a St. Louis rivalry and a shot in the arm. Pittsburgh would never finish sixth again, get a rivalry with Cleveland and maybe Detroit, and a shot in the arm.
He does acknowledge, rather mildly, that the Pirates have about 120 years of history in the NL, and that "I don’t know if Pittsburgh fans would revolt against the idea of moving leagues after all these years."
Well I'm not sure if JoePos is just looking for something to offer in exchange for his Royals, or what, but I don't really see how a baseball fan can treat a team's roots into the 1880s as a tangential concern.
Don't get me wrong; I would love to have an Indians rivalry, and I think my hatred of the Red Wings has enough juice to overflow into a Tigers rivalry (though my love for Leyland would get tricky). Those things would be nice, and if the Pirates are ever good again, I expect interleague play could even fuel such a thing.
And I would love change. Boy, would I love change. Every Pirates fan would. When the Brewers are outscoring your team by factors of 20, you'd be crazy not to. A buddy of mine commented that he thinks Neal Huntington should have those scores and dates tattooed on his arm the way John Fetterman does with every murder in Braddock. I'm all for it. I want this team to win more than I want lots and lots of far more utilitarian things.
But it is frankly a little insulting to think that, just because the Pirates are terrible and we like rivalries, we Pirates fans are lining up to do anything we can for a change. Why not change the team colors, move the team to Cranberry, and call them the "Stealers" because hey, Pirates steal shit from boats? I mean, it would energize the team!
Yes, the Pirates are bad. We've had bad ownership, bad management, and bad players for a long time now. It feels like crap as a fan. But we also have history, and tradition, and memories - good and bad - that we can take some pride in, either as former glory (Clemente) or as war wounds (Sid Bream). We're not the Miami Heat, whose first two retired numbers were those of Dan Marino and Michael Jordan (they've since added the worthy Alonzo Mourning, but wouldn't that have been better had he been the actual first?).
We're bad, but we know we're bad because we were once good, and we have hope because we can remember what it felt like to be good. In Pittsburgh (physically or emotionally), things move slowly. We're surrounded by our history. We take pride in the time it took us to build things, even when we're frustrated by the status quo. There are times when we're desperate for change, but we're never in desperation.
So sorry, Joe. Keep your American League Central, your Designated Hitter, and your Royals. Or offer the trade to the Reds. We're fine right here, thanks.