As you can see, my Pittsburgh Pirates Care-O-Meter settled on the next-to-last level, "How Much Are Neil Walker bobbleheads going for on eBay?" The only reason that they ended up there is for about two and a half glorious sunny months, they gave us hope, which is more than they gave us for about two decades.
Granted--that's not enough. There aren't any "Best Participants Awards" in pro sports, nor should there be. The Pirates lost because they stunk, and that's not acceptable for 19 years. More respectable organizations would have long moved to Memphis or Jacksonville or Las Vegas long ago just so they could talk a silkwood shower after the disaster they've had in the steel city.
Now, despite the fact that I'm both a sports fan and an armchair numbers guy, I am surprisingly uninterested in the stat-heavy game of baseball. I can't tell you what the problem is. I can't say whether it's bad fielding or bunting or catching or whatever the hell it is they do out there. Of course, they can't either.
When it's all said and done, of course, Major League Baseball still has a money problem. Every year, the Yankees make the playoffs due to their outsized payroll. Instead of the standard salary cap, they simply pay a "luxury tax" which more or less gets distributed to small-market teams. Rather than discouraging huge payrolls, it simply lets small market teams (like the Pirates) be profitable with 19 losing seasons; why would they increase payroll and potentially lose, when financial success is not tied to games won? (As we have seen in football and (somewhat) in hockey, salary caps would all pretty much max out, leveling the playing field for all teams.) The owner of the Pirates can actually lose money when their team wins, you know something is wrong with the system.*
It doesn't have to be like this. The Milwaukee Brewers are a small-market teams and are currently in the playoffs, even with a reduced payroll. And the Pirates almost had it. So it can be done, but I just can't see why it can't be made easier. When one specific team had a 25% chance or so of winning each year, why bother winning when you can just make money?
Anyway, I think the Pirates will do okay. Hopefully next year we can sustain the victories long enough to make a decent season out of it. I don't expect competitive play for quite a few years, and I fear that there is a chance they will lapse back into awfulness. We will have to wait until next summer.
*This, in reality, would probably never, ever happen. But gone are the days where baseball teams are owned as novelties but are now integral business units. So it is a concern.