Commentary: Pirates are still the same
August 03, 2014 1:54 AM
by JOHN STEIGERWALD

Is it business as usual for the Pirates?

The Pirates are still playing winning baseball, and they’re still contending for a division championship in August.

That’s a major departure from what we saw from 1992 to 2013, but are they changing their philosophy or the approach as fans and many in the media seem to believe?

Not really.

Getting David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays or Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox at the trading deadline might have indicated a change, but that didn’t happen. 

The Pirates are better because they are benefiting from all of those bad seasons that resulted in high draft picks. Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker are the two best examples.

Pedro Alvarez hasn’t looked like much of a benefit lately, but he was last year when he led the National League in home runs and could throw.

They are also benefiting from players picked off the same scrap heap that they were picking from during those 20 losing seasons.

They have either discovered how to recondition terrible pitchers or gotten amazingly lucky with Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez and the recently departed Jason Grilli.

Signing Starling Marte and McCutchen to longterm contracts long before they were arbitration eligible was a departure, but that’s mostly because the Pirates were doing what they always do, trying to save money. 

When the Pirates sign or trade for a $100 million-plus player in the offseason or at the trading deadline, you’ll know that the Nutting family has changed its approach.

Don’t hold your breath.

• Oakland Al would be proud.

That would be the late Oakland Al Davis, former owner of the Oakland-Los Angeles-Oakland-soon-to-be-somewhere-else Raiders.

The team’s slogan has always been one of Al’s favorite expressions: “Just Win, Baby.”

It could just as easily be “Just Move, Baby.” 

The franchise has moved a lot more than it’s won lately. It began in Oakland in 1960, moved to Los Angeles in 1982 when Al didn’t get the new stadium he wanted from the fine citizens of Oakland and then moved back to Oakland in 1994 when he didn’t get the stadium he wanted from the fine citizens of Los Angeles. Al died in 2011 and his son, Mark, took over the team, and he didn’t fall far from his father’s tree.

He’s threatening to move again.

The Raiders could be headed back to Los Angeles, the city that the NFL has used since 1994 to extort money from stupid, corrupt politicians in other cities to get new and/or improved stadiums for multiple franchises. In an astonishing display of civic duty, the NFL has actually floated the idea of paying for the stadium with league money.

In the meantime, Mark has floated the idea of moving the team to San Antonio. He has actually met with stupid, corrupt public officials there who, while wining, dining and taking him on a helicopter tour of the city, promised to do whatever it takes to bring the Raiders there.

The lying has already begun.

Davis said he just happened to be passing through San Antonio when he ran into his old friend, former mayor Henry Cisneros, and Henry mentioned something about moving his football team there. 

The city manager released a memo saying that she had met with Davis after he had expressed interest in moving to her city.

Mark says he doesn’t want much — just a small, intimate stadium that seats 50,000 fans and has room for a spot to “put a statue of my father.”

And three or four hundred million dollars.

That’s at least how much it would cost San Antonio taxpayers to build a new stadium for the Raiders after the Alamodome outlived its usefulness in a few years.

And Davis has already told officials in Oakland that he could cough up $300 million for a new stadium there.

The NFL would add $200 million more if the taxpayers would be kind enough to have $300 million more confiscated from them.

It’s hard to believe that this is still going on.

Oakland officials have already started sweetening the pot because of Davis’ not-so-secret trip to Texas.

There has been no political scandal in America larger or worse than the bi-partisan (Republicans have no shame when it come to this stuff) fleecing of taxpayers by state and local politicians to enrich the owners of sports teams who, for decades, have also had the benefit of a government-granted monopoly.

And it would not be possible without the media, most of whom can be counted on to do the cheerleading for the billionaire owners, who are either trying to extort the local politicians by threatening to leave, or promising pie-in-the-sky economic benefits to the soon-to-be-fleeced taxpayers in their new location.

The sad thing is that the people of San Antonio and Oakland would probably benefit more from the government throwing a billion dollars out of a helicopter than they will from a billion-dollar stadium that sits empty 340 days a year.

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