The Pirates Need More than a Hall of Fame to Reconnect with Fans

Old school fans can remember and appreciate when the Pirates consistently put competitive teams on the field. Anything less than a championship was considered unacceptable.

The Pirates from yesteryear were a swashbuckling collection of talent, and many of those players became members of baseball's Hall of Fame.

How does the organization connect with a younger generation of fans who have suffered through mediocrity much of their lives?

Build a Hall of Fame at PNC Park, of course.

Of course.

A Hall of Fame is, indeed, warranted and a deserving gesture honoring members of the team's past.

Here's the skinny on how it will work:

Each season, beginning next spring, the Pittsburgh Pirates will induct former players, managers, broadcasters, and other famous individuals who played important roles in the organization's history.

Steve Blass, honored at Saturday night's game versus Cincinnati, will be one of the first to be inducted.

Congratulations to Mr. Blass, the consummate Pittsburgh Pirate if there ever was one.

With sixty years of service to the organization, first as a player, then as a broadcaster, Steve Blass could not have represented the Pittsburgh Pirates in a more classy way.

While the Pirates are smart to offer a constant reminder to fans the greatness of this once-proud organization, given the team's last championship was forty years ago, a younger generation of fans has never witnessed sustained success for the Pirates, let alone a World Series championship.

It is this very segment of the fanbase with which the organization needs to connect.

Attendance has declined since 2015 and advance ticket sales for 2020 do not look promising.

With a disappointing 2019 in the books, the team will need to have a productive off-season in order to offer fans hope 2020 will be an improvement.

Erecting a Hall of Fame is one thing. Making sound baseball decisions would be another.

PNC Park needs to have a different look on the field in 2020, as well.

Let's face it. Neal Huntingdon had a rough year.

Injuries not only derailed the season, those injuries - and some misfortune - revealed glaring weaknesses in organizational depth.

If we could only reach back to 1972 for Steve Blass...

Far too often, the Pirates were forced to start the Alex McCraes of the world, with predictable results. Mitch Keller, in limited action, looks to be worthy of the 2020 starting rotation.

The addition of Keller won't be enough.

Despite a 90 loss season, the Pirates have some solid position pieces heading into next year.

The emergence of Brian Reynolds and Kevin Newman offer hope. Josh Bell's breakout season was certainly a bright spot.

However, counting on Keller, possibly Steven Brault, Dario Agrazal, and, perhaps, the return of Chad Kuhl to go along with Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Archer does not appear to coincide with constructing a championship caliber roster.

Can you name a number one starter from that group? Can you name a number two?

Go ahead. I'll wait.

Keller may be a future ace, but he isn't anywhere close to being one in 2020. Williams and Musgrove are nice, middle of the rotation arms, and both offer a bulldog mentality every staff needs.

Chris Archer? His performance since joining the club at the 2018 trade deadline falls somewhere between a 2020 Comeback Player of the Year candidate and someone who will be designated for assignment.

Steven Brault showed signs of emerging into something this rotation desperately needs - a left-hander capable of going more than four innings a start. He isn't a lock for next season, though.

Improving the starting rotation would be just that - a starting point.

The bullpen, traditionally one of Neal Huntingdon's strengths, needs rebuilt as well.

Without Felipe Vazquez for the foreseeable future, the team will be looking for a closer. Keone Kela and Kyle Crick would seem to be front-runners for that role next season.

From there, it is literally a crapshoot.

Richard Rodriguez should return, along with Michael Feliz. The team is hopeful Edgar Santana returns from injury.

Will Francisco Liriano return next season?

Hopefully, Parker Markel, Yefry Ramirez, and a host of other DFA acquisitions will not.

Include Clay Holmes in that group, as well.

Please.

A team setting a record for most 10-run games allowed in a season cannot be satisfied with the aforementioned group of suspects.

While players such as Reynolds, Newman, and Bell led the offense, and with Marte - if he isn't dealt this off-season - having a solid year both offensively and defensively, many questions remain heading into the winter months.

Who will catch next season?

Will Gregory Polanco return healthy and, if so, will he be able to regain his 2018 form?

Is Colin Moran the everyday answer at third base?

Where do Cole Tucker and Jose Osuna fit into the lineup?

Huntingdon must do better.

The 2020 club may not have any future Hall of Famers on the field to complement those being enshrined into PNC's newest attraction. That isn't necessarily expected.

Adding much needed pitching to a solid core of position players, and finding answers to the questions posed here, however, SHOULD be expected. 

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Comments (2)
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CharlieJ
CharlieJ

Excellent analysis, John. Although I'd like to see Roberto or Bill Mazeroski inducted first. But as far as the 2020 Pirates are concerned, you hit it out of the park. Changes are needed to gield a competitive team.

1 Reply

John Griffith
John Griffith

I appreciate the feedback! I understand the team's reasoning for making Blass first, as he had continuous service with the organization but I agree with your sentiment. Huntington is now on the clock. If Hurdle was considered part of the problem - and I believe he was - then it is incumbent upon him to make the right moves this off-season (and that includes hiring the right replacement for Clint).