Oh, yeah, good times are right around the corner
You have to love the management of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They're clearly convinced that they can continue to feed the team's fans chicken poop and make them believe it's chicken salad. The latest evidence of that is the team's decision to pick up the option on manager John Russell's contract, keeping him in the fold through the 2010 season. I have no issue with teams taking the steps necessary to keep their field leaders from being lame ducks. Players tend to mail in their performances more often if they think the manager has one foot in the figurative grave. But the comments that accompanied Russell's contract extension were hilarious. General manager Neal Huntington said "J.R. met or exceeded expectations in his first year as the Pirates' manager." A little background here. The Pirates finished 67-95 in Russell's first season. The year before, they finished 68-94. Sorry, but I'm having a tough time seeing the progress. Oh, wait, here's more from Huntington: "His club worked hard to play the game properly and battled from the first out until the last." Oh, I get it now. They lost in the "proper" manner and tried really hard. Here's the bottom line: The Pirates sucked last year, just as they did the year before that and the year before that and ... I could go on and on, 16 seasons' worth of losing. And in the offseason, here's what the Pirates did to improve the team for 2008: absolutely nothing. The notion that Russell has some magic pixie dust that he can sprinkle on the same collection of average and below-average players and turn them into contenders is laughable. The owners of this team refuse to spend money on the product they put on the field. They'll toss you a few bobbleheads and have the occasional fireworks display, but the baseball itself, well, that appears to be a secondary consideration. Remember how this was all supposed to change when the taxpayer-funded PNC Park opened? Happy days were here again. The owners would have the money to buy some real players. Or fill their pockets while putting a Triple-A quality team on the field. Hmmm. Wonder which one they chose. I went to the first night game at PNC Park. Until the day comes when baseball restructures its salary system to include a salary cap that's fair to all teams, and until the day when the current owners of the Pirates sell to someone who does more than pay lip service to putting a major-league-quality team on the field, I won't spend another dollar there. Anyone who does is a boob. But you'll have the Nutting family's undying gratitude. So there's that.