Sometimes, I wonder what it is the kiddies in the Pittsburgh Pirates marketing department are smoking when they come up with their annual marketing slogans. Are they deliberately trying to give frustrated, jaded Pirates fans yet another vehicle to ridicule what is already the laughing stock of Major League Baseball? Or are they just naive, well-meaning baseball fans that are trying to generate buzz about the Pirates, especially now that the Bucs will be hosting the All-Star Game?
Last year, the slogan for the season was "Come Hungry!!" And the marketers used the motif of a diner, and players were described as preferring opposing batters smoked, and pitchers heavily battered, and other marginally witty sayings. They wanted to point out that this Pirate team was hungry for wins, and was chomping at the bit to bring prestige, or at least respectability back to Pittsburgh. This was going to be a team that would play scrappy baseball, and never give up. Well, the fans came hungry...and left famished. The Buccos flirted with .500 for about a week in late May, and then the players realized: "Damn, we're the Pirates. We're not supposed to be at .500. We're supposed to be in the doghouse by now", and like a self-fulfilling prophecy, they proceeded to go into one of the greatest tank jobs ever seen in MLB history ending up only winning 67 games against 95 losses and forcing the firing of one Lloyd McClendon, the manager who was well-intentioned, but clearly over his head. The players lost respect for the manager, and when that happens, the team is dead in the water.
Well, the front office realized that if they didn't do something PDQ, it wouldn't make a difference if the Pirates hosted the All-Star Game until kingdom come, the fans would just decide not to show up anymore, so they hired Dick, I mean, Jim Tracy from the Dodgers to man the helm of this sinking schooner, and they also brought in crusty veterans Sean Casey from the Reds, and Jeromy Burnitz from the Cubs to complement the young'uns Oliver Perez and Jason Bay. And so far on the young season the Pirates are 0-5, off to their worst start in 32 years. And I'll just leave it at that.
Back to the marketing madness. This year's slogan for the 2006 season is...(drum roll, please) "WE WILL." Yes, We Will. We Will, What?? How much time and effort went into coming up with this pithy, but useless slogan. For beginning bloggers like me, this is a perfect chance to come up with all sorts of fun things to add to "WE WILL", Such as...
1. Continue to charge $ 5.00 for a limp hot dog, $4.25 for barely warm nachos, and $2.50 for hyper caffeinated Pepsi to watch a team that hasn't had a winning season in 13 years.
2. Find new and exciting ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
3. Continue to sign washed up rent-a-players, that will play out the string with varying degrees of success until we trade them to playoff contenders at the trade deadline, whereby they will be major contributors to said contenders playoff runs culminating in an appearance in the World Series.
4. Give up on young talent waaaay too early and release them to other teams, where THEY will become major contributors to that teams later success.
5. Bring up the wrong players at the wrong time, the right players at the wrong time, but not the right players at the right time.
6. Continue to ply the sheep, I mean, fans with constant giveaways and fireworks displays to confirm the fact that this team is not marketable on the strength(!) of it's on-field play.
7. Zealously find a way to completely waste all the buzz and positive PR generated by hosting the All-Star Game.
8. Prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it doesn't make a diddy damn bit of difference about who manages the team, if you don't have enough good players, can't afford to get good players, and the players you do have aren't willing, interested, or capable of playing to their highest potential, your team will continue to suck.
9. Show that even if you have the nicest ballpark in the country, that no longer insures that you'll get the fans out in droves. Fans come to see the players on the field, not the field itself.
10. Continue to come up with stupid, inane marketing slogans that inspire few, but amuse many.
Despite my savaging of the Pirates in this piece, I still count myself a fan of the team, though I'm not a big fan of baseball in general, and Major League Baseball in particular. I go to 2-3 games a year, and I listen to the games on radio once in a while. I remember the days of Captain Willie, and We Are Fam-a-lee. I even cheered on the Buccos when they won those three straight division titles and had the heart ripped out of my chest by Francisco Cabrera of the Atlanta Braves when he brought home the winning run that killed the Pirate's chances to go to the World Series in 1992. I and many people in Pittsburgh still won't forgive Barry Bonds for candy-arming that throw from left field that failed to get Sid "Slow as a Turtle on Valium" Bream out at home plate. Maybe it's just frustration about 13 years of losing, and when I mean losing, I mean the kinds of seasons when the Pirates weren't even in the same era as the rest of the division. Being out of the running by June, that kind of losing. Losing 100 games in the same year that the new ballpark opened. Maybe it was a bad omen when the Pride of the Pirates, Willie Stargell passed away hours before PNC Park was to open for its first home game in 2001. Maybe there was a lot of bad mojo that mixed with the good vibes of Opening Day in the coolest ballpark in the Majors that cause some kind of temporal vortex of weird energy that plagued the Bucs that season. I don't know. I really do hope that the Pirates can have a good season. Maybe they can tap off the Steeler's success, and finally return Pittsburgh back to the City of Champions status it once had. Maybe after this season, I can come back to the blog and write about "WE WILL" in a positive light.