The Pittsburgh Pirates and artisanal baseball

Tom Guarriello warned me.

When I asked him to recommend an American team to a new arrived Canadian, he said.

"well, you could root for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but they are going to break your heart."

And sure enough, after a strong beginning, the Pirates are fighting for last place.

Loosing is pretty much what we do.  In the words of Luke Cypers, we have a chance at

16 straight losing seasons, matching the 1933-48 Phillies for the worst streak in major professional sports team history. Last year the Bucs lost 95 games. Before that, 94, 95, 95, 89, 87, 89, 100 … And that's just this decade. Every baseball prognosticator projected the Pirates would fail to reach .500 again this season.

But what if we've got this all wrong.  I wonder if we should take a page from Leonard Cohen and think of the Pirates as beautiful losers.   Not for us, anything so vulgar or gauche as a championship. I mean, winning is so obvious, so bereft of subtlety, so shrill.  

We play artisansal baseball. We make our wins in very small batches.  This is handmade baseball.  Bad to a purpose.  Sure, we could do the vulgar, crowd pleasing thing, but, really, wouldn't that be a distortion of our game, a compromise of our aesthetic, a corruption of what we stand for? 


Cyphers, Luke.  2009.  That was then, this (sigh) is now.  ESPN the Magazine.  May 27, 2009.  here.

6 thoughts on “The Pittsburgh Pirates and artisanal baseball

  1. Rick Liebling

    I grew up loving the Pirates of the late-70s/early-80s: Pops Stargell, Foli, Gardner, Madlock, Moreno, Parker, Tekulve, the Candy Man. LOVED the Pirates. Still loved them in the late-80s: Bobby Bo, Bonds, Van Slyke, Smiley, Drabek, Jose Lind, Sid Bream, Jeff King. Then I stopped rooting for them. Not because they were losing, I can live with that, but because the management was so God-awful. No plan, no idea how to build a team. I have a very eclectic, non-geographic, rooting interest: Red Sox, Steelers, Red Wings, Arsenal FC. What they have in common is strong management. Alas, the Bucs are still in the wildernss on this issue.

  2. Nigel Mellish

    “But what if we’ve got this all wrong. I wonder if we should take a page from Leonard Cohen and think of the Pirates as beautiful losers. ”

    Don’t do that, then you’ll be @ssholes like Cubs fans (and Red Sox fans until they finally won)

  3. Christopher

    Yes thank you Nigel. I grew up in Chicagoland as a rare breed: a White Sox Fan from the North Side. But GOD help me if I’d turned out to be a Cubs fan who make losing look gauche and entirely unsportsman-like . It’s not beautiful losers, its preppy douchebags clinging to losing because, well, a life of privilege means never having to lose, unless you want to in order to buy some sort of failure cred. That’s not artisanal — that’s buying distressed jeans at J. Crew. Gag.

  4. Michael

    As a proud Cubs fan who grew up in Chicagoland, I have to defend my team here! I have to say that nothing would make us happier than a World Series championship–I don’t know anyone who can stand the “lovable losers” tag, every single Cubs fan I’ve ever known hates that.

    Whew, Grant, you’ve brought up a much harsher subject than maybe you expected!

  5. Tom Guarriello

    I feel so bad about recommending my Buccos to you, Grant. Sixteen straight losing seasons. Sigh. But, we are a scrappy bunch this year and I have a strange feeling that we might just break .500. That would be a joy! More likely, however, the prospect of still another year of dashed hopes! No…I will not despair…Beat ’em Bucs! We will appreciate our wins so much more than those smug front-runners. Right? Someday…

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