A long, long time ago, in a league far, far away, the Pittsburgh Pirates were good. They used to have the best player in baseball. The Giants stole him away. After the player left, the Pirates went into one of the worst tailspins in the history of professional sports. The last time the Pirates finished over .500, Bryce Harper wasn't born. Meanwhile, the Giants used that Pirates player to do all sorts of exciting things.
Since then, the Pirates have been playing the veterans-fer-prospects game. It's a tricky game, and it doesn't always work out. Heck, it rarely works out, but downtrodden teams have to keep trying it. There's no other choice. But every so often, a team like the Pirates trades away a good or well-liked player, and they actually receive something of value in return. That's how it's supposed to work
In 1996, the Pirates traded their best pitcher, Denny Neagle, away. In return for that pitcher, they received a young, inconsistent, but highly prized starting pitcher. They nurtured him. They developed him. They put up with his ups and downs, hoping that one day he'd become their ace. Oh, lord, how they wanted him to become an ace. But Jason Schmidt never became an ace with the Pirates. He was just a useful, above-average rotation cog. So they traded him for yet more prospects.
The Giants took Schmidt and used him to get to the World Series. Then he turned into an ace! That was fun. For the Giants.
But the Pirates kept on keepin' on, shipping more and more veterans out in exchange for players who could help them finish .500, if not make the playoffs. And they finally struck gold when they made a deadline deal to send Jeff Suppan to the Red Sox. Success! They received a 25-year-old second baseman, and for several years, he was the team's best player. He was beloved, a three-time All-Star and fan favorite. But, alas, they had to trade him for prospects when the cycle came around again.
The Giants took Freddy Sanchez and used him to win the World Series. All the Pirates wanted to do was just get to the stupid playoffs one time with that guy.
And as if this isn't enough, the prospect that went over in the Jason Schmidt trade? Ryan Vogelsong. A total bust. One of the worst pitchers in recent history before he blew his arm out. After 101 of the absolute worst-pitched games that Pittsburgh has ever suffered through, they released him. Five years later, surprise! He's good again. Really good. And on the Giants.
Just about every one of the best things the Giants have experienced over the last two decades had to do with the Pirates. More specifically, the Giants stepping on the neck of the Pirates to reach something on the top shelf. It's eerie. It's enough to make a Giants fan feel a little uncomfortable.
The Giants are the Pirates' Marlins.
Think about it. It's true. The Giants have been like a drunk, dumb, blind moose, stumbling around a vegetable patch, tromping all over perfectly good things, eating whatever it wants, leaving moose doots on the porch, and eventually falling into … whatever it is that's most desirable for a moose. Like, great moose sex, or a cave filled with antler wax.
Yet, has a Pirates fan ever walked up to you and punched you right in the dong-shaped golden target on the back of your hat? No. They're respectable people. Good people. A little skittish from all the losing and whatnot, but good people.
So the Pirates are good again. Ten games over .500. First place. They teased the baseball world last year, but now it looks they're having an honest-to-goodness magical season. Their bullpen is otherworldly. Apparently Jason Grilli is one of the best relievers in baseball now? They've won eight of their last nine games. This could be their year.
And after reading all of that up there, after realizing that the Giants have been duplicitous, opportunistic, greedy jerks at the expense of the Pirates, are you telling me that you aren't pulling for the Pirates at least a little bit this series?
Nah, me neither. But best of luck after this is all over! Seriously. We're all pulling for you down at the station.
Hitter to watch
Andrew McCutchen has always been one of my favorite non-Giants, and now this year he's in Super McCutchen mode. He's locked up through 2018, and he's just the best. After all the prospects-to-veteran-to-more-prospects cycles the Pirates went through, it's nice to see them stick with a guy and use him to win. It's a great story.
Again, not this weekend, preferably.
Pitcher to watch
James McDonald should be on the Dodgers right now. They traded him to the Pirates for 18 innings of relief from Octavio Dotel. The Dodgers were five games out of the Wild Card race. It was the most inexplicable trade I can think of, save Vernon Wells for Mike Napoli.
Did I mention this before? Yeah, I probably did. But it's one of my things. I'll mention it as long as it fascinates me. The trade was that awful. Colletti'd like a ************.
Also of note: McDonald's single was the only thing between Matt Cain and a perfect game earlier this year. Such a drag. You don't get a lot of those chances in your career.
A.J. Burnett still kind of looks like that guy, and that'll make it hard to root for the Pirates, even after the Giants leave Pittsburgh.