BRADENTON, Fla — Over the past few days, I’ve tried in my stories from spring training to sort of take the temperature of the Pirates and give you a sense of what the mood is like as the team prepares for its 127th season.
I’ve spoken with owner Bob Nutting and the new front-office team, manager John Russell and his coaches, the support staff around Pirate City, veteran players, rookies and new arrivals. This afternoon, I hung out for a while and chatted with Chuck Tanner and Manny Sanguillen.
Sanguillen’s opinion echoed what I heard from practically everyone else. “I see a lot of new things here,” Sangy said. “I really feel we’re moving up. They have good work habits now, like we used to have. They have the talent. We just have to help them get better and believe in themselves, believe they can do it. I know they can do the job.”
After 15 straight losing seasons — man, am I sick and tired of typing that phrase — I was skeptical about whether Nutting really wants to spark a turnaround. But I’ve seen enough small, positive steps so far to believe he warrants some trust. The new infrastructure. The gutting of the front office. The removal of those silly “We will” signs. The roster moves. (Oh, they haven’t happened yet. But they’re coming …)
Building a winning franchise from the rubble of the past 15 years is sort of like trying to turn the Titanic — it’s a large thing and it’s got some momentum, so you’ve got to do it gradually, gently and firmly.
In one or two years, will “Pride. Passion. Pirates.” be just another laughable slogan? I can’t say right now. But I’m willing to wait and see.
We’ll check in again on this topic around Aug. 1. By then, a few things should come into sharper focus.