ST. LOUIS – When his former player and long-time Rockies first baseman Todd Helton played his final home game at Coors Field this season, the Rockies asked Pirates manager Clint Hurdle to pass along a message to be part of a tribute to honor the most iconic player in franchise history.
Part of Hurdle’s message to Helton and Denver inhabitants was a variation of a Dr. Seuss quote:
“Don’t be sad because it’s over, be glad it happened.”
The same could and should be said of the Pirates’ 2013 season. It is the proper context.
Life lessons and proper context via Green Eggs and Ham
What struck me in the Pirates’ post-game clubhouse late last night was that there was not an overwhelming sense of loss or sadness. There was no agony. There was a bittersweet sense of accomplishment. There was a feeling 2013 was a real achievement and just the beginning. That’s what Jordy Mercer said. That’s what Andrew McCutchen thought. That’s what Neil Walker told me. This wasn’t like 1992, when small-market economics were about to tear apart Pittsburgh’s last postseason team. The core of this team expects to play together for years.
So don’t be sad, be glad that the Pirates stopped wasting premium picks and made the right evaluation on Gerrit Cole in the 2011 draft. (Some thought UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer was a superior player. ESPN’s mock had Danny Hultzen going No. 1). So even though the Pirates were picking at 1-1, it still wasn’t a full proof lock ensuring future stardom. The right decision and evaluation had to be made.
Don’t be sad Cole made one mistake Wednesday, allowing a two-run homer to David Freese on hanging curve, be glad the curveball came along. It helped Cole develop into baseball’s most valuable type of asset in the second half: a young, cost-controlled ace pitcher. He’s under club control until 2019.
Don’t be sad that you’re going to have to wait 172 days until Opening Day, be glad not too long after that Jameson Taillon will likely be in the starting rotation to perhaps give the Pirates the most enviable 1-2, Under-25 pitcher combo in baseball. Taillon struck out three in his first two Arizona Fall League innings this week.
Don’t be sad that you might have seen the last of A.J. Burnett, be glad Pirates have become the game’s premier rehab clinic for pitchers coming off down seasons. If they lose Burnett I suspect they’ll snag another free agent bargain (Phil Hughes?) and there’s a good chance there could be another bounce-back thanks to the ballpark and defensive plan.
Don’t be sad Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau are unlikely to return as free agents be glad the Pirates have Gregory Polanco in the pipeline. He could fill the right field void as early as 2014. He has more star potential than Starling Marte, namely because of plate discipline.
Don’t be sad that Hurdle didn’t pull every in-game lever you wanted. Be glad Hurdle got the entire roster and coaching staff to buy into perhaps the most aggressive defensive game plan baseball has witnessed. It was a competitive advantage for the Pirates in 2013 and it could be again in 2014 as baseball is typically glacier-paced at making change.
Don’t be disheartened that the Pirates will likely again rank in the lower third of payroll, but glad they have creative minds like Dan Fox and Mike Fitzgerald in the front office who were responsible in large part for the shifts.
Will the Pirates win 94 games again in 2014?
Will they again advance to the postseason?
I don’t know.
There are question marks at shortstop, first base, right field and in the starting rotation. There are no guarantees. Injuries could increase, players – most notably the bullpen – could regress. But be glad the Pirates’ deep and talented farm system give the organization a chance to be consistently competitive during the rest of the decade.
The Dr. Suess quote verbatim is this: Don’t cry because it’s over smile because it happened.
Thanks for reading and visiting this blog. It was a fun ride to observe and chronicle in 2013 and don’t disappear during the offseason as I’ll still be blogging and the season really never ends with the Arizona Fall League now commencing and free agency and the winter meetings to follow. The Pirates laid a keystone in 2013. But the challenge is to build upon it and we’ll be following along. The offseason is another story worth following.