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Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened

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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.

 

 

greeneggs

 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.

 

-TS

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Comments

  1. B says:

    I’m only mad about one thing right now — I can’t wait for Cole’s first opportunity in 2014 to ear-hole Freese for the bush league 2nd inning curtain call. That is all

  2. Tom P. says:

    Travis,

    Thanks for your insights and hard work all year long. Most of us probably don’t appreciate the effort it takes to put out a quality product. Looking forward to another entertaining season next year.

  3. NorthPirateFans says:

    Dittos what Tom P said. Didn’t always agree with your views, but always appreciated your logical, rational and objective approach to just about every topic. It’s a refreshing change from the usual cheer-leading and parroting of front office talking points that passes for sports journalism.

  4. Joe D says:

    Travis,

    Great work this year. I like the scouting and sabermetric combo. You were an excellent addition to the trib team.

  5. WVBurghFan says:

    It’s been great, Travis. Thanks for your hard work and insights, and know that many of us are hungry for Pirates news year ’round and will keep checking in.
    For those who have never done it and are die-hard baseball fans, Arizona Fall League is a must. My wife and I have made the trip three times in recent years and were ready to do it again in 2013 – until I realized I couldn’t commit to seeing minor league players in October because my major league team was still in it. A nice problem to have.

  6. NMR says:

    You truly added another dimension to the Trib’s coverage this year, Travis. Looking forward to your work during the hot stove season.

  7. Wizard of Oz says:

    Thank you for providing an unbiased view of the PBC this season. It has been a long 21 years from 1992 to 2013, without a doubt this was a special season and hopefully the start or more special seasons to come. I am certainly glad that it happened.

  8. TCB says:

    I am glad that “it happened” but still sad that it is over. Thanks Travis for your coverage. It was always entertaining.

  9. bigdonwilly says:

    Travis,

    Your analysis and insight are “must-reads” for baseball fans that bring a fresh perspective to the game. I’ll definitely keep reading during the postseason. Thanks!

  10. Nate83 says:

    ++++ I will second NMR’s comment. Your blogs have been a joy to read and have added to the experience of this great year the Pirates gave us. Thanks for your hard work and great information that came from it.

  11. Derek says:

    Thank you so much for you coverage all year Travis! I am very pleased with an amazing season for the Pittsburgh Baseball Club. I do look forward to spring, and I love the offseason, so I am not going anywhere. Thanks!

  12. NMR says:

    I, for one, am glad 24/7 is too good to get “bogged down in the numbers”.
    .
    Allowed a nice little niche for Travis to come in and actually contribute some unique material.

  13. Milo Hamilton says:

    Really appreciated you work this year. But please stop the Phil Hughes stuff. Please, trust me on this one.

  14. Chuck H says:

    Pirates didn’t lose the playoff series on Wednesday, they lost it on Monday, because they
    couldn’t hit a 2 pitch rookie. They had episodes all season, where it didn’t matter who the
    opposing pitcher was, they couldn’t hit him. The whole team kept swinging for the fences,
    and they say, the harder you swing, the greater the chance you’ll miss it. Marte was a
    huge example of this. He was practically worthless at the plate. They just didn’t bunch
    their hits together. Too much hitting into DPs and very few sac flies, and had baserunners
    picked off too often. and finally, too many auto outs in the lineups.

  15. Mark says:

    Travis,

    Congratulations on a job well done! You certainly contributed a very high quality product this year! Keep up the good work!!

    Mark E.

  16. AMEN!!
    .
    We already had James McDonald in the fold. Or Jeff Karstens.

  17. I guess that 8 2/3 innings of no-hit ball 10 days ago was just a mirage, or the other team’s fault.
    .
    I’m glad none of the Pirates read your evaluation, or they never would have taken the team with the best record in the National League to a 5th and deciding game. Pirates never would have played the Cardinals 12-12 for the 2013 season.
    .
    Your description sounded more like the Houston Astros, drafting #1, instead of one of the last 3 teams standing in the National League.
    .
    Geez, the Pirates must have been lucky to overcome all their failures!!!

  18. […] Sawchik ‏@Sawchik_Trib “Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it […]

  19. Mario L says:

    Keep Byrd Get rid of all 3 First basemen Gabby, Morneau & G.I.Jones mash them together they still don’t make a REAL 1B, w/ nothing on Free Agent market, its time to make an actual OFFSEASON trade. Take another run @ LAA Trumbo. Get Pedro some protection in the lineup & put #Pedro @ #4 in CONCRETE. Is walker a true #2 hitter? next yrs lineup should be LF Marte 2B Walker CF Cutch 3B Pedro RF Byrd C Martin SS Mercer 1B ? pitchers

  20. NorthPirateFan says:

    The problems with signing Byrd are pretty numerous. He’s 36, his 2013 is a big outlier from his recent seasons and he’s probably going to want, and be able to get , a multi year dear from someone.

    The odds he repeat in 2013 are pretty slim but even if you get lucky and he does it’s a virtual certainty that they’ll be regretting years 38 and 39 of any contract they gave him. There are plenty of internal options on there way to sort through and probably a few external lower risk/costs going to be available before they go spending any money on a gamble like he presents.

  21. Foo says:

    Travis…i would like to also pass along my plaudits for your fine year of writing. Like the Bucs, your future shows lots of promise.

  22. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks for the kind words, fellas.

    I hope I made the Pirates and MLB a little more fun and interesting to follow this season.

    Most of all thank you for reading and participating in this blog. It’s not much fun if it’s only a one-way conversation. Keep up the spirited discussion this offseason!

  23. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks, NMR. Much appreciated. Thanks for being part of the conversation

  24. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks, Tom. Thanks for reading

  25. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks Oz, I don’t think you’ll be waiting another 21 years. Tremendous farm system is going to keep the Pirate relevant throughout the decade

  26. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks for reading, Don

  27. RobertoForever says:

    Travis,

    I will say publicly what I have said privately…your contributions to the Pirates coverage this year had you as my MVP this year. You brought forth your excellent insight, steeped in reality and with analysis to back it up. Provided many a water cooler debate topic.
    .
    .
    Also, your approach of straightforward blog posts (and twitter updates) was very refreshing, as opposed to writing blogs to stir it up, or create clicks, or draw attention to yourself – VERY much appreciated. I particularly enjoyed the lack of snark focused on 20 years of losing.
    .
    .
    And your points above make 2014 and beyond very appealing. I think its fair to say we can trust this FO to get AJ’s replacement if necessary, or add pieces in season.
    .
    .
    The NL Central will be a battle royale the next few seasons.
    .
    .
    2013 was a smashing success all around.

 
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