The Bucs And The New CBA: We Just Can’t Catch A Break

Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP

We at Fans From The Stands are not baseball experts, nor have we claimed to be.  We have never played the sport professionally, and we’re certainly not the most educated.  We are FANS…of baseball in general, and, of course, our Pittsburgh Pirates.  We certainly want them to win, but regardless, we cheer for them.  We root for them.  We appreciate the game they play and we’re thankful to have baseball in this city. 
That being said, we’ve never claimed it’s easy to be a Pirates’ fan.  After all, we all know the horrible records the team has tallied over the years, and for the newest generations of baseball fans, the Bucs’ last winning regular season is before they were born.  Anyone can be a fan of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, or Philadelphia Phillies.  It’s easy to cheer for them because they win consistently, just as it’s easy for us in Pittsburgh to like the Steelers.  Despite the criticism we’ve undertaken due to our passion for a team that has consistently lost for years, we at FFTS are still proud to be Pirates’ fans.
But in all honesty, it is impossible to compare the Pirates to any other team in professional sports.  Why?  Several reasons:
1.      The Pirates are the record-setters for the most consecutive losing seasons in North American sports history.  No one has ever been as bad for as long as the Bucs.
2.      The Bucs play in Pittsburgh, a city with rich sports tradition.  After all, the Steelers and Penguins are consistent winners and have proven to do what it takes on and off the field to win their respective championships.
3.      This is baseball we’re talking about.  There is no salary cap.  The major-market teams have an advantage to get the top players over those clubs in the smaller markets.
4.      The Pirates’ management has been subject to scrutiny for years, having been accused of greed and personal gain over the improvement and accomplishment of the team.
5.      Top-tier free agents don’t want to come to Pittsburgh.  The Pirates won’t match salary offers made by other clubs, and the team doesn’t win.  Two things athletes want:  money and victory.  Neither has happened to Pittsburgh on the baseball field for nearly two decades.
Because of these factors, the Bucs have needed to find other methods of acquiring players to fill their roster.  In recent years, they have put a significant amount of money, the most in Major League Baseball, into the draft.  Although there has been doubt about this philosophy, their draft efforts have drawn mostly positive feelings amongst fans and media as it has appeared as though the Bucs are trying to build a competitive team.
Well, after the announcement of MLB’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, it seems that the Pirates may be struggling to compete for the foreseeable future.
The Tribune-Review’s Dejan Kovacevic accurately describes the influences the new deal will have on the Pirates in his article published today:
“The defining component of this agreement is a new ‘luxury tax’ to be applied to teams that spend too much on the amateur draft.  Any team exceeding the slot recommendation for a pick must pay a tax.  Any team that exceeds its allotted draft total, set by inverse order of the previous year’s standings, must pay a 100 percent tax.”
Applied to the Pirates’ situation, Kovacevic explains, “if the Pirates were to spend $17 million in 2012, as they did this June, and their ceiling were set at $9 million, they’d actually have to pay $25 million.  You know, for the ‘luxury.’
Check out his entire article here:
To be frank, this is downright scary.  And depressing.  The Bucs have a strong core of young players, some of which have already graced the PNC Park field, while others have recently been signed to the team in the past few years.  This is all part of management’s statement that they’re going to establish a winning team by building from within rather than signing top free agents.  With these new regulations, including the “luxury tax,” the Pirates’ strategy is significantly deflated.
Even more cringing was President Frank Coonelly’s statement about the new agreement and his team:
“Is this everything the Pittsburgh Pirates hoped it would be?  No.  But we don’t subscribe to the notion it was aimed at us.  For one, this has been in the works for a long time.  For another, at the end of the day, if teams like the Yankees ever wanted to really flex their muscles in the draft, they could do it.  This prevents that.  We’ll continue to sign the players we draft.”
Too politically correct?  Too generic?  Too rehearsed?  This isn’t exactly what Pirates’ fans want to hear following one of the more exciting regular seasons the team has had since their losing streak began. 
The statement from MLB and the board is that the new draft luxury tax is an effort to level the playing field.  It’s tough to understand that from the perspective of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Stay tuned to Fans From The Stands for reactions to all the latest Pirates’ news and rumors.
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!

Chad Carlson

Co-Editor of Fans From The Stands, Pirates' Beat Writer For Armchair Report, Sports writer for AMN, SteelTownRock And Music City Encore Editor

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