Wait a minute ... I thought April was the cruelest month. But while the Pirates hung in for a respectable 12-12 start in April, they've been depressing in May.
The players are trying. They're just not good enough. But why is management so inept? Is it simple stupidity? Greed? We may never know, but we do know that the Nutting family and Kevin McClatchy have been content to go on selling the same old snake oil that better times are just ahead. Other than changes to the uniforms, who can tell the difference between 1998 and 2007? Between 2001 and 2006?
The problem with more than a decade of losing is there's no urgency to win. We can always get them tomorrow ... or the next time ... or next year. The mindset has tainted the whole organization, from the executives to the ball boys.
The low point came in the May 19 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Pirates had Tom Gorzelanny, their best pitcher, on the hill. A win would pull them to within two games of even. Most importantly, the division-leading Brewers were struggling with the Twins, so the Bucs could have made up ground in that race. If there ever was a zero hour, this was it.
Gorzelanny staked the Pirates to a five-run lead in six innings. The team needed just nine outs to secure a win. Reliever John Grabow didn't have it, giving up a solo home run and then loading the bases. With two outs and the tying run at the plate, skipper Jim Tracy called on Marty McLeary.
Why McLeary? The guy is a long-ball pitching machine. Damaso Marte was available. Jonah Bayliss was there. The reliable Shawn Chacon had pitched five innings two nights before, but the team only needed one out. Just one. And where is it written that we have to wait until the eighth inning for Matt Capps?
Hey, we'll get 'em next inning.
Except we didn't: McCleary promptly gave up the game-tying dinger to Tony Clark.
Not calling on one of his better arms in a clutch situation -- for the game and maybe the season -- indicated a real lack of urgency on Tracy's part. It veritably screamed: What the hell, there's always tomorrow.
Yankees' skipper Joe Torre is on the hot seat, despite beginning the season with pitching only marginally better than the Altoona Curve's. But you can't say he isn't trying. In an April game against the Red Sox, Torre brought in starter Andy Pettitte to provide middle relief. The Yanks lost anyway, but Torre let it be known that the season has no future unless his team can win in the present.
The Pirates, meanwhile, creep in this petty pace from day to day, acting like they just need to tread water, weather a singular storm. Sometimes excellent franchises do have to just hang tight. But the Pirates are not an excellent franchise. I've heard of perfect storms, but never one that lasted 15 years.
Now is the time to take big chances, not next year or the year after that. Some say Chris Duffy was meant to be a stop-gap measure in center field, that the future of the franchise is really Andrew McCutcheon, who's working in the farm system. It sounds like more of the same faulty thinking.
The Pirates will move Chacon into the fifth spot in the rotation, a job he is unsuited for. Just ask Torre. Chacon has done a terrific job for the Pirates this year, but, to borrow an overused phrase, he is what he is -- a reliable long reliever. So bring up the top-picked youth from AAA now. What is there to lose? 95 games instead of 89?
The players have to play better. The manager has to manage with more guile and guts. But on a team this bad, nobody's job should be safe. Can't the front office be sent down for a rehab assignment?