I was raised a Pirates fan. I'm not sure why my father, raised in Nephi, Utah, was a Pirates fan or how a man who never watched sports managed to pass that on to his son, but I am a Pirates fan. I watched the early-90s playoff games from my Tehachapi, California tv, mourned the firesale when the team got rid of all its best players and then lost its manager, then stopped reading the sports section when they went on the longest losing-season streak in American pro-sports history.
My boys are Oakland A's fans. This is because, hey, they're the local team. My kids have somehow made themselves into baseball nuts and the Atleticos are their team. I have no problem with this (although seriously: the American League?) and it's been fun to be reintroduced to baseball. We go to a few games a year and we have a good time. My only real memories of the A's from my childhood though are the Battle of the Bay tshirts and that earthquake.
The A's this year are not terrible-terrible. Yes, they're currently last in their division, but they're not so far back they could get caught up. Although it's getting harder and harder to imagine that happening.
The Pirates on the other hand are not only above 500 for the first time in almost 20 years, they're only a game and a half out of first place in their division. I almost can't wrap my head around it.
But if either team makes it to the playoffs, it will be a miracle against money. Consider that the Yankees pay a salary of $202,689,028 (that's an average of $6,756,300 per player, $2,100,000 median). Last year's champs the Giants? $118,198,333 ($4,377,716, $2,200,000). The A's on the other hand: $66,536,500 ($2,376,303, $1,400,000). And the Pirates a measly $45,047,000 ($1,553,344, $450,000 --- just 36 grand over minimum wage).
Now look. I'm a school teacher. You don't have to tell me those wages make little sense, but that's not the point. The point is the Yanks can buy anyone they want (well, almost anyone) and the Pirates can't, so when the Pirates make a run for the playoffs, it's big freaking news.
If you'll remember the title of this post, I'm just sharing a "few thoughts" here. I'm telling you that now in case you're expecting this post to gel at some point while, in fact, I'm about to take another tangent.
According to this article, with the new success, the Pirates are getting more people in the ballpark after years of "a steady erosion of the ballclub's fan base". Yet the numbers they threw out surprised me. According to the article, they're averaging "22,695 [fans] a game, up from 19,919 last season" and on "On Monday, the Pirates played in front of a fourth consecutive home sellout".
Compare this to the A's. I heard earlier in the week that a home game had eleven-some thousand. And Wednesday (when they sell $2 tickets, which sold out), they only sold nineteen-some. This for a team that, at the beginning of the season, had real hopes of winning their division. In fact, before that nasty ten-game losing streak, they were #1 for a couple days. Yet their average must be below the Pirates' last year when they were pretty much guaranteed to suck. (To match last year's record, this year's Pirates can't win more than 13 more games the rest of this season.)
In fact though, the A's are averaging nineteen-something this year (probably because of the sold-out Giants games....) --- 2,000 higher than last year, which, in turn, is 2,000 less than the Pirates averaged last year.
There's been a lot of chat around here about The A's Need a New Stadium!!!! but I don't like that talk. First because I probably can't afford to take my kids to nearly as many games at a nice new (expensive) part and second because I like the old park. I like the history (four World Series wins!). I like it's old-school charm.
But it's also true that sold out, the A's sell about 9,000 fewer tickets than the Phillies sell to an average game.
But I don't like hearing about a new stadium for another reason. Viz. I don't want my kids team to move to some ungodly place like San Jose.
(Incidentally, this is punk too. When it looked like the Giants were going to have to move to Florida, the A's gave --- gave! --- San Jose to them as part of their area which somehow made their staying here possible. Now the A's want to move to San Jose and the Giants won't give it up. Punk. But, that said, I don't want the A's to move there anyway.)
I don't want to drive to San Jose! It's too far away! And now that my kids have picked a team, I don't want them to attend mostly Giants games. (Not that they would. I can't afford that. School teacher.)
And that's another thing! Summer baseball is supposed to be egalitarian! Something for all Americans! But not many stadiums are offering two-buck tickets. I feel pretty confident guessing that.
And while we're on the subject. Why are the A's games only on cable! What the crap is that? If I don't subscribe to Comcast (or mlb.tv online) I can't get tickets? I bought an antennae for my laptop just so my kids could watch the A's but of the 2,000-plus MLB games played each year, only a spattering appear on broadcast tv. So much for the proletariat.....
Anyway, of all the sports, baseball is the only one I've ever successfully cared about.
So thanks for letting me vent. I may add more in the comments in the coming weeks, but I don't plan on writing another post like this for a while.
Okay. One more thing. Why does the Pirates logo suck so much. I mean: look at this!
What is that crap? I mean --- I like the idea of using a, you know, pirate, but what's this guy?
On the brighter side, they also use this:
Anyway, click on either of those logos to see the highs and lows of Pirate logo-design over the years. It's quite a range.