June 15, 2024

Urgency isn’t the first word that comes to mind when considering the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates started the season with talk of contending, suggesting that the rebuilding phase, which gained momentum after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, was nearing completion.

However, the Pirates have seldom looked like contenders in the first third of the season. After an 8-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park on Sunday, their record fell to 25-29. They are in fourth place in the National League Central, trailing the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers by six games. The Pirates are projected to finish the season at 75-87, one game worse than last year when they avoided the NL Central basement for the first time since 2018.

Despite this, the Pirates don’t seem bothered by their performance as the calendar reaches Memorial Day once again.

Pirates Hire Derek Shelton as Manager - The New York Times

Manager Derek Shelton occasionally shows glimpses of frustration in his post-game press conferences but never gets visibly angry. General manager Ben Cherington remains consistently calm.

While it is commendable that Shelton and Cherington maintain a positive attitude, it also creates poor optics for a fanbase that has endured 27 losing seasons in the last 31 years.

Many fans are questioning the Pirates’ commitment to winning, which seems reasonable. Cherington, however, maintains that he is focused on winning now and hasn’t given up on the 2024 season.

“We feel urgency. I think we have to feel urgency; this is the big leagues,” Cherington said. “We are further along than we were three years ago. We all feel a sense of urgency, and I think the best way to channel that urgency is into improvement. Let’s just keep getting better because with where we’re at, if we keep getting better day to day and month to month, then it’s going to add up to contention as soon as it can. I think there’s urgency, but we feel like what we can do with that urgency is focus on getting better.”

The opposing viewpoint argues that the big leagues prioritize winning over improvement. Fans are tired of hearing about the Pirates’ process of improvement and are more interested in seeing victories. Thus, it’s reasonable to assume they aren’t thrilled with Cherington’s assessment of this season.

“Incomplete,” Cherington said. “We’ve had good moments. We’ve had very frustrating moments. Some in between. I think we’ve seen glimpses of a team that can play well, play with anyone in the league, and win games, stay in this right until the end. That’s definitely still what we’re focused on. We’ve also had days where it hasn’t looked like that. I really believe we can still accomplish what we want to accomplish this year. We’ve seen glimpses of the team being able to do that. We just have to keep focused on being better and making it happen.”

Pirates fans have been patient with Cherington and Shelton, understanding they inherited a challenging situation when hired after the 2019 season. However, that patience is wearing thin, not solely based on social media posts from disgruntled fans.

Shelton is starting to receive boos during pre-game introductions at PNC Park, and more fans are expressing doubts about Cherington’s ability to construct a championship team.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Bob Nutting, Please Sell the Team

Despite being just two games out of the third NL wild card, Cherington and Shelton should be given the chance to see this season through.

Pirates owner Bob Nutting may be the least concerned person in baseball. His teams continue to lose while he maintains a substantial profit, so why worry?

Yet Nutting faces decisions if the remainder of this season continues to focus more on “getting better” and less on winning.

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