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Rossi: Emerging Pirates' ace calls spade a spade

| Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, 9:39 p.m.

Why did Gerrit Cole go high and tight on the Pirates?

Maybe he wanted to get their attention.

Or maybe he is actually on the path to The Next Step his franchise has talked about taking for a few years.

The Pirates can't win bigger — as in the National League Central Division or even a wild-card game — if Cole doesn't transition from top starter to ace. There's a difference, and we'll know it when he shows it.

But he has it in him to show it this season.

What are the Pirates showing Cole, though?

On Saturday night, after agreeing to a one-year contract that he didn't like, Cole shared his displeasure with the Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel. His base salary for this season, $541,000, will match what he made all of last season.

That's not fair.

Neither are the economics of baseball for players until they reach their arbitration-eligible years. Cole is a year away, so patience would be a virtue.

And Cole did say Saturday that he preferred nobody “question the virtue of our organization,” even though he and agent Scott Boras kind of did by blasting the Pirates.

Boras and the Pirates are the Sid and Nancy of agent/team relationships: toxic and doomed.

Shouldn't be that way between Cole and the Pirates. In franchise pecking order, he is a close No. 2 to Andrew McCutchen — the Pirate the Pirates are kind of, sort of saying they want to keep forever aboard the ship.

It's early, but there's already been too much dancing between the Pirates and their stars. How about some, you know, baseball?

Given that Cole, 25, received an $8 million signing bonus after the Pirates drafted him first overall in 2011, I'm hoping money isn't the real issue. Better that this be one of many examples that Cole is comfortable being a leader for, if not the leader of, the franchise.

An ace's job is to win, but by winning when losses are piling up, an ace also leads.

Losses have piled up for the Pirates since they were bounced from the postseason by the Cubs last October.

Gone are two pieces of the rotation, one side of the infield, Pedro Alvarez's power, A.J. Burnett's innings, Neil Walker's calm and a few front-office types who were surely more important than most of us know.

There's nothing going on with McCutchen. There's been no movement on a deal for Gregory Polanco.

So, that's some offseason, huh?

At least hope springs eternal during the early days of spring training.

It should, anyway.

Tough not to spring into a funk that would accompany watching the Pirates play without McCutchen or Cole. And since the subject of their contracts has cast dark clouds over Pirate City, it's probably only a matter of time before the Pirates announce Parliament Funkadelic will play PNC Park this summer.

Right, because Billy Joel and those Fam-a-lee throwbacks aren't enough nostalgia.

Maybe Cole isn't big on old acts.

Or maybe he wants the Pirates to get with the times.

The would-be ace called a spade a spade, but it's not about what Cole deserves from the Pirates.

It's about what he can do for them: be better.

Or course, they could do the same by him.

Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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