Tim Benz: Pirates better off ‘living in the past’ than the present | TribLIVE.com
Tim Benz, Columnist

Tim Benz: Pirates better off ‘living in the past’ than the present

Tim Benz
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Corey Dickerson hits his head sliding to third base in the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 13, 2019 in Chicago.

If current Pittsburgh Pirates players are upset about their organization living in the past, I have an idea to fix that.

Do something worth remembering in the present!

A recent report stated some Pirates players asked management to stop showing a promotional video that was geared around them watching Willie Stargell’s Hall of Fame induction speech.

The story claims players made this request because they feel the organization thinks too much about the past and not enough about the present.

The team has a slightly different account.

“After feedback from a few sources, including the players and employees in our in-game entertainment department, the decision was made to not play it just prior to every game,” Pirates vice president of communications Brian Warecki said in an email Tuesday afternoon.

“While all agree it is a powerful video, the input showed that the preference was for more energetic hype music just prior to taking the field.”

Warecki went on to write that the Stargell spot will remain as part of the club’s marketing efforts — as it has during TV broadcasts. He added “all parties are in agreement to utilize it again in the ballpark at appropriate times, just not every day.”

If the video has been minimized at the stadium because it’s not energetic enough as the players take the field, that’s simply a matter of taste and strategy.

But any player who may be opposed to the tone of the piece needs to answer one question.

Can they really blame the front office for dwelling on the past? With four winning seasons since the end of 1992, living in the 1970s doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

What else should they be celebrating? One wild-card game win since then?

Frankly, I think the organization does plenty of that as it is. Heck, the way the “Johnny Cueto Game” is revered and relived around PNC Park, you would’ve thought it happened in Game 7 of the World Series or something.

Pittsburgh is a city with numerous championship memories. Six Super Bowls. Five Stanley Cups. Five World Series crowns.

Yet there hasn’t been a baseball championship of any type here since 1992. And that was just a regular-season division title.

Three wild-card game appearances with one victory don’t resonate the same way.

Nor should it. Russell Martin’s homer in that 2013 game against the Reds was great. But it wasn’t Bill Mazeroski’s home run in 1960, Stargell’s in 1979 or Steve Blass’ performance in Game 7 of the 1971 series.

Living in the past can become a problem if that mentality impacts your approach to business.

Look at the team across the parking lot. The Steelers are often told they need to be more active in free agency, or they took too long to get away from Dick LeBeau’s style of 3-4 defense, or they bask in memories of ground-and-pound offense too much.

Over the course of the Bill Cowher-Kevin Colbert-Mike Tomlin eras, I’d argue you could find a little bit of truth in all those statements. Plus, no one loves to jump in the way-back machine to the 1970s more than the Steelers.

They’d still serve Billy Beer at Heinz Field if they could. There are 16-year-old Steelers fans who probably think Jack Lambert is still on the active roster with the way that franchise markets its past.

The same could be said about the Penguins. Psst! A quick update here: Mario Lemieux’s rookie year was 35 years ago. However, you can’t turn your head 180 degrees without seeing three or four images of him at PPG Paints Arena.

Nor should you.

But, more often than not, the Steelers and Penguins have been successful in recent decades despite their unwillingness to let go of the past.

Why would they want to?

That’s not the same complaint a few current Pirates players are allegedly making. The Pirates organization isn’t living in the past when it comes to their business practices. The Pirates fan base probably wishes they’d go back of the days of keeping stars such as Stargell, Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente for decades at a time.

The current Pirates are apparently miffed that the team is turning to old memories in place of focusing on current accomplishments and star players.

Then my advice to those players would be to create a few on their own.

A great May by Josh Bell and a shining second half of 2018 from Trevor Williams isn’t enough.

Until these Pirates can do better than that, they should consider any association with Stargell to be the best thing that could possibly happen in 2019.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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