Today, the front office of the Pittsburgh Pirates made a formal apology to Major League Baseball and all of its fans for having such a successful 2011 season so far.
“We’re ashamed to say that, this year, we haven’t done a good job sticking to our reputation of finishing in last place in the division,” manager Clint Hurdle said in a press conference.
“As skipper of a team that takes pride in not having any expectations of winning since 1979, I would like to apologize for our stellar performance on the field this season and would like to assure everyone that, with the help of other teams and the umpiring crew, we will soon return to our traditional way of playing baseball.”
Clearly, this change of strategy was in play before the press conference, as it was the officials, and home plate umpire Jerry Meals in particular, who made sure of a Pirates loss on July 26, giving a run to the Atlanta Braves in the bottom of the 19th inning. Meals has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that “the Braves weren’t about to step up and do their part,” and that he “didn’t have much of a choice at that point.”
This inability, or unwillingness, of other teams to give the Pirates their usual thumping is proving to be a topic of hot contention.
“No one’s hitting the ball against us,” centerfielder Andrew McCutchen said. “I haven’t had to turn around and flat out sprint after a ball in weeks. That used to happen nearly every other inning.”
The pitching statistics of the Pirates supports McCutchen’s view. Despite playing in a ballpark larger than most others, the Pirates are known for having pitching stats among the worst in the league. This year, however, they are ranked 7th in ERA, with 4 of their 5 starters sporting numbers under 4.00 (in years past Pirates starters tended to fall in the 6-7 range), and have one of the best bullpens in the league.
“I really don’t get it,” Pirates ace Paul Maholm said, “It’s not like we strike many people out, either. The batters just don’t seem to be trying this year.”
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has been monitoring this situation over the past month, and has admitted that “it seems as if teams playing the Pirates don’t put all of their effort into games.” He went on to add that it was unclear if this lack of effort stemmed from the assumption that they’d eventually win the game, as has been the case in the past, or whether the league’s players just wanted to give the Pirates a chance to feel what it was like to win.
“Either way,” Selig concluded, “This discrepancy in the standings will soon resolve itself.”