By Gary Conti
Originally published 5/19/2001
In 1995, a young man rode into town promising fans to return the Pittsburgh Pirates to their former level of World Champion status.
During and after his first year as owner, the team dumped higher priced veterans slashing the payroll claiming to restock the depleted farm system. By the spring of 1997 the Pirate were predicted to be the worst team in baseball but the future looked bright as the Farm System was labeled the best!
The Freak Show shocked their high spending brothers. They drove large market teams crazy with a style of play similar to watching a house cat going toe to toe with a tiger.
The fun ended there.
The great farm system has only broken our hearts as prospect after prospect failed.
Players like Tony Womack were put in other teams Christmas stockings as gifts while we were told Cam's deals made sense.
But on the field was a style of play more unbelievable than even the bad trades.
Years of base running blunders, balls which went between players legs, outfielders you tried to throw the ball only to have it fall behind them - Vander Wal is the best example - pitchers on a constant trip for the dl or reconstructive surgery and a team era growing like the national deficit under Reagan and Bush.
We saw scouts bring in players like Brant Brown to be our starting center fielder when Brown couldn't catch a train.
All this occurred yet somehow, Gene Lamont became the scape goat for all the clubs ills.
Lamont lost his job and suddenly we were told, he couldn't control the players. Somehow it was Lamont's fault the team played bad baseball. But never fear, the team promised we would never again be ashamed of a Pirate club.
Here we are near the 20th of May and what we see is what we have been seeing for years, only worse.
The team can't even make a trade because of long term contracts which make veteran players impossible to move.
The club was gotten worse. Please don't tell me about injuries, clubs everywhere have injuries. Don't tell me about small market problems, Seattle has now lost Johnson, Griffey and Arod only to find themselves with baseball's best record.
Cam Bonifay has made poor choices year after year but he is not the owner, Kevin McClatchy is.
McClatchy had a perfect chance to clean house after the 2000 season. Instead he made Lamont the scape goat, promoted a failed batting coach to manager and basically brought back the same coaches and team to start the 2001 season.
Kevin even let Bonifay sneak his fired pitching coach back on the payroll as Cam's special assistant.
Worse yet, the promised shake up in the farm system turned into little more than everybody gets a promotion up one level!
Somehow, McClatchy still has fans behind him who think he is the White Knight who saved the Bucs.
Get real, no team has moved since the 70's in baseball and even the one area in Virginia the press said the Bucs were headed voted down building a baseball stadium and just is not interested.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is faced with watching the worst Pirate team in history.
Of course to do just that at PNC Park means paying through the nose because all of the sudden, You Can't Bring Food or Drink into the Park built with our tax dollars!
Believe what you will but next time you are watching a Pirate game with your $4.50 bottle of water and your $5.50 super dog. Remember, Kevin is sitting behind the plate with his well to do friends and keeps letting the team slip deeper and deeper into baseball history as the worst team ever.