Yesterday I wrote about the bad analogies that surrounded the Frank Coonelly interview, specifically the comments about whether the Pirates could spend $70-80 M. It turns out there is one analogy out there that makes sense, and it comes from Bob Smizik:
In the 1989 oh, so sweet, slightly preposterous baseball movie, “Field of Dreams,’’ the main character, played by Kevin Costner, is walking through his Iowa cornfield when he hears a voice:
“If you build it, he will come.”
So motivated, Costner’s character builds a field on his farm and he (Shoeless Joe Jackson) comes to play ball on it.
In the 2011 oh, so sour, completely preposterous upcoming Pirates season, “Field of Screams,’’ the team president, played by Frank Coonelly, is walking among the fan base and, stuck for a good line, does a Costner takeoff:
“If you come, we will build it,’’ he tells the crowd.
Unfortunately, I think we’re all forgetting how Field of Dreams actually went. Kevin Costner (Ray) did build it. And then? Nothing. He waited around for a year, including an incredibly long off-season that can only be comparable to the 2003 Rule 5 draft. There was absolutely nothing to show for the field that he built.
Then, the next season came around, and what did Ray get? One player. One freaking player. What do you even do with one player? I don’t know. Let’s consult the April/May 2010 Pirates and see how they did with Shoeless Joe McCutchen.
Sure, they added a few more players, but it wasn’t enough for any sort of competition, and the stands were empty. Now that’s where you say “Hey Ray, how about a little investment in the team! Go out and get a big name player to put some butts in the seats!”
But that’s not what happens. They don’t go out and get the big names like Ty Cobb. In fact, they specifically told Ty Cobb to stick it. Instead, they went dumpster diving, adding a guy named Moonlight Graham. They could have tried to get one of the best hitters in the game, but played the small market card, and went with a guy who didn’t even have a plate appearance in the majors.
Throughout all of this, two themes were present. First, no one came, and they almost went bankrupt due to their investment. Second, most of the people at the field were yelling “sell, sell, sell”.
Fast forward a bit through the grind of a normal season. Moonlight Graham was having a breakout rookie year. James Earl Jones delivered a life changing speech, shortly followed by the kid kid totally wrecking it by taking an irresponsibly sized bite of a hot dog, and being the victim of child abuse. Ray then trades the young Moonlight Graham for an aging veteran team doctor (and let’s be honest here, if there’s one unspoken theme to the movie, it’s that Doc Graham was a player, and I’m not talking about on the baseball field. First of all, what’s he doing out that late? Nothing good happens after 2 AM. He’s obviously out picking up women. Second, everyone knew he carried an umbrella to beat the women back. You know who else is surrounded by women and uses a cane to keep them in line? Pimps. Third, he either had all of those red hats on deck in his office as gifts incase his wife caught him, or he had a serious hoarding problem, and truthfully, neither one does good things for the Doc Graham image).
Doc Graham ends up saving the kid, all of the people yelling “sell, sell, sell” see that Ray was on the right path all along, they add the final piece of the puzzle in James Earl Jones/Terrance Mann, which leads to success, and only after all of that success do people finally come.
The Pirates should definitely take a message from Field of Dreams. That message isn’t “If you build it, they will come”. It’s “if you build it, they won’t come, and you’ll be faced with doubt and pressure to sell, despite the fact that you’re flirting with bankruptcy and kidnapping the Yellow Pages guy, so just wait until you become successful, because only then will they come”.
Next week we’ll take a look at the movie Bull Durham, and talk about how we need to set Stetson Allie up with a red headed cougar, trade for Keith Osik to be his catcher/mentor, and watch him go from a guy with an amazing fastball and poor control to a guy who sees out of the right eyelids, and makes the jump from A-ball to the majors as a September call-up, without even considering how damaging that could be to a top young pitching prospect.