I’ve been following the NBA lately.
Growing up in central PA, a little closer to the Pittsburgh side, I didn’t have an NBA team as a child. Like most 80s/90s kids, I followed the Chicago Bulls and the 1992 USA Dream Team as my introduction into the league. I followed basketball during the Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant days to follow, but I’ve never been deeply invested in the league or the game.
Earlier this year, I started watching the show “Winning Time” about Magic Johnson and the LA Lakers dynasty, in their quest to overcome Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics. I haven’t finished season two of “Winning Time”, but I’ve since been watching “The Last Dance”, about the Bulls final championship in the 90s.
Both shows highlight a key component: The commitment to winning.
The Lakers didn’t accidentally become a dynasty. They pushed for that goal with a new attitude that only seemed crazy at the time: There could be a championship basketball team in Los Angeles.
The Bulls spent years with Michael Jordan before they finally started winning championships. From the outset, they had to change their culture of tanking for the best draft pick, removing all losing mentalities before they could win.
Both shows underscore the attitude it takes to be a champion. The commitment required to overcome all the things that inevitably go wrong, day after day, week after week, in your quest to do the improbable. But also, the mindset that you are a champion, before you even win the trophy.
The 76ers Are Practicing For a Championship
Watching the NBA today allows me the chance to connect with the casual fan mindset of a sports fan, for the purposes of dialing in this site’s content. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a casual fan of baseball. I could follow the Steelers and Penguins, as I know very little of those two teams or sports right now. The fact that basketball is the sport I have the least experience watching means it allows me the most opportunity to dive into an unexplored spectrum of the sports world. I can sit down in front of my TV, and shut my mind off as it tries to process everything my eyes are picking up on the court — forgetting the other important things in my life for a few hours of peace.
There’s also the inspiration of following someone who is pursuing a championship. It allows you to take ownership of the feeling. Historically, this doesn’t lead to following champions, but this year “my team” is the Philadelphia 76ers.
A few years ago, I tried getting into the NBA enough to select a team. While watching the 76ers, I really liked the full-court play of a younger Joel Embiid. That was also the one year where Ben Simmons was promising. A few years later, Embiid is an MVP, Simmons is gone, and the 76ers have an emerging young star in Tyrese Maxey, plus a few quality support players in Tobias Harris and Kelly Oubre Jr. I say all of that as someone who watched Embiid play twice this year before learning that he was the league MVP last year. I had only heard of Embiid prior to a few weeks ago, and he was “That really good center and also the point guard for the 76ers” in my mind, which skipped five years of the NBA.
Last night, I fell asleep watching the final minutes of a blowout 76ers victory, in which Embiid scored 48 points, with 11 rebounds. I didn’t think at all about the game of baseball, or this site, until I woke up this morning.
Preparing For Winning in Pittsburgh
The lack of articles on the site might lead you to believe that I don’t spend much time thinking about baseball. To be honest, it’s the thing that consumes my mind the most. I’ve taken a break from writing, which I’ve done a few times this year.
Eventually, and it could be this offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates will decide that it’s winning time. We may have already seen the start of the transition in Pittsburgh. Last year’s pursuit of actual MLB free agents, followed by the drafting of a generational pitching talent rather than a quantity approach, shows a shift in their approach. This offseason will be an opportunity to improve upon the 76-win season in 2023. We just saw from Arizona that 84 wins can make the World Series, and Texas showed that 90 can win it all.
I’m optimistic about the Pirates going forward. This is unlike my optimism with the 76ers, where I’m trying to capture the feeling of a fan, submitting to a greater organization for my entertainment. This optimism is a professional one. I don’t ever see the Pirates as “pass/fail”, but always as somewhere in the 40-60% range. They’re still above 50% for me, and I’ve been waiting for a few years to see who Ben Cherington adds to the core that finally arrived in 2023. This offseason will be a tipping point for their rebuild.
I’ve spent a lot of time this year, and in previous years, thinking about the new Pirates fans in the future who will only know Ke’Bryan Hayes, but who will be seeking new information on the rest of the team and organization. How can I design a site for them, but also for the hardcore fans who have loved following this site for up to 15 seasons?
The answer to that question will be implemented on this site throughout the offseason. The answer also includes the return to a paywall and normal subscription product. It also includes my daily writing, for the first time in years.
I’ve got about 50 articles planned as part of a Pittsburgh Pirates system audit, with the site returning to daily content today. The P2Daily feature will just be daily thoughts, and might include some basketball talk.
What you’re going to see on this site over the next year is the equivalent of a championship run.
I’m speaking as a returning champion.
This week will be heavy on player features. Next week begins the system audit. By the end of the month, I’ll be resuming my prospect rankings.
I published the first tier, which is just Paul Skenes. If I’m honest, that’s about all I have set right now. I’m still working through the order of Tier 2, and deciding whether I want to add anyone else before publishing. Right now, according to my schedule, I have three weeks before the deadline to decide on that and Tier 3.
As for the daily writing, I was writing behind the scenes during the World Series. I’ve got some thoughts on Max Scherzer, Ketel Marte, Evan Carter, Adolis Garcia, and others that I need to clean up and publish. Look for those thoughts, in addition to the planned features.
The Pirates have made some moves while I’ve been gone, so let’s warm up those baseball writing abilities.
Pirates Roster Moves
The Pirates trimmed their 40-man down to the legal limit following the World Series, with the following players departing:
Alfonso Rivas – Cleveland claimed Rivas off waivers, after the Pirates acquired the first baseman in the Rich Hill/Ji-Man Choi trade over the summer. Rivas seemed like he was added for short-term first base help. The fact they let him go so early indicates they’ll be looking to externally address the position again this offseason.
Tucupita Marcano – This move was a bit surprising. The Pirates placed Marcano on waivers, and he was claimed by the Padres, who traded him to the Pirates in 2021. Marcano had season ending ACL surgery, and will miss part of 2024. He’s also buried on the depth charts behind Ji-Hwan Bae, Jared Triolo, and Nick Gonzales. That said, Marcano will be in his age 24 season next year, and has shown some promise in his brief time in the majors. The Padres felt he was worth stashing, although I don’t know their depth situation.
Cody Bolton – The Pirates traded the right-handed reliever to the Seattle Mariners for cash considerations. Bolton made 16 appearances in the big leagues this year, with a 6.33 ERA working in a depth role with frequent trips back and forth to Indianapolis.
Vinny Capra – At the end of April, the Pirates traded backup catcher Tyler Heineman to Toronto for Capra. The infielder hit .167/.250/.222 in his brief 18 at-bats in Pittsburgh, and mostly served as depth for the Indianapolis roster. He was claimed by Milwaukee, heading into his age-27 season.
Jarlin Garcia – The lefty reliever signed with the Pirates last year for $2.5 million, but was injured in Spring Training and didn’t throw a pitch for the Pirates in 2023. They had a $3.25 million option on him for 2024, and they declined that option.
Angel Perdomo – The Braves claimed the lefty reliever, who made 30 appearances with the Pirates this year, posting a 3.72 ERA. Perdomo needed Tommy John surgery, according to Jason Mackey, so he will miss the entire 2024 season. It’s possible the Braves claimed him to try and sneak him through waivers and rehab him in their system.
Miguel Andujar – The Oakland Athletics claimed Andujar off waivers. The Pirates signed the outfielder to a minor league deal worth $1.75 million, allowing them to stash him in Triple-A the entire year. Andujar hit .338/.404/.536 in Triple-A, before arriving in the majors in September and hitting .250/.300/.476 with four homers. Andujar has power, but is a bad ball hitter, with an above-average 38.6% chase rate on pitches outside the zone. He’s above-average at connecting outside the zone. That leads to the high power, low OBP, and the fact there are more bad pitches in Triple-A leads to the inflated numbers in the minors. Andujar could stick in the majors if he shrinks his strike zone, which would require scaling back the aggressive power approach.
Yerry De Los Santos – The Pirates outrighted the right-hander off the 40-man roster. He’s eligible for minor league free agency, thus they would need to make a deal with him for the 2024 season to retain him.
The Pirates also reinstated JT Brubaker and Oneil Cruz from the 60-day IL. Their 40-man roster is now at 37.
SONG OF THE DAY
I would say no spoilers for season two of “Winning Time”, but there’s no comment section right now. If you need to reach me for anything, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.