Small Market Teams have been put in a tough position to compete and it is damaging interest in baseball.
It all comes back to a bottle of water. A plain, old, unopened bottle of Dasani water.
For seven years, it’s been sitting inconspicuously in my parents’ basement fridge. Barring an unforeseen miracle, this simple bottle of water will remain where it is for some time.
You see, my uncle brought me it from concessions at PNC Park on a Saturday evening in July 2015. I was 16, and it was the first Pittsburgh Pirates game I’d gone to since I was too young to remember. In the thick of things in the NL Central, they were playing St. Louis.
There was something in the air that night.
Backstop Francisco Cervelli and skipper Clint Hurdle were ejected early. Pitcher A.J. Burnett sparked the Buccos offense by hitting his first home run in a decade. I caught a foul ball, too. The theatrics only got better.
The rival Redbirds climbed ahead twice in extra innings, only to see their advantages erased. The second time, Andrew McCutchen clubbed a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the 14th frame. At that point, Hurdle’s group had won 10 of 12. The team had the second-best record in the NL Central.
Amidst the excitement, I’d forgotten to even take a sip of water. I brought it home with me and on the way home, joked with my brother and cousin — both a few years younger — that I wouldn’t crack the seal until the Pirates won the World Series. It didn’t seem like an impossibility at that time.
What started as a laugh turned into a waiting game. The longer that bottle stays where it is, the more frustrating its reasons for not being consumed become — and the more magical it will be when the cap is finally twisted off.
What Does Water Have To Do With Baseball?
For Pirates fans, it could be a zany symbol of what the state of their squad has been. In January 2018, McCutchen was shipped away. Not long after, the team’s ace, Gerrit Cole, was dealt, too. Two of the club’s most recognizable talents gone, with promises that prospects would provide a successful future.
It just seems that, compared to large market crews like the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers, teams like the Pirates are worlds away.
There’s always a chance for the major players to acquire your smaller city’s team’s darling. It’s not like every team spends in the offseason, either, trying to fill the void that’s left.
Baltimore, Oakland, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Miami, Tampa Bay, and Arizona have the seven lowest payrolls this go-round. They’re a combined 17-23 at this juncture.
Empty Small Market Teams Ballparks Are Not Good For The Game
For Pittsburgh faithful, I can say, it has been a weary existence. Nowadays, a lot of people make the trip to the team’s beautiful ballpark more for the experience and the view of the city skyline than they do holding out hope that the hometown team pulls out a win. I shy away from buying jerseys because I don’t know how soon the player whose name I’m wearing will be in another uniform.
Before first pitch on Opening Day, a $100 bet on Pittsburgh to win it all would have returned $50,000.
The Buccos were praised for re-upping with young third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and outfielder Bryan Reynolds. This should be the norm rather than the exception, however.
In a sport where you have to wait for even the most polished draft pick to reach the big leagues, it’s easy to lose hope. Something needs to force these small-market franchise owners’ hands.
And not just because they charge $7 for a bottle of water.
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