Monday, March 2, 2020

Collecting the Departed

Pittsburgh Pirates fans seem to be an ultra-critical fanbase. Frankly, sometimes I find it to be exhausting. The fanbase is a generally whiny group, readily armed with countless criticisms of the front office and particularly the ownership group.

This doesn’t come without merit. The Pirates haven’t been to a World Series since 1979. That’s a forty year drought, with no end in sight. It doesn’t help that the 70’s were a Golden Era for Pittsburgh Sports where the Pirates won two World Series, the Steelers won four Super Bowls, and the Penguins began to appear in the playoffs after joining the NHL in 1967. The bar was set very high.

So I get it. I understand the frustration. Winning cures all, and aside from some success in the early 90’s (thanks Barry Bonds) and a magical streak from 2013-2016, there hasn’t been much winning. A lack of winning will create a surplus of criticism from the fans. That criticism comes in many shapes and sizes. In the Pirates case, there are two main themes: It’s all the owner’s fault; and we can’t hold on to any of our most talented players, particularly younger players.

I'll spare you feelings on ownership. As for the latter – “not keeping good young players” – it often feels real. The recent examples include Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows. Throw in Starling Marte. Going back a decade, see: Nate McClouth. The exception was Andrew McCutchen, who famously took a hometown discount to remain in Pittsburgh.  

From where I’m sitting, it seems to me that Pirates fans often get trapped in the bubble that surrounds Western Pennsylvania. What Pirates fans perceive to be “Pirates problems” or even “small market challenges” happen to be baseball challenges. The free agency system is broken. Players are under team control until their mid-late 20’s when they’ll peak physically and command big contracts - contracts which their current team can rarely afford. It often makes more sense for a team to sell these young assets while they still have a value and get something in return. Otherwise, they walk for nothing. Mookie Betts, anyone?

Bottom line: Yes, the Pirates do lose a lot of their good young players. So do most other teams. 

But that’s not going to stop me from collecting them!

2018 Topps Chrome Austin Meadows Rookie Auto Refractor #/499

2019 All-Star Austin Meadows, a guy I’ve been following pretty closely since he was drafted #9 overall out of high school in 2013. 2013 was the year when the Pirates began to rise to relevance again. They also seemed to have a roster that could enjoy some sustained success, so Pirates fans started to pay more attention to the draft. Upon being drafted he was immediately labeled as the heir apparent to Andrew McCutchen, seeing as his projected arrival in the majors would correspond with the expiration of McCutchen’s contract. Five years later this actually proved to be true, and the timing lined up… until he was shipped to Tampa in the Chris Archer deal.

2017 Bowman Chrome Tyler Glasnow Rookie Refractor #/499

Speaking of being shipped to Tampa in the Chris Archer deal... Tyler Glasnow was the other big league piece sent south. He was one of the most exciting pitching prospects up through 2016 when he finally broke into the bigs. His big league career got off to an extremely rocky start – his career with the Pirates is *just* 5.79. He seems to have figured it out in Tampa - Glasnow finished the 2019 season with a 6–1 record and a 1.78 ERA in ​60 2⁄3 innings.

I picked up the gold parallel of this and showed it off earlier this month. I may continue to seek these out and see if I can put together a small collection of parallels.

2013 Topps Chrome Gerrit Cole Rookie Blue Refractor #/199

My love for 2013 Topps Chrome Blue Refractors strikes again. I already own this card as part of the complete set, but when I saw it pop up on eBay for very reasonable cost I couldn’t help but jump on it. I'm still hoping the best for Gerrit but I'll never be able to root for the Yankees. I hope he goes nine innings with 15 K's every game but loses 1-0.

2019 Topps Update Chris Archer Independence Day Parallel #/76

On an entirely unrelated note, here's a really badass card that was sent my way by Matt at Diamond Jesters. I sent him a small stack of Red Sox a month ago in return for a Bryan Reynolds parallel, and I guess he still felt like he owed me something. I really love this card and it showed up out of nowhere for a total surprise - so even better. We all love surprised in this hobby, don't we? Thanks a million, Matt.


  1. Curtis Granderson , Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Nick Castellanos are just a few of the current ex-Tigers players that I collect.

    Can't stop loving the player that gave you do many thrills.

    Good Job! 👍

  2. Again, you're welcome! That Archer was a small price to pay for a Mookie rookie card! (Who is now among the ex-Red Sox I will always still collect!)

  3. "The fanbase is a generally whiny group"... couldn't that be said about every team's fanbase these days?

  4. These are some sharp looking cards! I really like the Meadows and Archer.

  5. I can't fault the Pirates for trading Marte over the off-season as very few players in the league are still with the same team they were with in 2012 when Marte debuted. The Archer for Meadows, Glasnow, and Baz trade looks horrific at this point. Here's hoping the Hayes, O'Neil, Newman, Bell infield of the future can be something we all get excited about in the future.