Dennis Eckersley nails baseball’s fate in Pittsburgh

Finally, some press poems arrived to sum up the state of my team for another miserable baseball season. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who my grandfather and his father rooted for in western Pennsylvania, have pretty much admitted to tanking for the past four seasons and well into the next two. Get high draft picks, rebuild the minor league system. Tacticians know the right path to success, based on arcane algorithms and statistical models. How dare you disagree with their slide rule statements? A team has to tank, you know, like Houston did, and like Tampa did, and like Baltimore did, and Kansas City and the Cubs, and so on. Pirates fans have heard this line for years.

Team owner Robert Nutting is a notorious stingy who refuses to invest in the team but still develops obscure ski areas in Appalachia and takes advantage of MLB’s luxury tax and blatantly uses the money for its own investments instead of upgrading player staff for hackers. As a former employee of one of his newspapers in Wheeling, WV, I told him during a spring training game in Bradenton, Florida that he was a shame on Pirates fans. Sell ​​the team! Let Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban buy it, because he wants to, but the owners of MLB’s geriatric country club don’t want Cubans sitting in their posh living room where they’re served drinks and food. food by old fashioned butlers who don’t tolerate young “mavericks”. .”

On August 16, when the Pirates hosted the Boston Red Sox, NESN commentator Dennis Eckersley, a former MVP and Hall of Fame pitcher, had this to say about the Pirates live as Boston led 5-0 in fifth round: “You speak about an unnamed line. There is no team like that. It’s a hodgepodge of nothingness.

Void hodgepodge.

Three words of poetic brilliance from the native of Fremont, Calif., whose first wife ran away with his best friend and Cleveland Indians teammate Rick Manning in the late 1970s, when MLB was in its prime.

Eck is a bit of a loose cannon for NESN, and it’s always fun to have one of those guys on your broadcast team. It would have been nice if Eck specifically called out Pirates property during his semi-rant, but as my Uncle Bud used to say, “You can’t have everything in this life.”

What I enjoyed most about the “Hodgepodge of Nothingness” quote was the viral online reaction it garnered from frustrated Pirates fans who fell victim to this selfish and greedy owner. There was a fascinating and apoplectic reaction from a real basement podcaster called “Steel Sermon” and there were 955 retweets of Eckersley’s comments and 3920 likes on the same Twitter thread. A t-shirt was designed with this phrase within 72 hours. A quick response is a thing of beauty when opinions run wild in an age of over-the-top “woke” caution.

For me, “Hodgepodge of Nothingness” had the same impact as Hillary Clinton’s “Basket of Deplorables” description of Donald Trump’s supporters during his ill-fated 2016 campaign. It has the same cadence and meter. And honest baseball commentary was coined by an ex-high school graduate who spent 23 major league seasons, sportsman dead wood style long hair and mustache, often shooting his opposing hitters with invisible guns from an invisible holster on his hip.

Eck’s phrase defines this team much like “25 players, 25 cabs” defined the Thomas Yawkey-era Red Sox who later became “The Idiots” on Johnny Damon’s success. “Nothingness” is the Pirates version of the Big Red Machine, or their own 1997 brand as “The Freak Show” when they battled for the division lead against Houston with a $9 million payroll . Nothingness is our “Bash Brothers” in Oakland, or the Harvey’s Wallbangers in 1982 in Milwaukee, or the Blake Street Bombers in the mid-1990s in Denver, or the “Lastros” tankers in Houston from 2011 to 2013, or Murderer’s Row and the Bronx Zoo for the Yankees, or Slam Diego in 2020. Heck, why not go back to the 1934 Cardinals who were known as the Gashouse Gang?

Eck, in the NESN booth since 2003, announced two weeks ago that he would retire from broadcasting at the end of this season, which was quite disappointing for the high-earning Red Sox. Many fans have taken the “glass house” approach for a Red Sox announcer to play down the low-budget Pirates who are also (again) in the basement of NL Central.

The crowd-sourcing began the next day as the comment sections of every newspaper article and Twitter retweets planted a seed of groundbreaking action aimed at getting the miserable owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates to release the historic franchise to someone. one who cares about competition and winning. . here is one of Pittsburgh Post Gazette comments written by a guy named Mike Silverstein: “In a college philosophy class, we studied Sartre and nonsense and nothingness. Years later, I drove the empty Texas desert between San Antonio and El Paso. Hour after hour of nothingness. But it wasn’t until I saw the Bucs’ .170 batting lineup this year that I fully understood Jean-Paul Sartre’s concept of nonsense and nothingness.

A guy by the name of Jack Tripper also commented, “All Eck has done is publicly point out what Pirate fans have been saying for the past two years (since 2015). If your average pirate fan was on TV, a nationwide audience would tune into pirate games to hear our ramblings about Nutting and the general horror of this franchise.

I got an old-school response that Eckersley’s comment was “bulletin board material” (or Apple tablet download material for each individual gamer) and would inspire a heated response the next day. The Bucs easily beat Boston 8-2 on the night following Eck’s assessment of our team. And they beat the Reds in a starting situation with former Boston player Michael Chavis the following night. Usually, “scoreboard material” comes from feedback from opposing players. Several Pirates players told reporters they weren’t worried about opposing teams’ broadcasters, which seems apt, if you ask me. But Eck’s credentials mean something.

There’s something to be said for a seemingly flippant midweek comment during an obscure interleague broadcast would reverberate with such energy. Apparently, Eck lacks the filter that so many advertisers have to keep from ruffling the feathers of the home team’s front office or drawing resentment from sponsors. His outspokenness is likely linked to his subsequent retirement from a media profession that became a bland exercise in broadcasting/PR. He’s a guy who didn’t hit the California Angels at Cleveland Stadium on May 30, 1977, in front of 13,400 souls, many of them vagabonds who lived in the huge upper deck. Eck beat Frank Tanana 1-0, benefiting from a sacrificial bunt from Jim Norris to score Duane Kuiper from third after he had a hat-trick in the first set.

I watched the Boston-Pittsburgh game and knew it was destined to end in the Pirates’ sixth straight loss. I often went to Turner Classic to check the hunter’s night. There was the priest/killer Robert Mitchum sitting outside the farm and singing hymns in the night, which gave me the idea that Pirates fans should camp outside the owner’s house and sing hymns until dawn until he gives in. West Virginia is, as the license plate says, “almost heaven.” The owner recently somewhat accidentally posed with a teenager wearing a Pirates shirt with the now-common slogan “Sell the team!” This photo has gone viral. That’s all the speed of a mouse click these days. The pirate owner can’t be stuffed enough. An online coup is entirely possible and I throw this article into the digital fire meant to shame Nutting and his blatant disregard for Pittsburgh baseball fans. As one commenter under the retweet put it: “It’s a hodgepodge of nuts.”

About Laurence Johnson

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