The Red Sox traveled to Pittsburgh Tuesday—a city they hadn’t visited in almost eight years—for the start of a rare three-game set against the Pirates, owners of MLB’s third-lowest payroll at $66.07 million. Though an overachieving team like the Orioles (who find themselves a half-game out of the American League’s final Wild Card spot despite a payroll comparable to Max Scherzer’s annual salary) will occasionally buck the trend, more often than not in MLB, you get what you pay for. Among National League clubs, only the Nationals have a lower winning percentage than the lowly Pirates, who trotted out this starting lineup for Tuesday night’s series opener at PNC Park.
Baseball, it can be argued, is a cyclical sport, though maybe not for the Pirates, who haven’t won a playoff series since 1979 (unless you count the NL Wild Card Game in 2013), a decade before their oldest player, lefty specialist Manny Banuelos, was even born. Well known for speaking his mind, Red Sox color analyst Dennis Eckersley did exactly that Tuesday night, flabbergasted by what he called a “hodgepodge of nothingness.”
“You talk about a no-name lineup. There’s no team like this,” lamented Eckersley, who recently announced this will be his final season in the NESN broadcast booth. “It’s ridiculous, it really is. Pathetic.”
Eckersley’s beef would seem to be that the Pirates, unlike prospect-laden teams like Kansas City, have no discernable plan, doing less than the bare minimum to field a competitive roster. Management would label 2022 a “rebuilding” year, though in Eck’s mind, this goes far beyond the pale of tanking.
“I would love to see some of the service time, if you add it all up. It’s not much,” said Eckersley, noting Pittsburgh’s lack of major-league experience. “Just came from Kansas City seeing all those young kids. This is different though. Doesn’t it seem different? They have a lot of prospects they’re playing over there.”
Losing for the ninth time in 11 games, the Pirates didn’t score a run until the eighth inning Tuesday night, ultimately falling 5-3 before a home crowd of 19,387, which was actually above their season average (16,035).