Trading Places: The Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Mets


One of the feel good stories in baseball has been the Pittsburgh Pirates, who returned to the playoffs Tuesday for the first time since 1992. As I watched both the Pirates and Mets seasons unfold this year, I kept thinking back to our trip to Pittsburgh, June 3 and June 4, 2009. Do you remember Pittsburgh?


Love Pittsburgh! Great town, great stadium. We got awesome seats — cheap! — because nobody was there.


Nate McLouthIn what has become an unfortunate trend for us on our trips, the game was rained out on June 3rd. The Pirates were in the news that day, though, as they traded their starting center fielder, Nate McLouth, to the Braves for three prospects. The next day we got to the park early, and we talked to many distraught Pittsburgh fans, it had already been many years since they had a winning team. It was hard to see when that cycle would finally be broken. On the other hand, collapses aside, the Mets were coming off three winning seasons, including an NLCS appearance. PNC was dead and empty, and when we discussed it we felt fortunate, as we couldn’t imagine their situation befalling us. PNC was basically a new park, it had opened in 2001, and having just moved into shiny new Citi Field it seemed incredible that the Pirates had not been able to leverage anything useful out of their new park. We had seats on the field level, behind third base, and the concession stand was not open right behind us, as they had many of them closed. I couldn’t get over that.


I remember being hungry, with money in my pocket, and having a hard time finding somewhere to trade it for food. The concessions were closed and the few that were open had ridiculous lines. It was bizarre. And, we thought, awfully bad business.


Well, here we are in 2013, and it is a grainy photo from my phone, but I sat in the field level behind third in August of this year at Citi Field, and what did I see? A shuttered concession stand, one of many throughout the empty ballpark that day.

Citi Field Hot Dog Stand

Duke BrothersA few days later, the moribund Mets traded Marlon Byrd to the playoff-bound Pirates for prospects. And it all hit me, am I just Louis Winthorpe III? That would explain it all would it not? Maybe Fred Wilpon has a $1 bet with Bud Selig that he could destroy a New York franchise and trade places with the Pirates. Because I have to say, in June 2009 this reversal of fortunes seemed impossible.


So, wait. We’re Dan Aykroyd? Does that mean we get to date a young Jamie Lee Curtis? Or is that not part of the deal?



Let’s be honest. We couldn’t land the current Jamie Lee Curtis. So no, that is not the takeaway.  I think the lesson here is, wow, things can change a lot, and fast.

Considering the state of the Mets right now, that is actually comforting.

And one game into their playoff journey, congratulations to the Pirates and Marlon Byrd (who started the scoring with a solo home run) on a big win.

Go Bucs!





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  1. Patrick Boegel says:

    Being at CitiField last August for Mets vs Nationals, Stephen Strasburg vs Jeremy Hefner, I think the only major league player on the Mets roster was David Wright (so not much changed year over year) the thing that blew my mind most was here was a four year old stadium at 35% capacity, max, with 90% of the stadium amenities shut down.

    It is a funny pickle, because one wants the Mets to quickly get to where the Pirates were last night, but does one want Fred, Saul and Jeff to be given any credit for that? I know deep down it is just fluff and you can overlook the pomp and circumstance of the suits getting interviewed, but it just feels all wrong.

  2. It feels awful. At the same time, as much as I’d like to see them sell — as much as I’d like to see them get the vitriol they deserve — I just don’t believe it will happen. We’re stuck with those slimelords.

    • Alan K. says:

      You’re probably right, but the Mets have a lot of debt that they have to pay back within the next two years and Bud Selig will supposedly retire after the 2014 season. A new commissioner without any personal loyalty to Fred could try to push the Wilpons out. If that doesn’t work, make Jeff commissioner which would prevent him from operating the team.

      • Patrick Boegel says:

        Thing is, the new commissioner is by and large going to be a hand picked extension of Bud. For the longest time many a pundit predicted it would be Alderson, and yet now it appears to be Manfred in the front runner seat. Sadly, this would have little to no impact on the Wilpons, because they have dutifully supported Manfred in his different capacities since 1998.

        While Manfred created the Debt Service rule, it is so glaringly convoluted that it seems expressly designed to allow the commissioners office to arbitrarily decide which owners are bad business, and which friends despite their inability to tread water should be forgiven.

  3. At the same time, I was really happy for Marlon Byrd and the Pittsburgh fans.

    • Alan K. says:

      I’m assuming that the suits at FOX are rooting for a Dodger-Red Sox World Series, but the PIrates are a great story and if they got to the WS, I could see that story generating a lot of national interest.

  4. Michael Geus says:

    I’m also happy for Pirates fans, they have waited a long time for this.

  5. RAFF says:

    I think that The Pirates point us toward our short-term plan. They’ve held onto top prospects, and a couple of them have blossomed as everyday players- Alvarez, Marte, McCutcheon, Coles – and they’ve pulled some guys off “loaded rosters” – BOTTOM Feedeing- Jeff Lock, and they’ve signed free agents and picked up some guys off the scrap-heap in small deals- Burnett, Liriano, Martin, and the late signing of Mourneau… It’s a good model- and it has been a GREAT success. I think this looks a lot like what I hope and envision the Mets approach to be this off-season. Keep the Powder Dry on the prospects who are close to or already on the Major League Roster, Pick up PROFESSIONAL MLB Free agents, maybe one or two who can anchor spots on the field and in the lineup, and see how the young talent progresses and fills in the rest of the holes. In other words- If these guys managing this outfit actually have a commitment and a plan towards being a winner- 2014 is just a starting point.

  6. When it works, the Pirates plan — AKA, the Royals plan — is a beautiful thing. But you might have to wait 5, 10, 20, 30 years.

  7. LRAFF says:

    James- Before I start to respond- Of course, I forgot Marlon Byrd and Neil Walker… Oh, well… Anyway- I’m just of the opinion that the Mets really need to be selective in trading prospects – SPECIFICALLY- those prospects who they already have slated to be on the field in starting positions next year. And they also, in my opinion, need to stay away from “high-end” trades where they surrender 3 or 4 Top End Prospects for a “star”. Various points of view have been advocated in others’ opinion- One of which is to trade Neise or Gee for “a bat”- Well enough, but how do the Mets get better if they take a 3-4-5 level starter and 170-200 innings out of the rotation? If I “stipulate” to the fact that the high-end younger pitchers may not pan out, then I also must define the loss of a 190 innings of a sub 4.00 ERA starter as a HOLE. Similarly, If they trade the high-end pitching prospects- Where do they ever get the ability to acquire a top level 1-2-or 3 pitcher? I can go on and on- I think the answer is: Find 2 10-15 Million per year Free agent Major League Ball players in Free Agency. Scour the excess talent on overloaded rosters- find a way to bring them in without “giving up the farm”… I look at it this way- If the Mets can keep their prospect stream largely intact, and they can find 3 Major league ballplayers to put on the field in free-agency, then they can hope, realistically, that one or two of the younger prospects and 2013 Major League “auditions” (Lagares, D’Arnaud, etc) along with some of the ALMOST Major League Ready talent(Puello, Flores) Blossoms. If they get 3 NEW Major league Ballplayers on the field in 2014, their record and the outlook for the future is going to look much brighter. They’re not that far away- But if they are going to have a successful team at a $100million spending level- this is really the only Path

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      And if they cling desperately to the top 3 or 4 end prospects and they turn into the next Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, Mike Pelfrey?

      You can’t hold onto everything for a rainy day.

      No one is recommending the Mets go the Kazmir for Zambrano route, but one can explore functional trades.

      The Pirates payroll this year was $66.3MM. The Mets should be at that number on accident. The Pirates have more money committed to 2014 than the New York Mets as of today. Consider that. So, sure I can buy into waiting for this moment, of flexibility, now get to it.

      The New York Mets should be able to withstand a $120MM payroll given the resources they have in their market. They should also if they invest and have to give up some minor league talent be able to dig deep a little bit to restock via some investment in the draft and international markets.

      Lagares is never going to be an impact hitter at the MLB level, if you get a .750 OPS out of him it would be a bonus. Counting on Puello after his lab season might be a bit of a stretch.

      The Mets need to invest a bit more than the “hope we get lucky” strategy the Pirates have to work from. Keep in mind also that the Pirates, with a 22 year draught and two straight seasons in which they fell apart post all-star break traded one of their better prospects for Marlon Byrd and John Buck. To get hopefully one and a half months of each to make SURE they got over the hump.

  8. Eric says:

    I see an 85 and up win level as very achievable…in fact, I will judge them on an over-under of 85 wins next year. That’s a team in the Wild Card Hunt…as a Start…as a bottom line.

    Three Major League Ball Players as additions?…. that fits the need AND the supposed budget—if they can’t find that they just don’t like ANY baseball players!

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