Columns/Opinion, Sean Manning

It’s still early, but Pirates’ ownership looks like geniuses

April baseball is a time for outlandish overreactions, lazy narratives and false hope.

It happens every single year in Major League Baseball — something unexpected happens, and fans and media blow it way out of proportion, good or bad. Nearly three weeks into this season, there is some local interest that goes into the “good” category with the hot start of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

All offseason, Pirates fans clamored for boycotts and for other fans to be angry at what ownership decided to do by getting rid of stars Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole.

How could ownership do such a thing? How could they just give away one of the most popular players in recent franchise history, as well as one of the top young arms in the game?

Truth be told, the window of success for the group of Pirates that made the postseason this decade was about to shut. Resigning the likes of Cole and McCutchen would have cost a pretty penny and the likelihood of resigning both were slim.

If Pittsburgh did resign both, that’s a financial burden that a small-market team would struggle to dig itself out of. So, the Pirates basically dumped them for a small return, which may make fans the most upset, but it needed to be done.

And wouldn’t you know, after all of the uproar about how bad the Buccos were going to be this year, they sit at 11-4 and in first place in the NL Central.

It’s doubtful this hot start continues, and that’s exactly what it is, a hot start. But there is still a young core to build around, and without the financial burden of keeping an aging veteran like McCutchen and the potential huge price tag on Cole, there is room to build around the like of Jameson Taillon, Felipe Vazquez, Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco.

Believe it or not, third baseman Colin Moran, one of the nobodies the Pirates got from Houston for Cole, is hitting over .300.

If you gave up on the Pirates in December, give them another shot. While this torrid start to the season likely won’t last, the next wave that could get Pittsburgh in the playoffs is here.

Look no further than Los Angels of Anaheim player Shohei Ohtani as an example of overreaction early in the season.

Ohtani, who came to L.A. nicknamed the “Japanese Babe Ruth” because of his ability to pitch and mash home runs, had a terrible spring training.  He was lit up on the mound and struggled to hit at the plate, and most had him destined to AAA to work out the kinks.

Less than three weeks later, Ohtani is the talk of baseball and favorite to win the American League MVP. At the plate, he’s hitting .367 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. On the mound, he’s 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA with 18 strike outs in two starts.

Compare that to spring training, where he hit .125 in 32 at bats with 10 strikeouts and pitched to a 27.00 ERA in 2 2/3 innings.

I’m going to guess that Ohtani’s  final stats at the end of the season will be nowhere near as bad as his spring training numbers or as good as where he sits now.

The old phrase that baseball is a marathon and not a sprint is something folks need to remember in April. Enjoy the ride without claiming the Pirates are now World Series favorites or that Ohtani is the best player in the game. It will all take care of itself — 162 games will make sure of that.