I’ve cried three times today — once when I got home from work and could allow the emotions of Jack being traded be fully expressed, once when Rocco opened the postgame show with an audio highlight reel of Jack’s best plays, set, of course, to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and once when reading about Freddy’s reaction to Jack’s trade.
Somewhere in the midst of that, of course, Freddy was traded (to the Giants), and when Rocco broke that news over the air, I didn’t have any tears left. I didn’t even have enough shock with which to adequately react.
I know that the Pirates are not a competitive team. And I know that even when they get competitive, there’s still a long way to go to get over that hump of being championship-caliber. So I know that trades like that of Jack and that of Freddy are necessary. But I also know that, for Jack and Freddy’s sakes, I wanted them to be here when things turn around. Jack’s committment to Pittsburgh was well-known. (File this under heartbreaking tidbit of, well, my life — yesterday afternoon, apparently within moments of the trade’s framework being put in place [admittedly, unbeknownst to Jack and his camp], Jack’s agent made a counteroffer for an extension to the Pirates. They never returned his calls.) And everyone who’s listened to a Pirate game on the radio this year knows that Freddy has (well, had) one of the quotes they use in the intro: “There’s gonna be nothing more satisfying than turning this thing around, not only for us but for the fans. It’s no secret that I love the city of Pittsburgh; I’d love to play my whole career here. What more do you want as a player than to have a beautiful stadium to go play in, in front of true sports fans? There’s gonna be nothing more satisfying than selling that place out, every night.”
So now what? Yes, we’ve stocked up on prospects, but who will provide that veteran leadership, and, at once, that childlike enthusiasm? Who will turn those sweet double plays to which we’ve all grown so accustomed? In all honesty, who will I go to the ballpark to see?
Because you need to understand — these trades have completely boggled my mind. I’m so confused, because I’m starting to wonder if I was/am a Jack and Freddy fan more than I was/am a Pirate fan. Could that be true? And if it is, what are the larger implications of that on my life? I mean, I still love this team and hope they win each time out, and I still feel a connection to the announcers and the work that they do (I’m watching the replay of this afternoon’s game as I type this), and of course I love going to the ballpark. But there was something special for me about watching Jack and Freddy play together. In some ways, I’m glad that they were both traded, because I get the impression that it would have been too difficult for whoever was left as a Pirate without the other. In other ways, I have a knot in my stomach and more tears in my eyes, and I’m hoping against hope that I will wake up tomorrow and find this was all a dream.
So I need you to understand this as well — Neal Huntington may be building the Pirates’ system, but today, he also succeeded in breaking my heart.