The Pittsburgh Pirates have one of the very best records in baseball right now. I've been avoiding the subject because I remember the unpleasantness of the last two seasons, and I'm surprisingly superstitious. Their dual collapses were probably all my fault. I've been meaning to do one of these about the Pirates since last August, but I haven't ascertained the right time.
The Pirates are enjoying success now for a few different reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is their pitching. A.J. Burnett is some kind of strikeout demigod now. Wandy Rodriguez is the same good pitcher he's been for six out of the last seven years. Jeff Locke is surprisingly (deceptively?) effective, and Francisco Liriano looks like one of the best risk/reward gambles of the offseason.
Boy, could they use one more pitcher, though. Like, not a competent pitcher, but a top-of-the-rotation bolt of lightning. Gerrit Cole isn't quite ready, and Jameson Taillon is probably a year away, too. The rotation is fine as is, but an additional quality starting pitcher would make a big difference. Like Kevin Gausman for the Orioles. Also, pretend that Gausman has been really, really good for the Orioles. Your suspension of disbelief makes me a better writer.
In a just universe, the Pirates should have one of these pitchers ready to go. In this just, alternate universe, Mark Appel should be making his second or third major-league start by now, bypassing most of the minor-league vortex that usually sucks Pirates prospects in. There should be Strasburgian hype around him, and every one of his starts should be an event. The Pirates should be the It Team right now.
Instead, Scott Boras won.
That isn't to suggest that evil triumphed over good or anything overly hyperbolic. Scott Boras is very good at his job. Sometimes he'll make mistakes (Ryan Madson, Jarrod Washburn, underestimating how much teams wanted to hang on to their draft picks this year), but he usually wins. He's the first pick in every agent fantasy league, and his agent WAR is off the charts. And instead of Mark Appel becoming a cautionary tale, he's going to make several million more than he would have if he signed with the Pirates last year. Boras wins again.
Boras usually wins. The Pirates usually don't. So even though we're coming off a relatively tough offseason for Boras, and even though the Pirates are playing exceptionally well, I have a bad feeling about this. This is concern trolling of the highest order. And it's not proper analysis. For one, we don't even know if Appel would have been successful as a professional. For two, the Pirates aren't playing like a team that desperately needs anything right now.
But here are three possible outcomes:
1. The Pirates continue to play well, and the idea of Mark Appel is forever irrelevant to their 2013 season.
2. The Pirates falter, but Appel doesn't end up being a majors-ready pitcher, so it doesn't make a difference.
3. The Pirates falter, falling just short, coming close enough to where one more pitcher, one more positive outcome could have made all the difference, which is a what-if that festers as Mark Appel enjoys immediate success with the Astros or Cubs, forever making the Pirates wonder what would have happened.
I'd almost peg those to be in order of likelihood, actually. If I'm being rational, I mean.
But being rational isn't my business right now. I noticed that Scott Boras won again, that he did so at the expense of the Pirates, and I'm too riveted to get up and buy some popcorn. Because I think I know how this is going to end.
There's another outcome, too. The Pirates could draft someone with the Appel compensatory pick who becomes a Hall of Famer, and he'll come up in 2014 with Cole and Taillon to provide the boost the Pirates need to win their second straight championship. Heck, I'd root for that one. Sounds like a lot more fun.
But if this is the beginning of the movie, Boras and the Pirates are walking clichés that make the foreshadowing too heavy-handed. I don't know if the Pirates are the hooker with the heart of gold, the cop with one more day until retirement, or the nice guy who finishes last, but I've seen this movie before. The odds are good that there will never need to be an article titled "What if the Pirates had Mark Appel in 2013?"
Pretty sure there will be, though.
Sorry. I'll show myself out.