As a die-hard Cincinnati Reds fan, I long for the days when the Indianapolis Indians served as Cincy’s Triple-A affiliate. I mean, come on! Who wouldn’t want to see Pedro Borbon or Pokey Reese roaming plying their trades at Bush Stadium or Victory Field? Ah, but that was long ago, and Indy fans have seen the franchise passed around like Matt Stairs, from the Reds to the Expos back to the Reds to the Brewers and, finally, to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Through it all, the Indians have enjoyed some success, even under the auspices of the pitiful Pirates. Indy made it to the International League championships before losing to the Toledo Mud Hens as late as 2005. Rumor has it that Bill Hudnut wept as he watched Klinger toasting some bubbly on the mini-tron.
The Pirates, on the other hand, haven’t had a winning season since you-know-who left town after the 1992 season. So rather than just let Pittsburgh squeeze out its 20th stinker in a row, let’s consider a modest proposal: have the Pirates play the Indians, right now, in spring training, to determine which one gets to be the Major League team this season. It could be one game. It could be a series: best of three, best of five, best of seven. It could be one game every day from now until camp closes. But let’s make it winner take all.
As presently constituted, the Indians roster is loaded with seven pitchers, one catcher, two infielders, two outfielders, a manager, and two coaches. That’s 15 guys. I say activate coaches Jeff Branson and Tom Filer, let manager Dean Treanor DH (he is 63, after all), and then let’s play ball! Sure, the Pirates have the advantage of a full 40-man roster, but these are mostly the same duds that “led” them to a 57-105 record a year ago and has many pundits predicting in the neighborhood of 110 losses this season.
So, worst case for the Pirates is that they get demoted, en masse, to Triple-A. I know they have some supposedly talented players, and the system is set up to accommodate such things. With such a small Major League roster to start with, Indianapolis will be able to seamlessly absorb the call-up of, say, Andrew McCutchen. If Treanor fogets his Geritol one day, there will be even more room on the active roster.
In the end, everybody wins if the Indians win. Indianapolis finally gets its own Major League team, some retired players get another shot at the big time, and the Pirates get to play a more reasonable level of competition during the season. If, in another 19 years, things aren’t working out, then we can do this all over again, and then maybe the Pirates will be more ready for the rigors of MLB.