In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here. Today, I get into semantics and say why the Pirates’ name is incorrect.
The Pirates, like seemingly every team this year, could be a serious contender and return to the postseason for the third time in as many years, which is something I never thought I’d type, even with the expanded wild card.
There’s a lot to like about the Pirates. They have Andrew McCutchen, who is of course one of the best players in the game, and they have a very nice pitching staff that could be even better this year as the young pitchers such as Gerrit Cole get even better.
However, I do have to bring one problem to everyone’s attention: The Pirates’ name is completely inaccurate.
And, no, I don’t just mean that in the sense that McCutchen and friends do not actually plunder their way across the seven seas. No, I mean that their name doesn’t quite fit.
First off, some history. The Pittsburgh Pirates can be traced back to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys (sic) of the 19th century. That was the name they played under starting in their first season of 1887 and what many previous teams in the Pittsburgh area had been named. However, in 1890, the Alleghenys signed Lou Bierbauer, who had been a member of the American Association’s Philadelphia Athletics (despite the name, there is no connection to either of the Athletics or Phillies of today). Their actions were called “piratical” by American Association officials, and the Alleghenys ran with it, changing their name to Pirates.
However, there is one problem: just because your actions are piratical does not make you a pirate. Well, under some definitions it does, but only the most general and encompassing of them.
You see, pirates are, by definition, not part of any country or location other then themselves, their ship, and their crew. Maybe also other pirate crews, if they are part of some sort of terrorist group (such as many of the Somali pirates of today, who are loosely connected with terrorist organizations in the area).
Now, let’s see, while the Pittsburgh Pirates are definitely in it for themselves and their crew (their teammates), they also are representing a location and a government, albeit indirectly: The City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
And, guess what? When a Pirate is signed up to represent one government or location’s interests, the pirate ceases to be a pirate, and becomes a privateer. To put it into baseball terms, pirates are basically always free agents, while privateers are players who’ve signed up to play for a certain team.
So, ladies and gentleman, know that while the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates may be destined for great things, they are not, technically, pirates. Rather, they are the Pittsburgh Privateers.
Which still kind of rolls off the tongue pretty well, all things considered.