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EDITORIAL - Breaking faith: Fans have had it with the Pirates' rebuilding

Written by Susan Mannella on .

The team should make it official. It's time to change their name to the Pittsburgh Prospects.

That's how it feels little more than a day after All-Star, Gold Glove center fielder Nate McLouth was traded for three minor-leaguers.

The team's latest home run and RBI leader was dispatched to Atlanta after management signed him to a three-year, $15.75 million contract in February and team President Frank Coonelly declared him one of the Pirates' three core players. The Nutting ownership's latest salary dump comes two months into this year's schedule and four months before the Pirates, after 17 straight losing seasons, will claim the distinction of losingest franchise in pro sports history.

You can now be sure of that.

Front-office apologists will defend the trade by pointing to Mr. McLouth's .256 average and his replacement in the field by farm-system talent Andrew McCutchen (who was 2-for-4 in his PNC Park debut yesterday).

But this affront to the fans hurt because of more than numbers.

The Pirates ownership pledged to start winning. And after fans endured the previous painful trades of stars Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, the team promised to build around Nate McLouth, catcher Ryan Doumit and pitcher Paul Maholm.

"The long-term commitments we have made to core players developed here, both this year and last year, reflect our commitment to build a strong core from within our system," Mr. Coonelly said four months ago. "Ryan, Paul and Nate all dedicated themselves to becoming championship-caliber players, and all three demonstrated a strong desire to play integral roles in this organization's turnaround."

That assurance rings hollow and the McLouth trade breaks faith with the fans, who were the lead partner in building for this team one of America's most beautiful ballparks. Eight years later the talent on the field has yet to measure up, while each successive Pirates executive says only the same thing: next year, next year, next year.

You don't build a contender with a revolving door. You don't put a face on a team with players who are here one year and gone the next.

It's time Pittsburgh baseball had ownership worthy of the game. Mark Cuban, where are you?

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