By Tim Baffoe–

(CBS) I used to make a bet each year with a good friend’s father, John, who was primarily a Chicago White Sox fan but also a longtime Pittsburgh Pirates fan stemming from a childhood love of Roberto Clemente.

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“Buck a game, Baff,” he’d say without even a salutation when we’d cross paths in a local tavern. It regarded the season series between the Pirates and Chicago Cubs. The prize was a few dollars that would go to buying the other guy a beer anyway and cheaper bragging rights over two usually scuffling squads.

It was a fun bet that gave us fuel to talk friendly smack to one another, and a Cubs loss didn’t bother me all that much because I, too, considered the Pirates my secondary team. Maybe it was the uniforms I’d always liked or that the Pirates were so often politely bad like the Cubs that I just identified with them. Either way, the back of my mind always reserved a spot for rooting for the Bucs if a Cubs season was in the toilet.

John passed away about a month ago, and coincidentally my affection for the Pirates has shuffled off as well. It seems the price of the season series has gone up, but not monetarily.

This is how it works, huh? The price of established alpha status.

I hesitate to use the word “success” there because the Chicago Cubs have won nothing of significance yet. But short of catastrophic injury epidemic, they will win the division and presumably maintain the position as Vegas favorite to win the National League and World Series.

I’m running out of ways to call the Cubs jaw-droppingly good. This isn’t putting on airs or conflating some “Next year is here” wishful idiocy. It’s just logic. There’s nothing about what we’ve seen on the North Side that could get anyone to make a decent claim against superiority right now. The Cubs are an MLB-best 27-9, four games better than anyone else in baseball.

Enter Pittsburgh Pirates ace and hockey meatball Gerrit Cole.

“It’s just an opportunity to salvage the series,” Cole said after stymieing the Cubs on Sunday for the Pirates’ first victory this season against the division leaders in six tries. “I don’t really think they’re the best team in baseball.”

Yeah, see, but the Cubs are. And it seems to be incredibly bothersome to the black and gold. Not wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so. And when a team has an eight-game division lead, perhaps you’re not in a position to detract from them being the only team in baseball on May 16 with single-digit losses.

But these are the new Pirates apparently, born of a saltiness over their once fun, cost-defying rise being snuffed by the deep-pocketed, nationally-more-interesting Cubs. And jealousy is such an ugly color on the otherwise fantastic Pirate uniforms.

Does “Go Cubs Go” deserve mockery? Damn right that terrible, dated, chronologically incorrect garbage anthem does — but not by a petty high schooler whose team was being no-hit into the seventh inning and at risk of being swept twice already.

What was once a sort of sibling-hood bonded by a mutual dislike of the St. Louis Cardinals has deteriorated into a sad little brother syndrome, particularly now that the Pirates are good but the Cubs are just better and built to be so for a while. When the Pirates are losing to the Cubs, now it’s an affront to decency bordering on (gasp) The Cardinal Way of complaining.

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https://twitter.com/Matt_Maisel/status/731579394578362371

“I’m not good at judging intent,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after Saturday’s game in which Jake Arrieta dominated and happened to hit Jung Ho Kang with a pitch. “You can judge intent.”

Because while outscoring the Pirates 38-13 this season, the Cubs have been totally concerned about “sending messages” with baseballs as weapons.

“That one didn’t just spin away,” said Jeff Locke, who took the loss for the Pirates on Saturday. “He’s been pretty sharp all year. Maybe that one got away from him in. That’s not something I know. I don’t know what happened on the pitch. It got him pretty (flush) though, and it just seems that a guy like that with pinpoint accuracy that he has, doesn’t just miss in.”

Anyone who has really watched Arrieta this season knows that despite his magnificent numbers, his control has been spotty in multiple innings this season, particularly in the first half of games.

“I guess that they didn’t get hit after that point,” Arrieta said of the hit by pitch, twisting the Pirates’ screws without uttering a single word of trash talk. “I was able to do some things to eliminate any further damage. I really settled in and was working really well with Miguel (Montero) today.”

I guess this is something Cubs fans will have to get used to, a trade off for first place. It’s that winning games means they aren’t winning the right way. It’s the Pirates broadcasters not-saying-but-just-saying that the Cubs best pitcher could be on PEDs. It’s that Cubs fans being excited and enjoying a really great team are clearly already adding “2016 World Series champions” to the team Wikipedia page. It’s that the Cubs are bullies. It’s that Sean Rodriguez is a very normal, together adult who shan’t stand for water coolers or Pedro Strop’s cocked hat cockiness.

And it’s a lot of the Pirates not heeding their manager’s words.

I’ll gladly pay such a price for this wonderful baseball I get watch at Wrigley Field. If it means the collective attitude of the Jolly Roger makes me ditch my secondary affections, so be it. 

I’m up five bucks to one.

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Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.