Friday, July 30, 2010

Are the Pirates Getting Better? And by Better, I Mean Tolerably Mediocre?

From True/Slant on July 22, 2010:

Okay Pittsburgh Pirates, You Got My Attention

Okay, Pirates, I am engaged. I am rapt. Plugged in. Enthralled. Well, maybe not enthralled, but you do have my attention so: now what?

Since the All Star Break, the heretofore pitiful Pittsburgh Pirates have played six games, winning four of them. It’s a nice number of wins versus losses, but it’s no great shakes. It’s how they’ve won that grabbed me by the throat, slapped me around and said, “Hey, dummy, wake up!”

In those games, the Pittsburgh line up, the same one which posted a winning percentage of .341 at the break and which had scored just 284 runs in those 88 games, have scored 50 runs in the past six games. They scored 86 runs in the entire month of May and just 80 in all of June. They were drubbed by the score of 20-0 in April. Ouch.

And yet, in less than one week, 50 Pirates crossed home plate, a pace which they cannot keep up over a long stretch, of course, but considering how moribund they’ve been at the plate, this is like watching the Bizarro Buccos.

Of course, management kept promising things would get better. Just wait, they said. The young guys are good, they claimed. Seriously. We know you’ve been hosed in the past, but we mean it this time. Really. They’re coming. And they’re gonna be good. Don’t tune out yet. Please.

I had heard that song and dance before. Andrew McCutchen is the real deal, but one guy does not a major league franchise make.

But the cavalry is here. Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez. And they are really good.

Which leads me to believe that either:

(one) these guys are as promised.


(two) this is a blip. Or a bloop. Or a bleep. No. Scratch that. The last 17 years have been a bleep. So a blip or a bloop. Basically, this could be a fluke is what I’m getting at, because it’s hard to believe that this isn’t just a case of a blind pig finding an acorn, which I am told, happens from time to time.

It’s not like the management team are the most credible guys around. After all, they brought on Aki “Knee Brace” Iwamura to play 2nd base, paid him $4,850,000.00, and in return got a guy who had 30 hits in 54 games. (If you watched closely enough, you could almost see the bat move off his shoulder, so infrequent and glacial was it’s movement.)

This is the franchise that has strung together more consecutive losing seasons than any team in the history of professional baseball. And that’s saying something cousin.

You’ll pardon me if I haven’t drunk the Bucco Kool-Aid just yet.

But at the risk of being a Gulla Bull, it feels different this time. Which has to mean something, even if all the runs and these few wins don’t mean anything practical for this year. 2010 is a wash and will be another (record setting) losing season.

The way this team is playing now, this could be a portent of actual good things to come. Can they finish strong in August and September? And if they do, can they translate that into success in 2011? If they keep these guys together, and if they can get a few key elements (wily, veteran catcher anyone?), they could be a team with playoff hopes still alive in August of 2011.

What looms larger than Pedro Alvarez’ OBP is the trade deadline (July 31st). Is the Pirates front office dealing in good faith this year or will they be up to their usual tricks of sending young talent away, only to receive a bag of batting practice balls and some summer sausages in return.

So I’ve poured myself a Dixie Cup of that Bucco Kool-Aid, but I’ll wait to drink it until the returns are in from any trade deadline moves.

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