Pittsburgh Sports are a constant in my life and always have been. Watching every Steelers game, trying to catch Penguins Games, and taking naps while the Pirates lose. And save the spectacular run in 92 (with the heartbreaking failure in game 7 of the NLCS against Atlanta) all through primary school, through most of college, this was the norm. All we fans wanted to see was a season at .500. THATS IT.
Every Year, April would come around. Everyone would be at 3 Rivers, or later PNC to check out all the offseason pick ups. Then the stadium would empty in May, with all of our good prospect players being traded for little to nothing in return . We had become a farm team, with ridiculous revenue in merchandising. I mean, come on, the amount of people that I’ve seen with Pirates hats on around the country is ridiculous. And a great deal of them, have NO CLUE they are wearing a professional baseball teams logo!
Ok, those are all pretty ridiculous, and not great examples of my point(I don’t just run around taking pictures of non fans wearing pirates hats, especially when there are some organized street gangs who seem to favor them.)
All this said, I personally, may have let the Pirates shift into the background of my mid day naps, but I never forgot them. Each week I’d look at the stats, see who was hot, who was not. Until 2009. We picked up the soon to be amazing Andrew McCutcheon. And he wasn’t traded in May, or even at the end of the season. And finally the pirates fans had a guy to get behind. A huge shift in fandom started.Then 2011, Clint Hurdle walks into the dugout. And a short two years later, after acquiring some more players, and getting on base more consistently, the 2013 Pirates arrive.
2013 broke a 20 Year losing streak. And I was sobbing tears of joy into the arms of a complete stranger in Augusta, Michigan, as I watched the Pirates Advance past the wild card. And a short time later crying again as they lost to the Cardinals(for real though, screw those guys)
The Pirates continued to make the playoffs until this past year, 2016. And finished under .500 again. (definitely left me screaming some choice words the entire off season).
What went wrong last season? Why? Well, the Front office definitely didn’t do us any favors. Both Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez were traded leaving the team with a power outage. Those two players combined for 43 HRs in 2016. Wups. This left them to rely more on getting on base consistently, which didn’t seem to happen. This along with a myriad of other problems, which I don’t want to linger on.
What are they doing to fix it? Well, they are still one of baseball’s most successful teams with 358 wins in the past four years. Only the Cardinals (373), Dodgers (369), and Nationals (360) have more wins since 2013.
At first base, rookie Josh Bell is likely to see the most playing time after a brief but explosive debut at the end of the Pirates’ 2016 season. Bell provides a bat with power that only few human beings can match, but his defense has been a liability.
Along with Bell, John Jaso and David Freese will likely see some spot starts at first base. Freese is a lifelong third baseman, but he successfully converted to first toward the end of last season. Jaso isn’t particularly spectacular in any area but will provide a veteran bat off the bench.
Josh Harrison has the versatility to play anywhere, but he should slot in as the primary second baseman on this year’s team. The 2014 All-Star has been affected by injuries the past two seasons and seen his production take a slight dip, but he is still an above-average defender and base stealer who has batted at least .280 in three straight seasons.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that the Pirates believe they can get a visa for third baseman Jung-Ho Kang. It’s all very cryptic, as you’d expect, but the paper states that Kang was denied a visa last week, but quotes team president Frank Coonelly as saying “We believe that the information we provide will be enough for Kang to get a visa.” I’ll believe it when I see him in uniform on the field. Until then, we’re looking at Freese as the logical 3rd base choice.
In the outfield, We have McCutcheon moving to right field, Marte in Center, and Polanco in left. If you can say anything about the pirates, its that they are definitely versatile.
All this said, I look forward to baseball being back, and looking at the game a little closer in a written format. Apologies for the Terrible writing.
Lets Go Bucs!