Apologies for not posting a Preview yesterday. Truthfully, this season of blogging has been tough. I had the intention of writing a humorous blog which also contributed positive thoughts on the team. But given the way this season has unfolded - with the 2010 Pirates fielding not only the worst team in baseball this year, but one of the worst in modern history - it is tough not to be negative.
Topics like advocating moving McCutchen from third in the order to leadoff, that I can do. But to give one counterexample, I see reports that Ronny Cedeno has won the shortstop job in 2011 and I just can't even respond. Check the list of 28 pitchers the Pirates have used this year, and tell me how many there really is something to say about. What do you blog about Andy LaRoche's career, a one-time top prospect who is nothing but an ineffective pinch hitter by his 27th birthday?
All this and more. But it's time to defend Pirates fandom, and if you're not, it's time to become a fan.
Talented young players
The Pirates brought up a 21-year-old left fielder, Jose Tabata, in May with remarkable results. At an age where it's totally legitimate to still be in the Florida State League, Tabata is a consistent line drive hitting, .300 hitting outfielder with superb defense and plus plus speed.
Andrew McCutchen cemented himself as a star in this, his age 23 season, by basically repeating his superb 2009 over a full season. He isn't the top defensive center fielder in baseball, but he does make plays that no other center fielder would make. And on offense, he's a dynamic catalyst at the top of the order, a true power/speed threat the likes of which are rarer than you think.
Neil Walker blossomed into a legitimate #3 hitter at age 24 - and from a middle infield position. I know the new fielding stats don't reflect this, but it's clear to me that Walker's defense has been great - especially for a guy playing second base for the first time in his career.
Pedro Alvarez, in his rookie age 23 year, adjusted to major league pitching and has shown flashes of the power that will make him a consistent 30 home run guy. I'm fine with 11 home runs over half of an MLB season considering this was his second pro season overall.
James McDonald, in his first year as an MLB starter, brings top of the rotation stuff to the mound and commands it like a seasoned veteran. He has quietly been one of the best strikeout guys on any MLB staff in this second half.
All of those guys will be Pirates for four to six more years. Add in Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan, our two lights out closers, and this is a lot of talent to build around.
It literally cost me fifty dollars to get a standing room seat at Fenway for an Orioles game. Let's say you are a Red Sox fan living somewhere in New England. Unless you're rich you're going down to a game two times a year, struggling to get there and park, and largely following the team on TV. It's a similar scenario for the Cubs, Phillies, any of the big market teams.
We are baseball fans, and we want to spend our summer going to baseball games. I think I made it to 22 games this year and with free games, I could not have spent over 200 dollars on all those tickets combined. Sports should be experienced as close to the playing field as possible, not watched at a bar because there's no way to get in. The Pirates, with their ticket deals and low prices, are one of the few major league pro teams that let people of average means attend games on a regular basis. And you know PNC is the best park in baseball.
The Pittsburgh weather is also great for baseball. Any night game from May through the end of the season is likely to have perfect weather. And the fans are true fans. Nobody is wearing green St. Patrick's Day McCutchen jerseys with McCutchen written in Russian.
Clemente, Stargell, Mazeroski, Kiner, Wagner, 1960, 1979, yes, Van Slyke... The Pirates have some of the richest history of any team in sports. I've tried to highlight a lot of this through the blog and will continue to do so in the off-season. The 1960 World Series Game 7 footage was just found and we'll get to watch the greatest game in baseball history in December. This is a proud franchise and anyone should be proud to wear the colors.
Also, we're going to win the World Series next year.