Let’s Go Bucs!
John Kruk was once reprimanded by some lady who saw him smoking a cigarette in uniform during his days with the Phillies. She said something like “how can you do that to your body, you’re an athlete.” Kruk responded “lady, I’m not an athlete, I’m a ballplayer.”
So before you get on my case about openly rooting for the Pirates, because I’m a baseball writer, let’s get one thing straight: Reader, I’m not a journalist, I’m a baseball junkie.
Besides, what do we want from baseball anyway? What can we ask of a team? In my estimation, here are the things that make a team/season extraordinary.
- An MVP caliber superstar at his best (Andrew McCutchen)
- A Cy Young caliber pitcher at his best (They don’t have one yet)
- An underdog/redemption story (21 losing seasons in a row doin’ it for ya?)
- A top prospect living up to the hype (Starling Marte)
- A scrappy veteran (Clint Barmes)
- A non-superstar who is a fan favorite (Garrett “G.I.”Jones)
- Inexplicable performances (consistent A.J. Burnett, healthy Eric Bedard)
- Smart front office moves (stuck with Marte rather than sell him off for a veteran, while adding Travis Snider, and Wandy Rodriguez)
- Homegrown talents powering the club (Neil Walker, McCutchen, Marte)
- A rallying fan base (even after two decades of losing, there were still Pittsburghians ready to embrace this squad)
- Gritty role players (Michael McKenry, Jordy Mercer)
- A villain to defeat (the Cardinals, Dusty Baker)
- Built to last (with SPs Gerrit Cole*, Jameson Taillon, IFs Josh Bell and Alen Hanson in the minors, and three CF quality outfielders 25 or under already in Pittsburgh the Bucs are set up to be well rounded for years to come)
- Vastly outperforming payroll ($50-60M, 64W as of Aug. 12)
With the noted exception of a Cy Young caliber starter, the Pirates perform as clean a sweep of my personal suite of baseball desires as possible. And while I’ll grant you that Clint Barmes is nearly unwatchable at the dish (a toilet shattering RC+ of 47), and AJ Burnett is about as likable as a manhole cover, this team is compelling. Not on the list, but a nice bonus, is that Clint Hurdle escaped Colorado to find success with an even more futile franchise.
The Pirates have already overcome their own limitations this season, having managed to turn around what began as an historically awful season on offense. They continued to shake off the big stink in a symbolic 11-5 crushing of Padres righty Ross Ohlendorf. In 2010 Ohlendorf went 1-11 with the Pirates, last season he deliverd an 8.15 ERA in 9 starts. But what went from an era to an epoch of bad baseball in Pittsburgh has already come to an end, just in time for the end of the world on December 21, 2012, as predicted by the Mayan calendar of the whatevers, so enjoy it while it lasts, Buc-Os! I will have.
*Spelled correctly, first try. And I know how to hold a bat, Jon Heyman!