Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pirates Season Preview


As you may have read in Pat's post from earlier this week, I'm going to end up picking the Pirates to finish .500 this year at the end of this article. Just so you know what to expect.

After a season in which we improved by one game to 68 wins, then went out and essentially dissolved our bullpen, weakened our bench, and acquired absolutely no one of merit in free agency, why would anyone be optimistic? I'll get to those reasons, but first I have to address the overall mood of Pirates' Nation and how it needs to change. Look, we've endured 15 losing seasons and deserve to be pissed off and cynical as any fanbase in all of sport. But its getting redundant. How many of you have read a variation of this sarcastic comment on innumerable message boards/blogs in the past 3 months: "We went out and signed Chris Gomez! World Series here we come!"? How many times can we make fun of Danny Moskos, or of the ridiculous trade for Matt Morris? There are, by conservative estimates, 235,987 jokes about Aramis Ramirez being traded away for Bobby Hill and Jose Hernandez, a couple on this very site.

I've gotten to the point that I'm cynical about all the cynicism. Every single move the Pirates make, every single time anything somewhat negative happens, everyone, including me, flips out and goes back to the old tried and true hyperbole and complaints. Our first basemen has ADD! Our catcher looks like he's more interested in the hotdog vendor than the pop up he just dropped!

It actually reminds me of the Pittsburgh bashing you see in sports blogs. "You may have the Steelers, but at least I don't have to live in Shittsburgh!" The Sports Gal on ESPN immediately comes to mind as an example of the idiotic opinions only espoused for the sole purpose of scratching up readers from the fiercely proud, yet insecure, Pittsburgh fanbase. While the Pittsburgh attacks are unwarranted, the Pirate insults are well-deserved, one might say, but they are about as original as a Napoleon Dynamite reference. I'm not saying we can't be critical of the team, but we can try to keep the complaints somewhat reasonable, or at the very least original.

There is a silver lining. Cynicism only breeds apathy, and I'd have to say this is quite possibly the most cynical and apathetic I've ever seen people feel about the Pirates before the season even starts. Which I find wonderful. Low expectations are never a bad thing. Plus, the Pirates seem to always do better when no one gives a damn, which is why they always seem to have positive events with players in September, but always shit the bed when everyone is watching, like the Yankees series.

The way I see it, the starting pitching has improved from last year, just from added experience. We acquired a solid right-handed reliever in Tyler Yates and Osoria should surprise people in the 'pen. While the bench may have weakened, the improvement in the coaching staff, while not guaranteed, could easily make up for it. The biggest upgrade in my mind, though, will be Jason Bay. I'm just going to pretend we lost Bay to a torn MCL last year, and he's now making his triumphant return.

All I'm asking for is 13 games. You don't think an extra 9-10 homeruns from Bay, a slightly less cold start from LaRoche, consistency from Paul Maholm, Zach Duke (or his replacement) keeping opposing batters from hitting above .300, and management that is willing to allow the hot catcher play regardless of game calling ability, couldn't scrape together those 13 wins? Its a long list, but four out of the five are only asking either an injury free established player to return to form in the prime of his career, young pitchers to continue their development, and coaches to continue with a plan they've already installed in the spring. LaRoche improving his start to the season is the only one that should not be expected, but never letting the average drop more than a few points above the Mendoza line isn't a lot to ask.

We're going 81-81 this year. Mark it down.

7 comments:

Pat said...

Come on...not even one cynical response to Sam's 81-81 prediction? You're better than that Pirates fans.

Anonymous said...

81.81

so wait, who's ERA will that be?

Anonymous said...

81.81

so wait, who's ERA will that be?

matt said...

As much as I'd love to see the Pirates finish .500 or better, do you really want the team to convince Ogden and McClatchy that they can win on a budget?

Sam said...

I think they will add a player or two at the deadline if they feel like the Bucs have a shot to do something. That something is rather ambiguous at this point, but they did OK the Morris deal, so who knows.

Even if we keep on sucking, though, I don't think they'll raise the payroll or sell the team, not as long as they're making money on it.

Anonymous said...

The Pirates have a higher payroll than the Rays and the Marlins...both of which will have as many wins as the hopeless Pirates.

An interesting read on the Pens blog shows how Sykora's contracr compares to other big contracts. It doesn't take money to win, just smart management. Pens management sucks. A 15-year rebuilding plan? Get real. I'll blow you if the Pirates are .500 come August 1.


Maybe Shero can GM 2 sports teams...

Anonymous said...

The Pirates have a higher payroll than the Rays and the Marlins...both of which will have as many wins as the hopeless Pirates.

An interesting read on the Pens blog shows how Sykora's contracr compares to other big contracts. It doesn't take money to win, just smart management. Pens management sucks. A 15-year rebuilding plan? Get real. I'll blow you if the Pirates are .500 come August 1.


Maybe Shero can GM 2 sports teams...