Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's okay to be enthusiastic about the Pirates, but don't you think we should temper the expectations just a bit?

Going into today's game with the Baltimore Orioles, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 36-37 and only 4-games back in the National League Central division.

For most of the season, when the Pirates just hovered a few games under .500, there was cautious optimisim and surprise that the Buccos--a team that lost 105 games last season--were doing so well. But then something happened: the Pirates won 4-games in a row and actually stood 2-games over .500 at 35-33 and then suddenly everyone lost their minds.

Last week during the Pirates' interleague series against the Cleveland Indians, Greg Brown was scoreboard watching and keeping us up-to-date on the 1st place Brewers' games at Fenway park against the Boston Red Sox. The Brewers didn't do so well in Boston, but it didn't matter because the Pirates were swept right out of Cleveland.

Off topic just a bit, I'm convinced if the Pirates hadn't had to subject themselves to interleague play over the years, their 18 years of losing never would have reached this season. They are just God-awful when they play any team from the American League. Coming into today's game, they are 76-127 all-time. Needless to say, I hate interleague play and dread it each time the Pirates have to enter into it. It always seems like they are on somewhat of a roll when the interleague portion of their schedule comes around and then they wind up going in the tank and never recover. Hopefully, that won't happen this year. They did okay against the Tigers in their first interleague series before getting swept by the Indians and if they win today, they would take 2 of 3 from Baltimore.

About those Pirates fans losing their minds over the team's mild success. Keep in perspective that is just that--mild success.

Pittsburgh wouldn't even be in the discussion for a division title at this point in the season if the NL Central wasn't so average. In-fact, when you look around the standings in MLB, there are only 2-teams more than 10-games over .500. Not too many people running away with their respective divisions.

That being said, since the team is so close in the standings, people want them to go out and get a bat to compensate for the team's awful offense. On Pirates' message boards everywhere, the mantra is, "anytime you have a chance to win now, you do it!" Another one is: "Let's see if "Bad Deal" Neal Huntington is a buyer and not a seller at the deadline."

I don't agree with the notion that you must win now if you have a chance--at least not in this case. For a team like the Steelers with a franchise quarterback and a dominant but veteran defense, yes, you should try to win and make the playoffs as many times as you can right now because you don't know when the next Ben Roethlisberger--or Troy Polomalu for that matter--will come around again. For a team like the Pirates that must play "the game" differently than a lot of teams in Major League Baseball, they must continue to stock their farm-system with as much talent as they possibly can. It would be a mistake to mortgage a promising young pitcher from their system in-exchange for an Xavier Nady-level player to come in here and add some punch to the offense. And make no mistake about it, the Pirates wouldn't fetch much more than that type of player for a prospect. The time to mortgage a bit of the future isn't when a team is around .500 and putting lineups out on the field with players named Brandon Wood and Michael McKenry. No, the time to take a chance is when you're 10-games over .500 and are a bona fide pennant contender.

It's nice that the team is doing well, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's remember that the Pirates were expected to repeat their horrible record from last season.

Just enjoy the surprising year and remember that anything approaching 80-wins from this team would be a drastic improvement and something Pirates fans can hang their hats on.

This isn't the time to go trading the future for the present. The present is nice, but think of it as a Thanksgiving day turkey. I'm sure you're all very hungry, but the turkey isn't done yet, and if you eat it too quickly, you could get sick.

What the Pirate's lineup needs now is Pedro Alvarez, not Xavier Nady.

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