Being a fan of the Pirates over the past 20 seasons wasn't easy. In fact, it felt quite hopeless. From the ineptitude of the front office, to the disparity in financial resources, I didn't even feel like watching or paying attention to baseball, outside of the occasional Buccos game.
Nationally, Pirates fans were often reminded that it was all about the Yankees and Red Sox (the greatest rivalry in all of baseball, don't you know?), and our team wasn't exactly a VIP. Oh sure, we were at the party, but usually in the same sense that a butler is at a party--in other words, it was easy to feel totally alienated and out-of-touch if you called yourself a Pirates fan.
The home team certainly didn't help in that regard, especially with "acquisitions" like Derek Bell and Jeromy Burnitz.
Speaking of that hopeless feeling. We certainly had that as we watched Pittsburgh take on the cream of the crop and be totally embarrassed and owned by the other team's superstar. How many home runs did Albert Pujols hit against the Buccos when he was with St. Louis? Certainly enough to be forever ingrained in our minds.
It's a vulnerable feeling when your favorite baseball team is a laughingstock. Every personnel move seems like a disaster. Every quote from the front-office makes headline news, but for all the wrong reasons.
Today, things feel a lot different for me. These new and improved Pirates are certainly capable of ending that hopeless feeling, and they have a ton of fight in them.
We have a veteran pitcher in A.J. Burnett who will not only compete every time he's on the mound and so do rather effectively, he'll argue with the other team, the umpires and even his own manager. What does arguing and telling an opposing player to "sit the bleep down" have to do with anything tangible? Not much. But it's sure nice to have a player that's been around the block and isn't intimidated by the spotlight.
What is very tangible is an entire pitching staff that is capable of silencing the likes of a Pujols on a rather consistent basis.
The Pirates also have a superstar of their own in Andrew McCutchen, a player who, when he's on, he's as good an all-around player as anyone in the major leagues, and he's shown that he can carry his team on his back when he's at the top of his game.
And then, of course, there's Pedro Alvarez, a home run weapon, capable of hitting a baseball out of any stadium--and I almost mean that literally. Plus, he's had great success against two of the Pirates biggest tormentors in recent years, the Brewers and Cardinals, and has a combined 21 home runs in a little under three seasons.
Yes, it's certainly great to have a baseball team quite capable of standing toe-to-toe with anyone.
I don't feel so hopeless, these days. In fact, I feel like a VIP.