So what happened was I checked the standings this morning and saw that the Yankees had lost to the Rangers. That puts NYY at 42-36, 4.5 games back of some team that you can read about on ESPN on occasion should you feel the urge.
More important, a day off for our Pirates leaves them at 48-30 and in first place. If I take the time - and I won't - to search for what the mainstream media thinks about this, I'll undoubtedly learn that these 2013 Pirates a)can't be trusted, b)signed the under-the-radar free agents "Smoke" and "Mirrors" this winter and are inserting them into the starting lineup daily, and that c)the difference between facts (empirical proof) and probability (suppositional proof) are unimportant and really really hard for mass-media types to understand.
Still, the Bucs are 48-30 and the Yankees are 42-36. After 78 games on the 2012 schedule, the two teams' records were exactly the reverse. Should I fall victim to the confusingly popular urge to dismiss these - 2013 - Pirates by insisting that they're not much removed from last year's - or the last two-decades-worth of - Pirates, I'd probably start by ignoring that Russell Martin is the catcher now. I'd move on to ignore that Jeff Locke is a smart pitcher who has improved his command, that Francisco (would Gunner have called him "Franky"?) Liriano is a good pickup on an incentive-based contract, that Clint Barmes makes the team better adding value and flexibility from the bench that he couldn't have from the field, that Starling has figured something out, that Andrew hasn't quite been himself yet all season, but more crucially, hasn't had to, that Pedro!, and that 9 times out of 10 a shutdown bullpen makes a liar out of Pythagorean run-differential.
Those are some pretty randomly-selected Pirate realities, but by this point bringing up Cole and Jeanmar and AJ and a roster that does almost everything you need to do well-enough and consistently-enough to win more than you lose, well, it starts to feel like bragging. Yet, none of the above is intended to convince anyone of anything other than this: that these guys have got my heart beating hard.
Like many of you (I've been lurking here a long while, paying attention) I grew up with this team. My dad was from PA, though I was born near Seattle. Before the Mariners came along to expand my appreciation for the AL, I had been a Pirates' fan for a solid decade. In the early '70s on a visit to a sister in the Midwest, we could pick up the KDKA signal if we parked out in the country. Bob Prince got stronger as the sun went down. I saw Mr. Clemente play live once, at Candlestick. Mays and McCovey and Marichal, too. In that game, on a play that - in memory, 41 years later - still sets my heart in my mouth, Roberto scored from first base on a double. On the day we heard over the car radio that we had lost him, my dad pulled over to the side of the street and we sat there for a while, not speaking. I still have the newspaper clippings from when Rennie Stennett went 7 for 7 against the Cubs. I was there when Cobra unleashed the throw at the '79 All-Star Game from the Kingdome. I remember "skinny" Barry and stealing Slick from the Cardinals. I watched on TV as Sid Bream rounded third. I flicked it off before...whatever came next. A week after that, I moved to the former USSR on business, and that's where I have been ever since and where I write from now.
So, this post is just to say that I - like most/all of you - am experiencing joy and dread like I have not known in years. But if I am proof of nothing else, it's that these Bucs may be good, but they are also global. Yet we are urged to be cautious: we are Pirate fans, after all.
All I can say, after all this time, is the hell with that. Be cautious, sure, but believe what you see. And what we see is that these guys are playing smart, playing hard, playing ego-free ball. They're fun to watch. They do both little things and big things well. To hell with caution: I'm preparing for roaring crowds on October nights at PNC. The only mystery remaining is where all the know-it-all disdain comes from for these Bucs? From a media that hasn't given two rips about the Pirates except as a punchline since, well, since a long time.
I can think of no reason, so I choose to blame the Yankees. Why not? It's every bit as arbitrary as saying, 'oh the Pirates'll fade. Just like last year.' It's easy to ignore a team that hasn't done well in a long time, but to ignore these guys you have to work at it, and you have to be operating with a pretty encrusted confirmation bias. These guys are good.
Tonight, it's Milwaukee That's a 2:05 a.m. start from here. Thanks for the chance to bend the rules. I don't encourage it.