The Pirates today lost yet another game that no one saw; again, it wasn't on TV, meaning that if you're in the Pittsburgh area, you didn't see it unless you had access to Extra Innings or were physically at the game. MLB.tv, which carries every game for me when I'm in San Diego, won't show the games to folks who are in market.Paradoxically, I'm excited to get out of the Pittsburgh area and back to California, so that I can watch my Pittsburgh-based team.
There's been something deeply strange about the couple of weeks I've spent in Morgantown, prevented from watching the games, while checking box score after box score in which the Bucs score one run at most. Today, the Bucs were missing Garrett Jones, Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young, making their already-awful lineup even more awful. And even in that last sentence, there would probably be more than a few knowledgeable fans of other teams who would probably find it odd that the Pirates' lineup is so bad that it yearns for guys like Jones, LaRoche and Young. Those same people might also be surprised by a trip to ESPN.com's Pirates stats page, where you see LaRoche's face three times because he's leading the team in average, RBI and OBP... largely because he's the only Pirate this year with more than 400 at bats.
It's all very sad, this team that no one sees, fielding a lineup where no one hits, and playing game after game where no one scores. I probably feel the Pirates' complete invisibility more than most; it's very hard to blog games I can't watch and that no one writes about, and I actually wonder if indifference to the Bucs right now might be higher than at any point since I started blogging about them. It affects Bucs Dugout's traffic and just generally makes the whole enterprise less fun until something interesting happens. Also, I'm not a football fan, and I miss having minor league box scores to check each day.
Mostly, though, I see this streak of awful baseball as a price that needs to be paid for the years in which the Pirates could have undergone a complete rebuilding, and didn't. And actually, despite losing game after game, I think these Bucs could be whipped into a good team quicker than you might think. The starting pitching, actually, has not been bad; several hitters, including Jones, Andrew McCutchen and Ronny Cedeno, have been better than expected; and Lastings Milledge has showed a fair amount of potential. One of the most problematic areas--the first base / right field position that isn't being played by Jones--should soon be resolved by the arrival of Pedro Alvarez (or Jose Tabata), and Brandon Moss will move into a reserve role for which he'll be better suited. The bullpen has been dreadful recently, but bullpens experience a lot of fluctuation year to year, and a good GM can fix a bullpen quickly if he prioritizes it. The Pirates have been bad since the trades they made in June and July, but there's more there than you'd guess from their record.
Still, the Bucs are a couple sticks shy of a load right now, and it'll be a bumpy ride toward contention, if the Pirates ever get there. But if I squint right now, I can begin to see something bright on the horizon, and if the Bucs have to be a little worse than usual in the meantime while they pursue it, that's fine. I do wish they'd score some runs, though, and a TV appearance now and then would be nice.