When I came to Pittsburgh last year, I was “warned” about the Pirates. “They’re awful and ownership and management don’t care” was the overriding sentiment. One of my next-door neighbors was visibly shocked one Sunday afternoon when we were getting ready to go to a game because “nobody goes anymore.”
I’ve watched baseball for a long time. I know the Pirates’ recent history. I completely understand people’s frustration with the team, and I’m not going to defend Bob Nutting because he’s made some really bonehead moves over the years—and I say this with a childhood and adolescence spent groaning over George Steinbrenner’s idiocies, so I know my bonehead moves. At the same time, though, I don’t see Ben Cherington or Derek Shelton or Travis Williams saying, “well, x amounts of blogs and podcasts are saying we’re going to suck this year, so we might as well make sure some people win their FanDuel bets and go out there and suck.”
Predictions aren’t facts, people.
By far, the biggest problem the Pirates have is not having reliable pitching. As it stands right now, the starting rotation will probably be Joe Musgrove, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams, Steven Brault and Mitch Keller (not necessarily in that order). After that, to use some old pirates’ language, here be dragons. However, youth is on the Bucs’ side. With Oscar Marin, a guy with a lot of experience working with young pitchers, I think there’s a fighting chance that there’ll be improvement, particularly with the middle relievers.
Could Ke’Bryan Hayes be the Bryan Reynolds of 2020? There’s definite weakness at third base, so I think we’ll be seeing him sooner rather than later, and when that happens I expect Colin Moran to be on the trading block. I don’t see any trades being made before June, though, no matter how the team does.
That’s as far out on the limb as I want to go. It’s a source of both amusement and annoyance to me when a fanbase either rejoices or despairs about their team’s performance in the early part of the season. “Dude, it’s April” is something I find myself saying a lot. I’m sure that it’ll be fun if the Pirates come roaring out of the gate, just as I’m sure Bucs fans and media will start screaming for heads if they’re not over .500 by Easter. That’s the nature of the baseball beast. I don’t expect miracles for this team, but I’m not expecting an implosion, either. I’m expecting a young team with fresh management to check things out and see what they can do with what they have.
And it may be more than you think.