The picture I chose to accompany this article came from the first inning of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Tigers, where in one moment Bryan Reynolds embodied the maddening frustration that is the 2020 Pirates.
Two Bucs were on base: Adam Frazier, who had singled and stolen second, and Colin Moran, who’d drawn a walk. With two outs, Reynolds came to the plate. Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull, as opposing pitchers have been doing lately, struck Reynolds out with relative ease. Reynolds threw his bat and snarled one of the Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV loudly enough to be easily overheard by the viewing audience and draw a rebuke from home plate umpire Bill Welke.
Considering his usually laid-back demeanor, it was unsettling to see Reynolds that ticked off. Then again, keep in mind that before this weird season, he has never batted below .300 in his professional career. He’s had minor slumps, true, but nothing like this, and anyone who’s watched baseball for any length of time has seen slumping players try to overcompensate in order to make things happen.
In the Pirates’ case, everyone is overcompensating, and, as usually happens, are ending up digging the hole deeper. Derek Shelton seems to be using a lottery ball machine to pick the lineups every night, and with pitchers falling (or failing) left and right, bringing in a reliever has also become a game of chance. Normally decent hitters are flailing for the fences, and if they manage to get on base there have been TOOTBLANs galore. BTW, thanks to the Bucs Dugout commentariat for introducing me to that term, which is an acronym for “Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop” and was coined by a Cubs blog back in the day.
Some of this is just plain bad luck too. No one bet on Phillip Evans, one of the Bucs’ few bright spots this season, running face-first into Gregory Polanco’s elbow and breaking his jaw, although there was some small hope that he’d come back wearing a hockey mask a la Dave Parker.
As always, it’s easy to point the finger at an inexperienced manager in his first MLB season or players that are believed to be not quite ready for prime time or, everyone’s favorite scapegoat, Bob Nutting. Do they all contribute to the current situation? Yes. Does that mean that the Pirates are just going to lie down and, as the popular hashtag goes, #TankForKumar? No, because contrary to popular belief, the Pirates don’t want to suck for the chance at what amounts to a lottery ticket.
As I’ve written previously, I didn’t expect the Pirates to perform miracles this year. To be honest, though, I didn’t expect them to be this bad, either. Earlier this year, the Pirates Twitter had a header showing a thread where someone said “no one gives a crap about the Pirates.” Trevor Williams responded “I give a crap about the Pirates.”
So do I, Trevor. So do I. But this season, it hurts.