No doubt it will twist and turn, have palpitation inducing climbs followed by screaming, high-speed plunges, maybe even a few loop-dee-loops.
No matter the trip the new ride will provide, it will pale in comparison to the 2018 Pirates’ season trajectory.
Seriously, can this team figure themselves out so we curmudgeon columnists can focus on whether this team is legitimately good, mediocre or bad?
The record, 51-49, suggests mediocre. Sliced into thirds, the waters muddy. One third very good, 26-17, one third awful, 14-31, and this most recent third, admittedly a smaller sample size, off the charts excellent, 11-1.
So who are these Pirates?
I speculated on May 14 (Are These Pirates for Real?) that the Pirates probably are not as good as their record at the time suggested, but I could not imagine a .311 stretch that would be followed by the team’s best winning streak in five years.
Are the Pirates playoff contenders, or will the next plunge sink those hopes? Are the Pirates an up-and-coming team with a bright future based on a solid core of Major League talent and a pipeline of promising prospects, or are they a roster littered with average players and a sparse minor league talent pool?
Every time I think I have a bead on the Pirates (which usually leans towards a team in need of a rebuild,) they begin to play good baseball and make me wonder if they are one or two good players away from vaulting past the Brewers, Diamondbacks, Giants and other seriously flawed playoff contenders.
Luckily, I get paid to observe and comment, not to make the hard decisions Neal Huntington will face as the July 31, non-waiver trade deadline approaches. Huntington indicated that the Pirates could be buyers, or could stand pat. He has backed off of talk that the Pirates may need to take a hard look at moving some of the players on the current Major League roster to rebuild.
I am so confused by the 2018 Pirates that I took the drastic step of asking James and G. what they think. G. thinks selling at the deadline would send the wrong message – but would it?
Would Huntington admitting that the recent run of excellent play is an outlier, and that the Pirates, once they level off, will not play the kind of baseball through September that will land them in the playoffs, be so bad? Would making trades aimed at getting younger and better anger anyone?
Are the Pirates really a playoff contender?
James thinks the Pirates should be sold and financed on Shark Tank so that a suitable owner willing to spend up to a playoff payroll could take over.
Bet more fans would be on board with that idea than any, but the question remains: who are the 2018 Pirates?
- How does Tiger Woods remain so relevant in the world of the PGA? Ratings skyrocket when he is anywhere near a leaderboard and every update and segment about golf on every sports outlet either focuses entirely on Woods, or mentions the latest with Tiger. It is curious because of Woods’ well documented troubles in his personal life as well as the numerous stories that have surfaced about his mistreatment of people throughout his career. I guess Tiger mania would make more sense if Woods were still a viable threat to win a major. His putting and short game are more lost than the dazed and confused Tiger when he was picked up in Florida in 2017 and had no Earthly clue where he was. Hard to compete with great chippers and putters when you cannot chip and putt as well. Until Tiger’s short game returns, if it ever does, he will not win a major.
- Corey Dickerson could not be more hot and personifies the dilemma Huntington faces at the trade deadline. Trade him right now or sign him right now? Do neither, and Dickerson likely walks for nothing at the end of the season. His hitting aside, Dickerson has played a solid left field and is the ideal type of player on a contending team. Just another of the Pirates’ mysteries in 2018.
- At the height of their success (2013 – 2015) the Pirates could not pull better TV ratings than the Steelers. Of course, the Pirates were only playing high-stakes games in the middle of pennant races while the Steelers were running out the third string to start preseason games. The next time I wonder why only 14,000 fans show up for a mid-week, mid-July baseball game, I will read this column and remind myself of the mindset of the Pittsburgh sports fan.
- Speaking of the local football team, Jon Bostic and Tyler Matakevich are the Steelers’ answer to replace Ryan Shazier in the middle of the defense. They have also speculated that modern NFL offenses allow safeties to play in the box as hybrid linebackers. Considering the Steelers’ troubles on defense even with Shazier in the lineup, one of the big question marks entering training camp has to be whether the Steelers have enough in the middle with the aforementioned underwhelming linebacker duo and the players they will tab as hybrids to help plug up the holes that sprung last January.