Do the Pirates have time?


Baseball is a long, long season, or, in Erinspeak, “A super-long season.”

A day-in, day-out, 162-game gauntlet. The end result is that the best teams make the playoffs. The NFL’s parity-driven scheduling formula can push mediocre teams over the top – last season’s Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills are perfect examples, but that does not typically happen in baseball.

The Pirates are proof that it is a mistake to judge a baseball team anytime before mid-August.

My original prejudgement of this year’s Pirates was a bold Facebook prediction – 72-90. I looked like a fool when the Bucs were nine games above level a few weeks ago, but not so much anymore.

“Water finds its level,” I tell my sons when they wonder why teams that look so good early in a season, a stretch of games, a single game, begins to deflate, sometimes like a tire with a tiny hole, sometimes like a balloon that’s been struck by a cardinal.

Speaking of being struck by Cardinals – the Pirates’ balloon is in peril. They are hemorrhaging losses and are dangerously close to, well, becoming what they are – a marginally-talented, thin-pitching, poor fundamental baseball team with too many bad players and not one legitimate superstar.

Since a high-water mark of 26-17, the Pirates are 4-12 and barely hanging on to .500. It is crazy to think that this Pirates team is the .600 team of the first quarter, but also absurd to assume they are the .250 team since.

The middle? Maybe.

A .425 winning percentage would result in a 69-93 final record. The Pirates would have to go 39-64 the rest of the way. That sounds unreasonably bad until you consider this past weekend’s four-game series in St. Louis. In the series opener, the Red Birds lit up the Pitcher Formerly Known as Felipe Rivero, Vasquez’s fifth blown save in his last six chances.

After a nice bounce-back start by Jameson Taillon – his first signs of life in over a month of disappointing starts – Clint Hurdle ran the likes of Gregory Polanco and Sean Rodriguez out to play in meaningful games. The predictable outcome was two more losses, three out of four to the Cardinals, and a sinking feeling about the direction of the Pirates.

All that stated – Baseball is a “super-long season”, and maybe the Pirates will punch back before they are knocked out silly and begin selling players for anything that fogs a mirror.

Other Pittsburgh sports tidbits:

  • Erin thinks sports columns are too negative, so she’s bullied me into a positive spin. Here it is: Former Gateway Senior High School football stars Terry Smith and the late Curtis Bray were inducted in the WPIAL Hall of Fame last Saturday. Admittedly, I am biased when I say this because both Bray and Smith are friends of mine – Curt was a classmate in 1988 and Smith was a year ahead of us – but what took the WPIAL so long? Bray and Smith are two of the best athletes to ever participate in WPIAL competition and left an indelible mark on Gateway High School. Bray died tragically in 2014, so his widow, Heather Bray, accepted Curtis’ honor while Smith, a defensive backs coach at Penn State, was gracious in accepting his.
  • I promised you would hear from James and G at some point. Mark, James and G make up the sports triumvirate whose insights are typically impeccable if not ridiculous. James reminded me that it is too bad the Pens lost to the Caps in the playoffs because, seriously Vegas fans, the Golden Knights just aren’t very good. I joked with James while watching Game 3 last Saturday night, a far too easy 3-1 Washington win, that the Western Conference must not be very good because Vegas is mediocre at best. While anything can happen, Vegas is not in Washington’s league and the Caps may very well win a Stanley Cup with, try not to laugh, Braden Holtby in net. James is certain, and I agree, that the Pens were fast-tracked for a three-peat had they survived the Capitals.

The Steelers are doing something called OTA’s. While they are voluntary, some are complaining because the big superstar guys like Ben and Antonio and Le’Veon and others are nowhere to be found. Some lineman nobody’s ever heard of suffered a major injury, as did a tight end nobody knows. Here’s hoping the Pirates can have another really great stretch of baseball so things like football in shorts is not on the radar. Look for Pittsburgh Beautiful to pay attention when the most interesting Steelers news has nothing to do with a Le’Veon Bell rap song. How’s that for positivity?

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