Not sure that it will mean anything at all, but damn, was it fun to watch the Pirates sweep a five-game series from the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park over the weekend saving the best for Sunday’s dramatic, 7-6 walk-off win in a driving rainstorm.
How cool was it when Josh Bell capped off the series sweep when he put a charge into a fat Dan Jennings fastball at the same time lightning struck in close proximity to PNC Park. Even Roy Hobbs would have been impressed with the Hollywood-like moment that sent the Bucs into the All-Star break on a six-game win streak and a 48-49 record.
After being openly challenged by the general manager to play better or face demolition, the Pirates responded by winning seven of eight over the Washington Nationals and Brewers, and, perhaps, staving off the bloodletting that typically occurs when a team falls hopelessly out of playoff contention by the July 31, non-waiver trade deadline.
I can sense it through the keyboard even before I submit this column – the pessimism – the, “Who cares, they still stink and will probably finish 25 games out,” contingent is sharpening their claws and are ready to pounce.
The pessimists (current company most likely included) will argue that this fantastic streak came at the absolute worst possible time because it may delay the inevitable, and what really needs to happen with the Pirates, a commitment to a rebuild – an ushering out of unproductive and overpaid veterans – and a baptism by fire for the young players who will be the future of the Major League roster.
The pessimists will also tell you that sending down Austin Meadows is the exact type of backwards thinking that may keep the Pirates’ wheels spinning in the marshy middle of mediocre baseball.
While I tend to agree with the pessimists, can’t we just enjoy what the team accomplished this weekend, at least for now? The wonderful thing about baseball is that it is reborn every spring with optimists ruling the day. Every team has a shot, and when the Pirates were 26-19 after 45 games, even the most pessimistic were noticing.
No, the five-game sweep, the Pirates’ first since 1996 over the San Francisco Giants, is most likely not a harbinger of a post All-Star surge to the top of the division, but it is a reminder of why those who love baseball love baseball.
The sweep was that little boy or girl inside all of us baseball junkies who played walk-off game after walk-off game in back yards or empty school grounds against the greatest teams our imaginations could conjure. Just a tattered baseball, a hand-me-down glove, and a love for our heroes who always came through.
I loved the sweep over the Brewers because of the impossible nature of the accomplishment, and because it reminded me of just how much fun a series sweep over a division leader feels in the middle of July.
So thank you, Buccos, for that.
- Gregory Polanco optimists will argue that his excellent month of games since sinking to sub-.200 is proof that he is a huge part of the Pirates’ future. Pessimists will argue that Polanco has done nothing except enhance his trade value to a point that makes it vital to move him for a package of prospects. My guess is that Polanco is here for the long haul, and I will fondly remember this hot streak the next time he goes 3 for 53, which might be what happens next with the inconsistent right fielder.
- G keeps trying to tell me that I should be okay with the Jack Johnson signing. That he, “had a couple of good seasons.” G is an optimist. I am a pessimist, so I cannot get past this fact: Johnson has not had a couple of good seasons. He’s had none. I’m just so disappointed in that signing and really hope I am wrong about its impact on the Penguins’ roster. That takes care of the negative because this is a positive column.
- The optimist in me, an ant of an alter-ego, thinks Le’Veon Bell will play his heart out when he arrives in September and will end his Steelers career honorably. The pessimist, a veritable colossus, wonders if Bell’s free-agent-contract-year instincts will kick in at some point, and he may not take the chances one under the terms of a multi-year contract would.
- Erin is telling me that this column is not as positive as I claimed it would be, but this will impress her: Felipe Vasquez’s all-star selection is deserved. While the pessimists will focus on his curious May misstep, the optimists know that Vasquez has dominated since and is a worthy representative.