Pirates 2009: More of the same

1992, that was the last year the Pirates made the playoffs. Can you name the two guys on that 1992 team that are still playing major league baseball? (answer later)

As for this year’s team, only Ramon Vasquez was even able to drive the last time this organization was playoff bound. OF Jose Tabata was just 4. The Pirates have just four players with ANY playoff experience and only one player who was used for at least one full game, Adam LaRoche (Atl – 04/05).

Why all the playoff points? That’s what this team needs. There is talent here. Pittsburgh has been stocking talented young players for 16 years, but never finds a way to keep them long term, as experienced with the Jason Bay deal last season. What they need is a) a playoff run, and b) a couple of solid leaders with playoff experience to help get and keep the youngsters on track. LaRoche won’t be able to guide the team that way, as it wasn’t that long ago he made his playoff trips and he’s still a youngster himself. This team needs somebody like

ph_118377.jpg (photo edited by me)

Pedro Martinez, he has a career 3.40 playoff ERA and nobody (except Pedro) expects Pedro to be an innings eater this season. The Pirates could give him a few million just to come in and pitch, plus lighten the mood for all these youngsters. You think Zach Duke or Paul Maholm could learn something from Petey?

The Good News

The Pirates showed they can win games last year. Even under their 67-95 record, glimpses of promise were not hard to find. The Buccos actually won six in a row last May (vs. SF/Atl) and had a lot of 1 or 2 run games throughout the season. They really are just a player or two away from finishing around .500 for the first time since their 79-83 (1997) or 78-83 (1999).

The Bad News

Pirates ownership will do little more than flirt with a player like Pedro. Using their flirtation as a way to tell their fans they’re “serious” reality sets in when Pedro ends up somewhere else. There is nothing wrong with bagging a season before it begins to build for the future.

But at what point does building become a stale promise? Probably around 16 years of building.

I realize Pittsburgh isn’t a go-to locale for free agents and may never get that stigma again. But guess what, the Steelers and Penguins are both playing very well of late. It’s time Pirate ownership made a commitment to at least put a fun product on the field. I imagine Pirate fans would be overtly excited for a .500 season, especially in a year where the Cubs are the only true World Series challenger in the NL Central (barring a shocking move by the rest of the division).

What that really means is Pittsburgh, with a couple of smart moves could potentially finish second place in the division and actually earn some of their fans for the first time in over a decade.

Trivia Answer
Tim Wakefield 92 Donruss The Rookies RC Pictures, Images and Photos

Tim Wakefield and Miguel Batista. The other three current Pirates with playoff experience: Eric Hinske (07 Bos, 08 TB); Ramon Vazquez (01 Sea) and Ross Ohlendorf (07 NYY)

Bottom Line

The Pirates are a team that could surprise some people. There are no superstars here, but there are some good ballplayers who will make a difference in 2009 and keep the Pirates competitive on a day-to-day basis, just not for a season.

Prediction

The Pirates finish last in the NL Central for the third straight season and 4th time in 5 years, but it’s with their most wins since 2004, 71-91.

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