- Bucs bandwagon: The time is now for an AL East widower to adopt the Pirates, as much as one can support a team in the National League, the other white meat of MLB.
The Pirates will turn it around eventually. They have a lot of history, are a reasonable driving distance from southern Ontario and play in a beautiful ballpark. Besides, Pittsburgh teams, such as the NFL Steelers and NHL Penguins, are a go-to for the kind of fan who needs you to know her/his team was picked organically. This kind of fan also wants to feel blue-collar, without ever doing blue-collar work.
Pittsburgh is the safest place for that out of all the northern U.S. sports markets. Philadelphia fans can sniff out a poseur at 75 yards and are quick to anger. Aligning with the Buffalo Bills and/or Sabres carries a high risk of having your heart ripped out repeatedly, for real.
- GeraldM on Yahoo!, would you like to present the rebuttal? "Why again are you writing about the Pirates ? NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE FREAKIN PIRATES !!! The have sucked for their entire history and will continue to suck for generations to come. I GUARANTEE they lose between 125 and 140 games this season. They have NO TALENT of any kind, anywhere, they never have and they never will."
- Keep payroll low, build slow: The Pirates, 2-3 years away from being a competitor, do not seem like a repeat of the Florida Marlins, a team which cuts back to the bone to protect its profits at the long-term expense of the product. Pretty much any everyday player of note (Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Nate McLouth) has been traded over the past two seasons, but they weren't going to be around long enough to be part of the solution, ergo, they were part of the problem.
McLouth'scomment when jokingly asked whether all the traded players should start a newsletter: "No. You don't want to pay that much for postage."
- Crazy's all they got until he arrives: Cleanup hitter of the future Pedro Alvarez posted a .914 OPS in his first full season. That makes him like the Jesse Jane of prospect porn.
- Cutch is clutch: Centrefielder Andrew McCutchen on-based .365 and slugged .471 as a 22-year-old rookie. There is more where that came from; think Carl Crawford-lite.
- Why run a Pirates preview? Why do it today? Because the NFL's salary cap expired at midnight and the Pirates' 17 consecutive losing seasons goes to show what can happen in uncapped leagues. You're also owed one Pirates preview where their skein of suck is not the first point of reference.
- Zach Duke: good bad-team pitcher or just an underachiever like most of us? The left-hander was Pittsburgh's all-star rep and kept his ERA just north of 4.00, but it's going on five years since he was a bright hope. The longer the wait ...
- To second chances! First baseman Jeff Clement, whose career as a catcher stalled due to knee injuries, is trying to get it together with the Pirates. He was drafted No. 3 overall in 2005 ahead of Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Troy Tulowitzski, McCutchen and Matt Garza, whom most people have actually heard of.
- Speaking of ... There's outfielder Lastings Milledge, on his third organization.
- No sense of marketing: New shortstop Bobby Crosby should have been forced to wear No. 87. A Pirates jersey with "Crosby 87" on the back would be the team's best seller.
- Why there is optimism: The Pirates' farm system used to be the 26th-best in MLB, according to Baseball America; it has already risen 10 spots to 16th.
- Makeover magic: The Pirates remodeled the clubhouse of their spring training facility. That should singlehandedly change the culture. Bill Simmons is writing a 20,000-word thesis on the effect of clubhouse remodelling on team performance. It will in no way be axiomatic.
- The starting pitching is actually not bad: Duke, Princeton-educated righty Ross Ohlendorf (3.92 ERA, 1.23 WHIP in '09), lefty Paul Maholm (4.44, 1.44) are an adequate front end of a starting rotation. They're so spectacularly adequate that NBC is giving them a late-night talk show.
- Strange but true: Last season's preview noted, "MLB.com's Pirates beat writer is Jenifer Langosch. She has one N and about 100 Ls to cover this season." The Pirates lost only 99 games, but remember, one was cancelled.
Oddly enough, Langosch's blog now refers to her as "Jen."
- Fantasy baseball is designed to break your heart: Just check what outfielder Garrett Jones (21 homers in a half-season last year) did in high-leverage situations last season. Someone will take a flier on him on your draft day, and you will hold your laughter.
- He's average-sized in Japan, but big here: Second baseman Akinori Iwamura is fast becoming the Pirates' most popular player.
- The difference was signability: The Pirates' first-rounder from 2007, Daniel Moskos, isn't even rated as one of the team's Top 20 prospects. At least they signed him, right?
- They might keep losing, but not with the same guys: Only eight players on the 40-man roster were there when GM Neal Huntington was hired.
- Not that you needed proof ex-GM Dave Littlefield really ached: The Pirates' second-rounder from three seasons ago, the awesome named Duke Welker, had an 0-11 record with a 5-plus ERA in Single-A balll last season. Oh, and he was repeating that level.
- Tough call: Celebrate the 50th anniversary of their unlikely 1960 World Series win over the Yankees, or the 20th anniversary of Barry Bonds' first MVP season in '90?
- Another anniversary that will pass unmarked: It's been 20 years since the Pirates finished in the top half of the league in attendance, and 30 since the franchise did so during a season where it didn't make the playoffs. Yet they're still around and the Expos are gone.
Keeping it positive, though: There's plenty of good seats available on the bandwagon.
- Roberto Clemente. That is all.
- A commentary on American history: Former Pirates pitcher Jim Bibby's Associated Press obit mentioned that he threw a no-hitter, but left out that he served in Vietnam.
- Time and fevers: Bibby, who died last month, is the fourth member of the Pirates' 1979 World Series-winning team to shuffle off this mortal coil.
- They have the No. 2 pick in the June draft: And right on cue, the best college pitching prospect, Louisiana State's Anthony Ranaudo, has come down with a sore elbow.
- Not so long ago, he was in Ottawa: Former Lynx manager John Russell is in the last season of his contract. Russell was a candidate to manage the Texas Rangers, who are a favourite to make the playoffs.
- Other stories about famous people: The comedian Lenny Bruce was at Forbes Field when the Pirates' Bill Mazeroski hit the winning walk-off home run off the Yankees' Ralph Terry in the ninth inning of the '60 World Series.
It was the first major-league baseball game Bruce ever attended. It was also the last. What could top it, really?
- Basically, he joined another farm team. Ohlendorf interned with the U.S. Agriculture Department during the winter.
- PECOTA says: 71-91, sixth NL Central, 663 runs scored, 781 runs allowed.
- In English, please: Hockey writers in town to cover a Penguins playoff run should use their off-day to visit PNC Park.
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