The Bucs were able to string together two victories in a row to win their series against the Braves, and baseball analysts everywhere are calling the two road wins surprising, rare, and unexpected. Pittsburgh is notorious for playing poorly in Atlanta, and the 2006 Pirates have performed terribly away from PNC Park. A lot of fans didn’t see a series win at Turner Field coming, and most probably thought it impossible for the Bucs to go into someone else’s house and do anything of merit. Most. Not all.
Jake over at Bucco Blog is filled with the same unbridled enthusiasm about this squad as I am, I do believe. Maybe you think we’re bonkers, but I think I might be able to explain our reasoning (or at the very least mine). How does anyone think a team with a 49-78 record could have a bright outlook on the future?
Let’s face it, the Bucs are the second youngest team in the bigs. Most of these guys were in diapers when the Pirates stunk up the 1980s and were playing little league ball when Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Andy van Slyke led the Pirates to division crowns in the early 1990s. Do you really think that Ian Snell and Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez give a hoot about how a bunch of crummy teams lost a ton of games in Atlanta over the past decade? They’re probably only aware of the fact that the Bucs underachieve against the Braves if they read Dejan or Rob Rossi with their morning coffee. It’s not like Jim Tracy’s in the clubhouse giving history lessons. What would surprise me is if more than half of our 25-man roster could name ten former Pirates outside of Wagner, Traynor, Maz, Pops, Parker, Roberto, Bonds, Drabek, Kendall, Giles, and Schmidt. Winning a series in Atlanta–that doesn’t surprise me.
So not knowing anything is their first advantage. Their second is raw talent. Freddy Sanchez is in the running for a batting title. Jason Bay is the best Canadian baseball player on the planet, and he definitely has the numbers that a GM can build a franchise around. Our four-under-24 rotation has more upside than any in baseball, in my opinion–one pair tore up the second half last year, and the other has turned into the team’s most consistent starters. If I were given the chance to pick any one closer for my team for the next five years, Mike Gonzalez would be my second choice, only behind the phenomenal Jonathon Papelbon. Jose Bautista, Xavier Nady, and Ronny Paulino have shown enough flashes of brilliance to impress even the most critical scouts. There’s a nucleus taking shape that will be in black and gold for quite some time.
Third–and last, and most important–is another form of youthful ignorance. These Pirates care minimally about what they’ve done to date. Sure, they were hard to watch in the early part of the season. They got swept by the Kansas City Royals, a team made up of has-beens and never-wills. They went on a two-week long losing skid that left them so cold that fans no longer had to drink their Iron City beer from a frosted mug. But after the All-Star break, they’re playing .500 ball. Go figure. Theoretically, the Bucs are fielding lesser-caliber players after a trade deadline roster purge, but they’re playing better baseball. When you’re out of the race, it’s all about what have you done for me lately; these Pirates are doing a lot.
Give me the Marlins or Pirates over the Yankees or Red Sox any day of the week. They’ll take their lumps, but their enthusiam for the game is still there. Guys run out grounders. They lay out to make the highlight reel catches. They try to throw gas by the superstars. They’re young, they’re invincible, and they’re flat out fun to watch. I can’t see 2007’s record being anything like 2006’s as long as Dave Littlefield goes out and spends his free agent dollars wisely. This roster (with a little tweaking) will succeed.
Tonight, the Astros come to town for three Skyblast games and a Sunday matinee. PNC Park will be packed, and it’s not unreasonable to guess that over 150,000 Pittsburghers will pass through the turnstiles in the next four days. The Bucs are hot, the sun is shining, and the greatest fireworks show around will be going off all weekend. What more can you ask for? You gotta believe!
It’s A New Pirates Generation, everybody shout "Let’s Go Bucs!"