Thursday, February 15, 2007

Today is the Day . . .

If you are not aware of the significance of today, then allow me to enlighten you. Today Baseball begins. Yes, pitchers and catchers have reported for Spring Training. The only sport that really matters has returned from the cold winter slumber. With it comes the hope of a beautiful spring, a hot summer, and a championship fall. Life is good.

If you are not paying attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates then you should. This is their year to make a playoff run. Now I am not enough of an optimist to think that they will win it all, but I think they have a shot at the NL Central and at least the Wild Card. Yes, the World Series Champion Cardinals are in the central, but they did have a horrible regular season last year. Steroid testing is tougher, so Pujols stats will go down, and pitching hero Jeff Suppan went to play for the Brewers.

But more important than what happened to the other teams in the central is what happened to the Pirates. Last year, for the first time really, the Pirates made good trades for the future. The Pirates now feature NL batting champion Freddy Sanchez and All-Star Jason Bay. This duo will see the addition of Xavier Nady, who came at the end of last year in a trade, and Adam LaRoche, who was acquired in a trade with the Braves in the off-season. . This fills two big holes in right field and first base. It should also add power to the Pirates line-up that sorely needed some last year. Of course do not forget that Ronny Paulino hit over .300 last year in his rookie season for the Pirates. I expect and even better year for Mr. Paulino. Former All-star Jack Wilson rounds out what should be a potent offense and good infield. Ian Snell showed last year he was a top talent, and with Zack Duke the young Pirate pitching staff has a load of options to fill out the rest of the starting rotation. Malhom, Van Benschoten, Burnett, and new additions Tony Armas Jr., and Shawn Chacon might add something as well. The lone sore spot is the bench. The Pirates had one of the worst benches in the majors last year, and I see very little hope to fix it. Ryan Doumit, a young backup catcher, did show some promise, but one bat is not enough. The only ray of hope is the possibility that 29 year old Jody Gerut will be healthy. However, how good he will be even if he is, is still up for some debate.

For the Pirates to win the Central they will need a decent year out of Chris Duffy. Duffy is projected to be the starting center field, an area where the Pirates have struggled for some time. Duffy will need to at least be consistent, and manager Jim Tracy will need to let him use his amazing speed by letting him steal bases. Duffy’s back up, Nate McLouth is also fast, but is not as promising. McLouth was one of those ineffective bench players last year that needs to step his performance in pinch hitting situations.

All in all, keep your eye on the exciting young Pirates. The beginning of a dynasty is here. Let the season begin!


angelsinger64 said...

What is wrong with you??? The Cardinals have been #1 in their division for 3 years straight, even before they won this year. You're just jealous that they are such an amazing team.

With that said, Good luck to your Pirates

Lee said...

I hate to break it to you, Jules, but the Cards are in some trouble this year. Two years ago they beat the Pirates by 33 games. Last year it was down to 16. The Pirates are even better this year, and the Cards are worse. They lost Jeff Suppan, the playoff hero. Scott Rolen is injury prone, and Albert Pujols is not enough to win by himself. They barely won the division over the Reds this past year. They are going to fall off the top this season.

BK said...

Bro, you are right on about the Pirates. Having suffered through the past 14 years of ineptitude, I see indications (the very reasons you indicated - though I also see that the ownershiip change has the potential to change the "feel" of management attitude - the new guy is not as easy going about losing as McClatchy) that this year will be the breakout season. I have been telling others precisely this very thing and will cut and paste your words to let them know I am not alone in the universe.

Ben in Cinci

Andrew McIntyre said...

I haven't really followed baseball since the strike and the atrocious advent of interleague play. But, I must admit, there is something almost spiritually satisfying in the crack of the wooden bat and the "thump" of a well pitched ball in the catcher's mit. I miss it. I spent hours, days, months, years of my childhood playing ball on the streets of New Jersey with my young buddies. I guess I just miss the days when a fat alcoholic could smack 60 homers, the players spat nasty tobacco all over the field, and bench clearing brawls were not so out of vogue. The Jaguar driving primadonnas (sp?) strung out on steroids playing today do not represent the manliness that is baseball.

Nevertheless...TIGERS BABY...even if none of them can speak English.