The Pirates Are On The Right Track—Believe It

For the second straight game the Pirates won and did it with a journeyman righty reliever, Juan Cruz, saving both games because All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan is day-to-day with a tight hamstring.

The Pirates are 5-7 after 12 games almost exclusively because, apart from megastar-in-waiting Andrew McCutchen, they haven’t hit. But if they do hit and continue pitching the way they have; if they get the above-and-beyond performances from pitchers like Cruz and the rest of the bullpen of misfits and youngsters; if they pick one another up like a team, they’re going to sneak up on some people.

After so many years of one step forward and three steps back mostly because of self-inflicted damage, tone deafness, missteps in talent recognition and mistaken acquisitions and subtractions, the Pirates are finally (really) on the right track.

Manager Clint Hurdle has instilled discipline and a no excuses attitude; the front office is taking steps to keep the young players they’ve cultivated with the signings of McCutchen and Jose Tabata and they’re interested in an extension with Neil Walker. The rotation is filled with talented journeymen like Erik Bedard and, when he gets back, A.J. Burnett. I’ve long been a fan of Kevin Correia and James McDonald; and Charlie Morton is still growing accustomed to the Roy Halladay imitation he’s trying to pull off with his motion.

They’re talented and are learning to play the game correctly as a unit.

This isn’t to suggest they’re on the verge of a 2008 Rays-type run into the playoffs, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll finish at or near .500; and if they’re loitering around the outskirts of contention in July/August, they might be too hard-headed (stemming from their manager) to know that they’re not supposed to be doing what they’re doing.

They do have to start hitting.

Their free agent signings to improve the offense—Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas—are batting under .100 as is former 2nd overall pick in the draft Pedro Alvarez. (Alvarez homered today.)

No matter how good their pitching is, they have to hit or find a way to manufacture runs.

But they’re no longer a punching bag nor are they the weak kid in the schoolyard for the bullies like the Yankees and Red Sox to plunder for players at the trading deadline while doling a few prospects on them as a courtesy.

The Pirates have starting and relief pitching; they catch the ball defensively; they have some pop and speed in their lineup; and their manager doesn’t tolerate the old attitude of, “We’re the Pirates and we’re not supposed to win.”

They’re on the way up.

Believe it.

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  1. #1 by PhillyPhanatics on April 20, 2012 - 11:38 pm

    Paul.

    I agree with you that the Pirates are headed in the right direction, but it has little to do with most of the guys on the current team. The nucleus of the Pirates who will contend for the postseason is still in the minor leagues.

    For my money, McCutchen is a keeper, and so is Walker, but that’s it. The rest of the nucleus is comprised of future co-aces Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole, and outfield mainstays Starling Marte and Josh Bell.

    • #2 by admin on April 21, 2012 - 3:17 pm

      It’s all but impossible to build a team solely through the system. The Rays got very smart/lucky with the likes of Kyle Farnsworth, Gabe Gross, Dan Johnson and others. The Pirates aren’t a team that can spend on veterans so they’re going to have to get lucky with pitchers like Juan Cruz. Players that have been developed by the organization rely on a multitude of factors as to whether they make it or not. Talent and status as a high draft pick or bonus baby aren’t enough anymore.

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