Today’s season preview is written by one of my good friends and a long-time Pirates fan who has seen Roberto Clemente play live. He grew up near Pittsburgh watching Zambelli Fireworks nights and can recite Pirates history with the best of them. My good friend Matt Sarich hopes for another year like last year but worried about the team relapsing after their first loss in Spring Training. Such is the life of a Pirates fan. He has no twitter, and he has no other blog. Put your hands together for Matt as he shares his thoughts on the 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Welcome Pirate fans to opening day……and here is the first pitch……and the season is over. That refrain was repeated for 20 long years and then HOPE came!!
It has been a long time since so much optimism surrounded this team. A year ago fans were gearing up for a 21st straight losing season but with many years of investing in their farm system things started to pay dividends.
The nucleus of the team starts with their center fielder and MVP Andrew McCutchen. He established himself as the best player in the National League last year and lacks only the high-caliber arm to be called a five-tool player. He sets a tone of quiet leadership on the team, with example not words showing the way. He is flanked by Starling Marte, who is another up and coming star. The only weakness in the outfield is right field where they will platoon Jose Tabata and Travis Snider. They hopefully can hold down the position until July when Gregory Polanco should be ready.
You are only as good as your pitching and the Pirates have a strong starting rotation led by Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole. Along with a solid starting rotation the bullpen may even be stronger. There are plenty of young strong arms to complement set up man Mark Melancon and closer Jason Grilli. Two young lefties, Tony Watson and Justin Wilson who both throw in the mid 90’s, make the argument that this might be the best bullpen in the National League.
The infield is anchored by Pedro Alvarez. He has tremendous power but also strikes out to much and struggles against lefties. He is young and the hope is that his average will improve. For a big man he is surprisingly agile and provides solid play defensively.
The Pirates made a great trade in acquiring Russell Martin last year. Defensively he is an expert handler of pitchers and threw out 40 percent of the runners who tried to steal. He also brings great leadership to the clubhouse.
It is not quite the days of “WE ARE FAMILY” but Pirate fans have hope. Crack open an Iron City to wash down that Primanti sandwich. Baseball is alive in Pittsburgh again!!
Editors Note: Matt was the first guy who told me about the Primanti Bros. Sandiwch!