Leading up to the start of the 2009 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
The Pirates have been the doormat of the National League and perhaps Major League Baseball for well over a decade now. At the end of the 90’s we remember saying the same thing about the Pirates, and feeling like maybe the next year they’d go cinderella and snap out of their almost full decade of futility. Well now they’ve added a decade onto that and have little to show for it.
The manager is John Russell, and the General Manager is Neal Huntington. They’ve got their work cut out for them. The one player in Pittsburgh who could end up being a star like they haven’t seen in a while is Nate Mclouth. He could also (after signing a big extension) end up going the way of Andy Van Slyke and being quite ordinary. He’s the guy we see as the headliner and he had a very nice year last season.
Then you got to the nucleus of guys that can pull this team out of the muck. Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen, Matt Capps, Freddy Sanchez, and Ryan Doumit. They’re the only hope for this team or we’re going to be saying the same kinds of things when 2019 rolls around.
Thus is the way of a young and under-budgeted franchise in the game today. They can only enjoy winning when their group of core young guys go out and all have career years together. If the window passes and those young players go from young to middle-aged without the winning occurring, then they’re getting dealt somewhere and the cycle starts over. It happens in every city comparable to Pittsburgh around the big leagues.
Just as it was good for baseball in 2008 when the Rays took the sport by storm and played cinderella, it could be good for baseball for the Pirates to surprise and be competitive. While it’s in their favor that they are members of the NL Central, it’s probably not going to happen. They don’t have the big guns that the Rays had, even with a stable of really nice players. Out of the guys mentioned above, one of them will end up having a big time season that surprises and maybe finishes in the top 20 offensive seasons. Something memorable.
Plus they’ve got Ian Snell (who led the NL in innings pitched last season) and Jack Wilson. Wasn’t Wilson just born to be a Pirate? He’ll be a Pirate for life. Everyone in the world is going to want to say these guys are going to finish 5th or 6th in the division this year. Something tells me that is the smart money obviously. But then there’s something that says these guys are due to do something big and finish a surprising 3rd. This just might be that year. Then again we been saying that since the late 90’s, like we told you.