“If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win numerous battles without jeopardy.” – Sun Tzu
The Pittsburgh Pirates are beginning the season with a grand unveiling. When the Phillies arrive at PNC park on thursday to kick off the 2012 season, fans will be enjoying a brand new gourmet spread at the ballpark. Now on the menu are Sushi and a Thai beef burger that sounds as if it could push the Roethlis-burger for Pittsburgh burger supremacy.
Pittsburghians (I don’t what they call themselves) will also be enjoying improved quality on the field as well. Last year’s team did lose 90 games, but they managed to sneak into first place at mid-season for the first time since Clinton was in office. Don’t expect these Pirates to roll over for anyone this year; their burgers aren’t made with pink slim anymore.
Player to Watch: Andrew McCuthchen
The darling of fantasy baseball leagues, Andrew McCutchen is quietly turning into a super star. He can run, hit, and cover corner to corner in the outfield. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette McCutchen is not too far off from becoming only the sixth Pirate with 100 homers and 100 steals (currently 51hr, 78sb). They left this poor writer fumbling for the other five (i’m sure one is named Barry), but it goes to show how good McCutchen can be.
Disclaimer: Andrew McCutchen is currently on my fantasy team, which can only add to my bias.
Most Hated Pirate: Rod Barajas
File Rod Barajas under player who stunk for the Phillies, then did nothing but hit at an all-star caliber pace against them afterwards. It may be a bit ridiculous to carry this much frustration over a former backup catcher, but the guy was bum. Even with low expectations, Rod couldn’t provide the power that he had shown his previous couple of years in Texas. He was subsequently given his walking papers, but in an act of pure malice he swore his revenge, and has been taking it out on Phillies pitching ever since. Don’t be surprised if he goes deep off of Halladay and Lee in the series…then proceeds to hit .200 against everyone else.
Fansided Perspective: My 60 Minutes style interview with Rumbunters writers Jon Anderson and Tom Smith.
Is this the year the Pirates end their long playoff drought?
Jon: Playoffs?? You talking about playoffs? I think the better question is if the Pirates can end their streak of 19 consecutive losing seasons. My answer to that would be yes, they COULD. However, I don’t really expect them to do it. This is the best pitching rotation we have had in quite some time (which must just make you spoiled brat Phillie fans laugh out loud), and the offense has some real upside. If Pedro Alvarez can come around a bit and Andrew McCutchen continues to develop, the offense could be good enough to support the rotation to 81 wins. However, there are a lot of question marks. The rotation has to stay healthy, and the young bats have to produce. If both of those things don’t happen, you can chalk up number 20.
Tom: The drought is long overdue, but no, we dont see that ending this year.
Can we expect back to back shutouts from Halladay and Lee?
Jon: Back to back shutouts? Come on now. How pathetic do you think the Pirates are? It’s a serious chore for a professional baseball team to go 18 innings without scoring a run, even for the Pirates. Add to that the fact that we have won FIVE STRAIGHT OPENING DAY GAMES, and I would bet my life on scoring at least one run in the first two games. Halladay and Lee are good and all, and they could very well both gets wins in their first two starts, but back-to-back shutouts is ludicrous. The Pirates probably won’t score more than 5 runs combined in these games so they’re going to have to pitch well, and with Erik Bedard and Jeff Karstens going up against a crippled Phillies lineup, I could see both of these games being very competitive. Watch your mouth.
Tom: Shutouts? Now that’s funny. Well, you might not be intimidated by the Pirates lineup, but ZWR. and Lee will be. Obviously I am not surprised that you aren’t familar with the Pirates winning streak in home openers and the Phillies general suckability at PNC Park.
With the inevitable playoff matchup between the Penguins and Flyers fast approaching, will the Penguins be complaining the whole series?
Jon: Personally I am not a fan of hockey. In fact I really start to hate it around playoff time. Pittsburgh is going to hate my guts for this but I kind of hope the Flyers dispose of the Penguins quickly so the Penguins can stop hogging all the attention in April. Heck, the first few weeks are often the only times the Pirates are in the hunt, so we need all the publicity we can get!
Tom: The Pens complaining? No, we don’t complain, just win. It sounds to me like complaining is what the Flyers coach, Briere, and the Flyers fans have been doing all week. But heh, I can see why Flyers fans would be complaining, they haven’t won since what, 1975? I guess in comparision that makes the Pirates playoff drought not so bad…
Florida Marlins: 0-1 (4/9, 4/11, 4/12)
If the Marlins off-season were a TV show, it would be Extreme Home Makeover. The Marlins changed just about everything they could possibly think of. They have a new stadium, new uniforms, a new manager, and a few new players to boot. The prize of their free agent spending spree was Jose Reyes, who shouldn’t miss a beat teeing off against familiar NL east pitching. Reyes takes over at shortstop for Hanley Ramirez who graciously moved over to third base. Whether or not Ramirez can field the position remains to be seen, but the two of them form one of the best left sides of the infield at the plate. The Marlins have their sights set on the Phillies this year, and hope to win their first division title. Believe it or not, the team that has won two world series in only nineteen seasons but has never won the division.
Player to Watch: Giancarlo Stanton
The slugger formerly known as Mike is the best power hitter you’ve never heard of. Few outside the division have seen just how could this kid is. At only 22 years old he finished 5th in the league in homeruns with 34, and thats just tip of the iceberg. Coupled with superior athleticism and a rocket for an arm, he is the closest thing to a 5-tool player as there is in baseball (apologies to Matt Kemp). The only thing that can slow him down is if their new ballpark plays like Petco. And, fans may object to the team going deep after they see the new homerun sculpture in action.
Most Hated Marlin: Carlos Zambrano
I was tempted to go with Jose Reyes in this category, but i didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of talking about him any more. Big-Z is a worthy consolation though, as he has probably thrown at half the league by now. You know your disliked when a team is willing to pay half your salary to play for someone else. Maybe Zambrano and Ozzie Guillen will become kindred spirits, which will allow them to find inner peace. More likely, the Marlins will have to buy extra gatorade coolers to withstand Zambrano’s rage blackouts.
Fansided Perspective: I “sat down” with Marlins blogger Ehsan Kassim to discuss pressing issues facing the team.
Will fans finally show up to games now that they have a legit baseball stadium to go to?
I believe that Marlins Park will have a 2-month honey moon period. The fans will file into the stadium because of the newness and the idea of exploring something new. After that, it is going to be up to the team to win ball games. If the team sucks, the fans will not show up, as simple as that. This is Miami; people have much better things to do then watch a team suffer on the baseball field.
One thing that may affect attendance is the Miami Heat. Playoffs are almost here for the NBA. I will be covering both as I also am editor for the Heat site, but I will be one of the fans more focused on the Marlins and their season. Baseball>>Basketball, all day!
What’s your take on the Marlin’s new home run sculpture? Even as someone who is a fan of Red Grooms artwork, it looks like something out of The Birdcage.
The sculpture is interesting. It is not as bad as I initially feared, but it is still pretty bad. There are way too many colors and it seems annoying. But it does represent Miami pretty well. I am willing to give it a chance. If there is one player on the Marlins that can make you fall in love with that contraption, it has to be Giancarlo Stanton. Hell, maybe he will hit a homer so hard of the sculpture; it will break and never work again!
Who is going to have the first meltdown, Ozzie or Zambrano?
I think Carlos Zambrano will. He struggled with command during the spring and I think that will carry over into the season. He will get aggravated because of struggles and end up tearing up a water cooler, or two. I think Ozzie Guillen will be on his best behavior to begin the season. He will be ejected a few times, but he won’t be doing anything too over the top right away.