I became a Pittsburgh Pirates fan five years ago after my beloved Montreal Expos were moved to Washington. Logically I suppose, I should have become a Nationals fan but there was seemingly little connection between them and my Expos anymore at that point. If I was going to pick a new team to cheer for it couldn’t be a successful one as that would be front running in my book. In 2006, my daughter moved to a town a mere one and a half hours from Pittsburgh. My decision was a perfect combination of family ties and a poor baseball team. Pittsburgh also had the most beautiful ballpark anywhere and some of the better play by play announcers. Hey, the more reasons the better no matter how frivolous. I became a Pirates fan.
I have been able to watch most of their games since then and I have suffered a sort of designed resignation. The Pirates were so inept that even when they were victorious, it looked painful and sloppy. Last season, the second half was a total disaster especially away from PNC Park. I wasn’t foolish enough to believe the typical winter optimism and promises from Pirates management as to the prospects for the 2011 season. Sure there had been some positive signs during the 2010 season as players such as Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez looked like they might live up to the hype surrounding them. There was still the problem of no starting pitching and a too many Triple A or bench players being used in the role of everyday players. With no significant offseason changes, how were the Pirates going to improve for 2011? The problem was, they probably weren’t.
All of the above brings me to this week’s topic. Here were are in the middle of July, a mere days after the all star break and the Pittsburgh Pirates are in first or within a game. They have a record going into today of 48-44 and sit one game back of the division lead. They were tied for first yesterday. They could once more be tied for first after today. Until recently, Pittsburgh had seven players on the DL. Some, such as Ryan Doumit and Pedro Alvarez, have been on the DL for weeks. They have major holes at catcher, first base, shortstop, third and right field. They have been winning with minor leaguers, a starting staff which has played well above their abilities and a lights out closer in Joel Hanrahan. The Pirates have little or no power. Most of the players on the DL aren’t going to help the team much anyway.
My only explanation is the ponderence of artificial parity. There are simply too many mediocre teams in major league baseball this season and the proposed introduction of two more playoff teams only exasperates the problem. I’m not picking on the Pirates but they have no business contending for a playoff spot this late into the season. They simply have far too many holes. There are too many teams with too many holes. This can make for exciting regular season games of course but these teams will be only cannon fodder for teams such as Philadelphia, Boston and the New York Yankees come playoff time.
It’s wonderful for the fans and gives them hope as evidenced by the sellout crowds recently at PNC Park but it’s all smoke and mirrors. Should this be the goal of major league baseball, a National Hockey League type of regular season?
The owners love it and Fox Sports will love it as the money will come flowing in from more and more franchises. I just don’t like to see it.