We’ve seen this before haven’t we. We know the warning signs. It looks too good to be true, so we should treat it as such. Just another fast start by a team that quickly falls back to old form and before you know it is 20 games below .500 by mid-June.
You want to believe in the 2011 edition of the Pittsburgh Pirates after winning four of their 1st six games on the road no less. You say to yourself, ‘This is it The losing is finally coming to an end.”
Not so fast my friend.
As history has proven so many times, it has a tendency to repeat itself. It’s well documented that the Pirates of recent memory have gotten off to similar fast starts, only to run out of gas faster than Bugatti stuck in rush hour traffic on the Parkway.
Will this version of the Bucs fall into the same trap like teams in the past few years have? The conventional wisdom screams yes. I mean really, this team is just a seven game losing skid away from consecutive losing season #19 to hit the books.
But once again, another fast start has Pirate fan salivating. You want to believe that the losing will stop and after six games, maybe you are believing it can. This is the year it ends.
Why should this season give you hope? Perhaps there are a few reasons, starting with Clint Hurdle, who has without a doubt, the hardest job in all of pro sports. So far, he’s done a great job of working with the young core of players, instilling in them a work ethic and belief that they can win.
It doesn’t hurt to have some talent either. We all know Andrew McCutchen is destined to be an all-star for years to come. He hits for average, has great speed on the bases, can hit the long ball and is a defensive gem.
Then you have Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata all starting 2011 as major leaguers. Each player began 2010 in AAA Indianapolis, but found tickets to the big leagues before mid-June.
Walker is the hometown kid doing great things. Tabata is the product of the Xavier Nady trade with the Yankees in 2008. And El Toro, well he is the power in the lineup we have lacked for nearly two decades.
Add Garrett Jones and the promise of some pop from the bat of free agents Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz and yeah, I can see where the win-deprived Pirate fan would salivate.
Let’s hold off on the need for a bib just yet.
Far be it from me to throw water on your fire to see the Bucs win. Look, I’ve followed this team for over 30 years now, chasing that dream of seeing the losing streak come to an end. I remember when they were winning division titles and were within an eyelash of playing in the World Series.
Those days seem like a faded memory, found only in black and white photos stashed in a box stuffed away in a cobweb filled attic. All I’m saying Pirate fan is give it two months. If after 60 games this team is above or around .500, you can begin to really get excited.
Keep in mind that in 2005, the Pirates were 30-30 in mid-June. I remember the night they pulled back to .500, an 18-2 win vs. Tampa Bay. I was at PNC Park that night, sitting in left field celebrating with fans as the runs poured in. The excitement was palpable and the enthusiasm was high. The streak was only 12 seasons old at that point.
Sadly the Pirates lost in extra innings the next day, got swept in their 1st trip to Yankee Stadium in 45-years and then lost two of three to the Red Sox. It was over that fast. Both the chance of a winning season and the optimism.
I’m Just saying Pirate fan to be careful and tread lightly on the hope that this version of the club has what it takes to do what 18 other variations have not. No matter what comes to pass, it’s nice to see the team play well to begin the year.
The hope that it continues through October is just a bit much to ask for right now.
John Phillips is the author of this article and will attend his 26th Pirates home opener in the past 27 seasons Thursday against Colorado. When he’s not fighting crime for the Justice League of America, JP can be found hosting weekend shows and anchoring sports updates on 93.7 The Fan. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/japboy69