Editor’s Note: Yes, it’s that time of year again – the time for us to settle back into our protective bubble where the Chicago Cubs are destined for greatness, and every other team in the National League Central is bound for spectacular failure. If you’d care to check out last year’s fare:St. Louis Cardinals,Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers,Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros. Already featured for 2010:Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers.
The 2010 Major League Baseball season is nearly upon us, and that means two things: (1) we’re all so deprived of real baseball action that we’re willing to treat meaningless Spring Training games like they’re the playoffs, and (2) the prognosticators are out in full force. Yes, every sports publication in the world puts out a season preview. Some are interesting, some aren’t. For the most part, folks just don’t have the time necessary to do the kind of in-depth preview that is going to be of any use to a reader that actually follows the team being previewed.
So most previews end up being pretty surface level, and boring. Well, we’re not going to do that here at Bleacher Nation. It’s much more interesting (notice how I subtly pat myself on the back?) to simply examine why the team currently sucks and is going to suck in 2010.
So enjoy – we’ll be previewing the suckiness (suckosity?) of the other teams in the National League Central over the next five weeks. Up next, the saddest team in the National League Central: the slightly less than swashbuckling Pittsburgh Pirates.
Baseline for Suckitude
No one sets the bar for suckitude quite as low as the Pittsburgh Pirates. They finished the 2009 season 62-99, second worst in baseball, and a whopping 28.5 games out of first place in the NL Central. It was a terrible season in a sea of terrible seasons.
Last year, we had this to say:
This one is simultaneously terrifically easy to write, and tremendously difficult. It’s like having a friend who is completely tone deaf that wants to try out for American Idol, and he asks you your thoughts. You don’t really want to kick the guy, but you also don’t want to see him go embarrass himself. It’s like that. Oh, except the guy’s dog just died. Because it was run over by his girlfriend. As she was leaving him.
Those poor Pirates. What else can you say, really?
Pirates fans in the comments had this to say:
The Pirates might “suck” by your definition but here in SixBurgh we love the Pirates and I myself would be more than happy to see a .500 ballclub. I grew up when the Pirates were winning pennants with pitching, defense, and a decent offense. It looks like the club is trying to build back to their winning ways. But if they “suck” I will still love them.
I didn’t have the heart to select one of the comments garbling out some formulation of the Cubs-haven’t-won-in-100-years thing. Like I said. Those poor Pirates.
Sucky Offseason Moves
Sad Arrivals: INF Bobby Crosby (free agent), 2B Akinori Iwamura (trade with Rays), RHP Chris Jakubauskas (claimed off waivers from Mariners), LHP Javier Lopez (free agent), OF Ryan Church (free agent), RHP D.J. Carrasco (minor league free agent), RHP Brian Bass (minor league free agent), RHP Brendan Donnelly (free agent), OF Brandon Jones (claimed off waivers from Braves), RHP Octavio Dotel (free agent).
Happy Departures: RHP Jesse Chavez (traded to Rays, then traded to Braves), LHP Phil Dumatrait (non-tendered, signed minor league deal with Tigers), RHP Matt Capps (non-tendered, signed with Nationals).
Well, the good news is that the Pirates lost almost nobody. So ends the good news.
The loss of Matt Capps, arguably the team’s best reliever, will hurt. The Pirates added several nice role players – Ryan Church, Akinori Iwamura, Bobby Crosby – but none will do much to catapult the Pirates into the upper echelon of the NL Central, particularly given the expectation that, on the Pirates, they won’t be just role players. If the Pirates are to compete this year, it will have to be the youngsters doing the heavy lifting, not the added pieces.
Their Very Own Blogoverse Thinks They Suck
All you really need to do is read any of the season previews that Pirates blog Bucs Dugout has published about the National League Central. They are kind of like these “Why Such and Such Team Will Suck” posts that we do here, except thoughtful, well-written and non-douchey. No, you needn’t dig around trying to find their preview for the Pirates – like I said, you can read any of the previews.
That’s because at the end of each one, they recount their projection for each team in the Central. For their own Pirates? They project just 70 wins and a last place finish. Those poor Pirates.
The Suckiest Part of Their Suck
Insert your snarky comment of choice: “all of it,” “the players,” “those poor Pirates.”
In truth, if I was forced to choose, it would be the rotation. Headlined by underachievers Zach Duke and Paul Maholm, the Pirates’ rotation is a mish-mash of names that sound just familiar enough for you to wonder, “could these be hidden gems that I just don’t know about yet?” A scan of Baseball Reference confirms that no, they just suck.
Ross Ohlendorf? Charlie Morton? They sound more like silent movie stars than Major League pitchers.
And in the End
How long must a team be in “rebuilding mode” before it simply becomes “terrible team mode”? It seems like it was a completely different universe that saw the Pirates as perennial threats to make the playoffs (Earth-2?). Oh so very long gone are the days of Bonds, Van Slyke and Bonilla. The streak of consecutive losing seasons stands at an astonishing 17 seasons.
And sincerely – my heart goes out to hardcore Pirate fans. It just can’t be a very enjoyable time – when teams are rebuilding, sure, the Major League team suffers, but there a distant oasis on the horizon in the form of talented youth. For the Pirates, that oasis must have felt like a floating island, never drawing nearer as they paddled listlessly toward a team that they could finally call “rebuilt.”
But the last two years have brought some positive change – the Pirates have spent more in the last two drafts than any team in baseball. They’ve got an emerging star in Andrew McCutchen, and a couple of other potential future/current lineup mainstays in Jeff Clement, Jose Tabata, and Lastings Milledge. Things could happen quickly for the Pirates.
For now, however, things don’t look particularly good. The youth movement is a good one, but will take time to prove fruitful. The hope, of course, is that it doesn’t take too long, lest guys like McCutchen reach their later arbitration years and get too expensive to keep. Such will be the delicate balance in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future. Success, for the time being, will have to be measured on a different scale than most baseball fans are used to.
Those poor Pirates.