Break up the Pirates!
Opening Day and the team all the experts have been relegating to the lowest circles of national league hell not only won, they beat the Dodgers (surely not a pushover). Not only did they beat them, they crushed them, 11-5.
Here is a team that has set a record for the most losing seasons in a row, a team with the lowest payroll in baseball. Here is a team that has made a practice of trading their best players for prospects that could be traded for new prospects if they ever happened to develop into viable major leaguers. Prospects for the 2010 edition of Pittsburgh's Buccos are dismal, at best, catastrophic, at worst. Grapefruit league results were not promising. A hundred loss season is not out of the question.
On Sunday, one local newspaper, Uniontown's Herald Standard published an editorial urging fans to boycott the team in an effort to get the current owners, the Nutting family, to sell the franchise. The Nuttings, the paper argued, were not interested in spending the money necessary to build a team capable of competing on the major league level. They were content to field a bunch of minor league refugees as long as fans kept coming to the ball park in sufficient numbers for them to make a profit selling beer and hot dogs.
After all they have a state-of-the-art ballpark, built at taxpayer expense, conducive to spending a pleasant afternoon on a sunny day, whether a competitive baseball game happened to break out or not. Fans could look at it like a picnic. You have the Steelers and the Penguins, so you really can't be piggish; you can't expect to have everything. No, the Herald Standard editorialized, Pittsburgh fans deserved better. It was time to send the tightwad owners a message.
As usual, Pittsburgh fans, suckers for punishment, paid no attention to the paper's call. Loyal to the tune of 39,204, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette the second largest opening day crowd at the new ball yard, Pittsburghers showed up to see the hapless home team lay down to the Dodgers. But lo and behold, Loyalty has its rewards. And for one day at least hope springs eternal, and there is indeed joy on the banks of the three rivers, because Garrett, mighty Garrett came to play.
Garrett Jones, picked up by the Pirates at the end of the 2008 season after quite a few years in the minors and a short stint with the Twins, suddenly blossomed into a Most Valuable Player candidate. His first at bat in the bottom of the first inning, he hits a monumental home run on a bounce into the Allegheny River. Then in the third inning he hits one just over the fence to the opposite field. Not only does he hit, but he plays the outfield (this day at least) like a golden glove defender.
One-day wonder or blossoming late bloomer: that is the question. He did hit .299 in 82 games last season, so there is hope that this is not just a fluke. Besides on this day, he is Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente, why look a gift horse?
Still in the seventh inning, when the score was 8-2 relief pitcher D.J. Carrasco gave up three runs, it is difficult to avoid wondering what they would do to blow another one. It has happened so many times before. But not this time, not Opening Day 2010; this time, in the bottom of the eighth after a couple of clutch strikeouts with two men on base by pitcher Brendan Donnelly in the top of the inning, up comes Ryan Doumit with Andrew McCutchen and Jones on base and puts all faithlessness to rest.
Some will say it's only one game. Some will say don't count your chickens. Here is Western Pennsylvania; when it comes to baseball in recent years, you have to crow when you can. The Pirates are undefeated. They stand atop their division. Is this a team, or is this a team? Break up the Pirates.