Zach Duke and Ryan Dempster at 7:05. I'll be watching and taking solace in the fact that the number of people that will pretend to care if we lose this one will be much lower than it was yesterday.
Reds' blogger JinAZ has a writeup of the BP Night at PNC Park from Saturday. While I certainly had fun at my friend's wedding this weekend, I'm insanely jealous of JinAZ and everyone that got to go listen to Dan Fox and Neal Huntington talk and meet Rocco and the BP guys and talk baseball all night.
I'm trying to leave this seventeen-year losing streak thing in the dust where it belongs, but yesterday my brother sent me a link to this t-shirt and I just can't help but pass it along.
Call-ups: Bixler, Hacker, Diaz, Karstens and Veal (from the DL). I would've liked to see Clement, as well, but apparently his oblique injury will keep that from happening. Hopefully it also helps explain his performance of late.
"I," she told him, "Can believe anything. You have no idea what I can believe."
"I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not ..."
-Neil Gaiman, American Gods
If there's one question that I've been asked more than any other during my four and a half years as a Pirate blogger, it's not "When will the Pirates be good again," or "What would you do differently than the front office to turn this team around?" It's "Why on earth are you still a Pirate fan after all these years?"
This is a straightforward question that is not at all easy to answer.
Life is not static. In my lab, and I suspect in most workplaces everywhere, there's an old saying that's often repeated. "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity." This is true. Life is about adapting to jobs, to people, to locations, to innumerable other circumstances. And yet amid this sea of constant change, everyone looks for anchors. A variable cannot be defined without a constant, and so we all look for (and find) our constants in different places; in family, in friends, in a place to call home, and yes, in sports.
Sports are beautifully illogical. I would never, ever let anything else in life disappoint me for as long as the Pirates have, but I would never trade the Pirates for any other team. While other aspects of life demand we adjust and adapt, sports never do. Watching the Pirates rack up 17 straight losing seasons doesn't have the negative effect on my life that pushing forward with a flawed experiment or failing to dump a crazy girlfriend might have. Sports, if we want them to be, can be a constant.
Because of the Pirates, I always have something to talk about with my dad or my brothers, no matter where I live or they live, no matter what we're doing. I can walk into a Triple-A game in Durham, North Carolina with a Pirates' cap and a black and gold shirt and find ten people to talk to during the course of the game, even if I showed up at the gate by myself.
The common perception is that sports are all about winning. That if your team didn't win, you had a bad year and that there's nothing positive to be taken from it. I think that's hopelessly misguided. Sports are about everything that happens before your team wins, which is what gives value to the championship when it's celebrated. This picture is beautiful because of all of the heartbreak we watched these two men endure together on their way to having it taken. And this one still makes my heart skip a beat because of the way this one made my heart sink. After years of watching the Penguins and Steelers fall short and sharing in the frustration and pain and heartbreak with my friends and family, I knew what winning meant to them and to me.
It's unreasonable to ask any sports team to win a championship every year. All we really want is to be able to hope that they'll be able to exorcise the demons they've created for us. That's what made 2006 and 2007 the two hardest years to be a Pirate fan; there was no hope. But now? I can't see this picture of Andrew McCutchen without wondering how high he'll leap when he leads the Pirates to a division title, or a pennant, or more. And when the Pirates drop nine out of ten? When they clinch their seventeenth losing season in a row? I close my eyes and I see a box score that reads like this: 1.) McCutchen, CF, 2.) Tabata, RF, 3.) Milledge, LF, 4.) Alvarez, 3B, and I can't help but think that in two years, that will be something to behold. Maybe I'm wrong; maybe those things won't happen. But right now, all that matters is that they might.
Why am I still a Pirates fan? Because I can be. Because despite seventeen losing years I've got Rob Mackowiak's double-header, I've got Andy Van Slyke, and my dad has given me Roberto Clemente. Because I can't imagine what it will feel like to see the Pirates pile on Andrew McCutchen the way the Braves piled on Sid Bream in 1992, but I need to know. I'm still a Pirate fan because despite everything that's happened, I believe in the Pittsburgh Pirates.
And so it's finally done. Like I said last week, I don't have a lot to say about this record directly, but I do have some things I want to say to mark the occasion. That'll have to wait until later, though, because I just rolled in to North Carolina and have some unpacking and things to do.
Ted Lily and Dan McCutchen at 12:35. I'll be driving all day and back in NC just as this one's wrapping up.
There's nothing quite like a walk-off win, is there? After running around all weekend (the rehearsal and wedding I was at were in Meadville, the reception was back in good ol' Mercer County, my tux had to be returned to Boardman), I finally got into the house just in time for the seventh inning stretch of today's game, just after the Pirates had rallied to tie the Cardinals at four. Seeing the score (and because my grandparents were over for dinner), I immediately began working on two "Pirates set record" posts, both for here and FanHouse. After Rick Ankiel homered off of Jesse Chavez in the eighth, I kicked things into overdrive to try and be prepared for what I assumed would be the biggest even in the history of this blog.
I looked up to see Jason Jaramillo single to lead off the ninth, but grumbled when JR elected to throw away another out with the lead-footed Jaramillo on first by having Andy LaRoche bunt into the most predictable force out of the game. Still, with 'Cutch at the plate, I wasn't about to take my eyes off the game. After he singled and Doumit singled LaRoche in, I suddenly got downright positive with Garrett Jones and Lastings Milledge due up. Sure enough, Jones delievered and my eulogies will have to be used another day.
Days like today, these are why I keep watching. We're 81 losses into the seventeenth straight losing season, and I still can't help but break into a grin when I see Garrett Jones single Andrew McCutchen home to win a game, while the other players pour out of the dugout to celebrate with them. Can you imagine how fun it would be if this happened 90 times a season instead of 65?
A few words about last night's game before today's. First off, it's never, ever a good move to put anyone on base as the go-ahead run in the tenth inning, even if that someone at the plate is Albert Pujols. Pujols kills the Pirates, yes. And Matt Capps hasn't been great this year, yes. But putting the go-ahead runner on base in a tie game late in the game drops the win expectancy about 10% with a 100% certainty, whereas it's maybe a 40% chance he gets any sort of hit and a much lower probability that he hits a double or homer. We got burned because Matt Capps has been terrible this year, but it's not like we have many other options. The part about last night's game that disappointed me the most was bunting the scorching-hot Lastings Milledge with nobody out and the winning run on first base. I never like seeing the bat taken out of a player's hand, but it's especially maddening in the situation that it happened in last night.
Paul Maholm and Joel Piniero take the mound at 1:35 today in what could be one of the darkest days in Pirate history. John Russell is apparently compliant with "getting this 82nd loss the hell over with" because Brandon Moss, Neil Walker, Ramon Vasquez, and Jason Jaramillo are all in the starting lineup this afternoon.
Will tonight be loss #80? Can the Pirates shake the road blues to actually, you know, win a game? Can they put up a fight, or are they going to be steamrolled into this losing season like so many others? JR's breaking out a new lineup tonight with Milledge batting cleanup, but the Adam Wainwright vs. Kevin Hart pitching matchup is not favorable at all.