Well, let’s not piss around. How can we restore our sanity after the Pittsburgh Pirates played three brutal games against the San Diego Padres?
The first step would be to crucify the front office.
The Bucs brass will have no choice but to bring up the most talented players in the system. Let’s just trust it’s not before the hometown club is ten games back in the NL Central. Their decisions this past week are mind-numbing, and cost the team an opportunity to snag a few wins.
We also think another move will be made in adding a veteran bat to the ballclub. Look, Frank Coonelly wants to win just as much as anyone. It’s the guy’s job! He wants to shove a playoff spot down the throat of every person that has ever doubted the Pirates in this city.
The second step in “Operation Restore Sanity” would be to go after Clint Hurdle. But that guy isn’t changing - he’s set in stone. The phrase ‘Hurdled’ has sorta lost it’s swagger because of overuse.
It’s funny, Clint asks his players to act like they’re playing whiffle ball in the backyard, but he is mostly hyper-conservative – like his traditional use of the bullpen – or hyper-aggressive, like not walking Chase Headley.
The fact is this, Hurdle blew our mind back on Saturday, August 4th. Ahh, there it is. The weekend the Bucs were bullied by the bad-asses of Major League Baseball. The weekend Hurdle tapped out. We were so livid we wrote him an open letter. Some of you didn’t care for it, but if you look back knowing what you know now, we bet at least some of you would come over to the dark side where we hang out.
Baseball strategy and pressure for James McDonald to simply focus on winning the game trumped acting like kids playing ball in the backyard.
We thought it would be important for Hurdle to pull another ounce or two of adrenaline from this 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates club. It never happened. The Pirates kept getting beaned. Hurdle got himself tossed. And here we, are three weeks later, on the outside looking in at a wildcard spot.
But heh, at least we have postseason ticket priority!
Since Andrew McCutchen was beaned, the Pirates are 7-12. The Buccos have been outscored 102-84 by their opponents during a blunder-filled August that has caused flashbacks among the Bucco brethren, and lightened the bandwagon as some eyes moved toward the return of Steelers wideout Mike Wallace.
We have no idea if the beanball caused the slide.
We can’t say that nineteen innings caused the PBC to get swept in San Diego.
But we can say that Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson were the bright spots in a dark, dank, week in the annals of 2012 Pirates lore. The glimpse toward the future did provide at least a little bit of hope, a double rainbow…full on..
Look, we know it’s impossible to connect one situation to another. Baseball doesn’t work that way. We simply wanted Clint Hurdle and the Pirates decision makers to dictate the action against the Reds; to play with their best players as they played 20 games in 20 days, and to not give anymore credit to what Wandy Rodriguez has done in the past. We thought Rodriguez was getting paid for what he is supposed to do in the future?
It’s nearly three weeks later, and the Pirates are still acting the same way as they did that weekend in Cincy. Only now, we got the added bonus of seeing Daniel McCutchen pitch in high leverage situations. Dusty Baker was the aggressor the weekend that started the skid, not Hurdle.
Step three in “Operation Restore Sanity” is to admit that we have a problem. Pirates fans, we admit, we never thought back in April that a walk-hatin’ , strikeout-makin’ lineup would be this successful. Now they are, and expectations have changed. It’s postseason or bust, dammit!
Step four in “Operation Restore Sanity” is that we understand that not all slumps are mental. We firmly believe that an athlete’s peak performance comes from when the mind and the body are in perfect harmony.
It’s rarely seen. The albino groundhog of the sports world, the double rainbow…full on, if you will.
But when it happens, it’s very special. The Pirates have had it this season. McCutchen especially. Now the face of the franchise is in a funk.
Meanwhile, Chapman has been nothing short of dominant since. The left-hander has allowed just one run (against the Cubs), walked only one, punched out 14, and scattered six hits while saving six games in his 9.1 innings pitched (6.1 innings were pitched against those Cubs.)
So step four is pretty basic: Slumps occur when there is a breakdown in that perfect harmony of the mind and the body. The mind starts attacking the body. Typically, the body reacts in a negative fashion. Bad shit starts to happen during the most crucial times–when batters need a big hit, when pitchers need to get out of a jam, when fielders need to make a key defensive play.
Step five is realizing time is running out. Or to take the glass-half-full approach, it means there is still a chance.
As we think back to the potential turning point for the 2012 Pirates, it’s not like the Cincinnati Reds have set the world on fire since drilling the best player in the National League. The Reds schedule shows they have won 11 games and dropped eight since starting the one-sided beanball war.
Six of those Reds wins were against the Cubs, two against the Mets, and two against the Phillies. Hardly a ‘murderer’s row’ there. The other Reds win was that next night against the Bucs. Dusty’s boys have outscored their opponents 83-72 since the Cutch drilling – nothing mind blowing.
The Pirates horrid play in some of the past nineteen games brought out Clint Hurdle’s “Aw, shucks” analysis. He said the club wasn’t playing well, and then added in something like it happens to every team.
Clint is right. But it needs to end.
We understand that all slumps aren’t mental. Andrew McCutchen is one mechanical adjustment away from becoming a machine once again. We think he has shown us enough this season to believe that he will bounce back.
If Cutch returns to form, we think everyone will get a little bit of sanity back. If the most talented players get the call to Pittsburgh this weekend, some sanity will return, too. If Hurdle can find his magic pixie dust one more time in 2012, the Pirates will get their swagger back.
It couldn’t happen against a better opponent, either, as the Brewers roll into PNC Park this weekend. It’s been a long time coming, but we can only trust that it’s coming.