It’s been a long time since the Pittsburgh Pirates mattered. Sure, last season the Pirates went from lovable loser to the feel good story of Major League Baseball. But their success was sort of like that Yuengling commercial that jokes about being an overnight success.
It’s taken the Bucs a long time to get to where they are now. A demolotion job that sent out fan favorites, countless trades and acquistions, but all the while, the franchise kept adding to the farm system.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the storied franchises in MLB. The last twenty years has taken its’ toll as the losses piled up, but now in 2013, the team looks legit. Not the best team in the NL, there are far too many veterans not matching Mario Mendoza’s offensive output, but the Pirates are a legitimate threat to some of the better teams in the National League.
As you so well know, a team like this hasn’t existed in Pittsburgh since the early 90′s. But one thing is different this season. Really different. A player that Pirates fans have been hearing about for 22 months or so is on his way to the PNC Park mound to make his debut against the World Champion San Francisco Giants tomorrow night.
Adding the 6’4″ flame-throwing Gerrit Cole helps Pittsburgh Pirates fans as they consider just what might happen in 2013. Will adding the right-hander who has thrown 19 consecutive shutout innings and hasn’t allowed an extra-base hit in 13 innings for AAA Indy make them a contender? A lot of people in Pittsburgh surely trust that it will.
Those second half collapses the past few years took a lot out of Pirates fans. Just when it looked like the Pirates might have something….like they would break that ignominious losing streak. Just when the Pirates put playoff tickets on sale last year…..everything fell apart for the 2012 Bucs.
Enough with the pain. Let’s look at the present. Gerrit Cole has arrived after spending less than two years in the Bucs minor league system. He has survived the Hoka Hey, the ambushes of the AAA hitters and now is set to pull on his number 45 black-and-gold jersey.
Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle are doing their best to not add much pressure to the situation. Neither would even commit to keeping Cole in the rotation beyond this start.
A lot of it is out of his control, but there is a part of it that is in his control the circle speaking Bucs GM said yesterday.
Don’t think for a minute that tomorrow night won’t be a defining moment for a lot of Pittsburgh Pirates fans. The fans who get mocked for cheering a team with the worst losing streak in the history of losing streaks. The team that is consistently mocked and has been described as laughable, hideous, and so many other sometimes very deserving, harmful words is adding a pitcher with such a high ceiling that most Pirates fans won’t even realize it until they see him pitch.
We listened to a talk show host on ‘The home of the Pittsburgh Pirates–93.7 The Fan,’ yesterday morning. The host hadn’t even seen Cole pitch. What does it say for not only the host, but also the Pirates PR staff, that a host of their flagship hasn’t even seen it’s top pitching prospect pitch?
But that will all change tomorrow. All eyes in Pittsburgh will be on PNC Park. The Pens are done. The Steelers are still in the back of everyone’s minds, but for a period of time, the Pittsburgh Pirates have center stage. It’s a very unique opportunity.
For most die hard fans we think about all of those losses. We consider all of the pitchers used over the past few years. All those errors. As we would write on this blog, the thought of the future was just as painful as the present. The short term typically meant trading veterans for prospects, or adding veterans with questionable history that would fail to produce when the Pirates needed them most. As you would read, didn’t you think there wasn’t really a lot to look forward to in the short term for the Bucs?
This year it’s all changed.
Make it all go away Gerrit Cole.