Last night I had the opportunity to watch the Home Run Derby with a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nothing was more important to him than watching his teammate, Pedro Alvarez, swing for the fences at Citi Field. He had a lot of places he could be, but he wanted to see the action, he was thoroughly excited when he texted this to me an hour before the derby started LET’S GO PETEEEY! As Alvarez stepped into the box, he was nervous. It was pretty cool to be watching him watch Alvarez effortlessly crush six bombs during the derby.
There is so damn much to like about the Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 season. They are a team – not a perfect team, but a team that has used tremendous starting pitching and a devastating bullpen to post 56 wins at the All-Star break. But there is more to it than that. It’s the small things that happen during the marathon season that add up when it counts the most: the end. The All-Star roster consists of five legitimate players. Five players that Pittsburgh is damned proud to watch tonight. This season, Ed Sprague won’t be the Pirates All-Star.
The 2013 Pirates have been playing so damned well, and this morning as I think about Matt Harvey skipping his start Saturday night at PNC Park so he could be the starter for the National League, I had to laugh.
Clint Hurdle has done just the opposite with his starter. Jeff Locke was named to the All-Star team, but won’t be pitching tonight. Maybe it wasn’t Hurdle. Maybe it was a decision made by Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly or a combination of Hurdle, Huntington and Coonelly.
But maybe it was Jeff Locke who made the call. Maybe Locke’s back really did bother him enough to pull out of one of the most recognizable awards a Major League player can earn. Playing in the mid-Summer Classic has to be damnably exciting. Huntington said that if it was a one-game playoff and Locke’s turn was up, Locke would have pitched.
Being in the All-Star Game is a massive honor for a Major League player. If you doubt that, go read some of the tweets from big league players last night. Mark Melancon was especially entertaining.
But playing for a National League Central title, and keeping the focus on the second half, means more to Locke. It’s a breath of fresh air, isn’t it? Locke made that crystal clear with his decision to skip his start this past Sunday to rest up for the most important months of baseball in Pittsburgh in a long, long time.
From Clint Hurdle‘s improved use of the bullpen – while juggling a toilet-paper thin bench – to watching Andrew McCutchen and the Bucs offense put enough runs on the board for the impressive pitching to stack first-half wins.
Watching the team celebrate winning, and expecting to win each night, is as refreshing as it will be to watch five deserving Pittsburgh Pirates in the All-Star game tonight.
As we hold our breath heading into the second half, there is one thing we can all enjoy right now. There’s a lot to love about the 2013 Pirates.