The Pittsburgh Pirates are further back in the standings than they ever were in 2013. The closed door meeting held on Thursday, April 24 has been followed by two consecutive, punchless offensive efforts that have produced one run. The Pirates are facing a crucial time and one big decision is about to be made. It’s no longer early in the Major League Baseball season.
The Pirates are trying to conquer the empire known as the St. Louis Cardinals. For years St. Louis has hoarded the treasures of winning by playing good, solid fundamental baseball. Last season the Cardinals bragged excessively about how their pitching shoved it down the throats of the Pirates. The Cardinals have want the Pirates want, but can the Pirates work hard enough to get it? Are they good enough? Do they have doubts in their mind about their abilities?
The Pirates are underfunded nearly every time they step on the diamond. On many ocassions they are also out manned as a result. But the one thing that kept them rolling in 2013 was their death wish like thinking that allowed them to ignore the fact that the teams they were defeating had the cash, had all the millionares, and had everything that, on paper at least, made them superior to the Bucs.
For 20 years, the Pirates could never convince themselves that such an undertaking, becoming victorious regularly was possible. Having a winning franchise in Pittsburgh seemed impossible. The 2013 team did what few thought they could accomplish.
Perhaps it was Clint Hurdle, who like Hernán Cortés, captivated the souls of his team with emblazoned speeches and a powerful optimisim. The Bucs skipper challenged the spirit of his players. Each of them responded over and over and over again as the team posted victory after victory.
But now the team has reached a significant point in their quest. The Pirates no longer sneak up on anyone. But facing stiff odds, is it possible that the 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates can change the history of Major League Baseball much like Cortés’ troops changed the history of the New World?
As they marched inland to face their enemies, Cortés ordered, “Burn the boats.”
It was a decision that should have backfired. For if Cortés and his men were on the brink of defeat, there wasn’t an exit strategy in place to save their lives. Remarkably though, the command to burn the boats had an opposite effect on his men because now, they were left with only two choices — die, or ensure victory. And fight they did.
The Pirates can change the history of baseball this season. We think the team just needs some offense. A consistent bat in the lineup is desperately needed. Not in June, but now. Of course the theory goes that a small market, underfunded baseball team can’t battle the big boys in Major League Baseball. Especially not when the bright lights of the postseason are illuminated and longer series expose flaws in the rosters of the underdogs. Baseball is a long battle that takes many talented players in order to be one of the final teams playing in October.
But the battles in April are just as important as those held in September. And with the rules of baseball being especially hard on the teams that don’t have the big bank accounts, every move is a strategic one that must be well thought out before it’s finalized.
The Pirates saw struggles from Wandy Rodriguez and brought up Brandon Cumpton to pitch against Cincinnati. He was magnificent in his first start and pushed his scorless innings streak to 20 before he surrounded the couple of runs that it took to beat the punchless Bucs on Thursday.
The Pirates saw Jason Grilli struggle and now he too has landed on the DL. The Pirates made tough decisions and just put a whole lot of their payroll on disabled lists.
One player who is far from disabled is Gregory Polanco. The promising outfielder is hitting over .400 for Triple-A Indianapolis and is desperately needed in the Bucs lineup. Unfortunately it’s not as easy of a decision for the Bucs to make. There are quite a few million dollars at stake and money is a big deal in the Bucs front office, as it should be.
We know today, how Cortés’ decision to burn his boats panned out. Hernán Cortés became the first man in 600 years to successfully conquer Mexico.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the Pirates are going to follow the lead of Cortes or even Alexander the Great who did the same when he showed up in Persia. The Pirates talk about the success of Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker and in the same breath speak to the fact surrounding how much time they spent in AAA and their success in the pros. The Pirates also discuss the challenges that Pedro Alvarez has had and surround that discussion with how he was pushed through Triple-A. But Polanco is NAVY Seal trained, a product of the new, improved Bucs system. Polanco is doing things in AAA that Cutch, Pedro and Walker never did.
Bringing up Gregory Polanco right now would be viewed in my eyes as burning the boats. There are no more impact reinforcements coming this year with Jameson Taillon on the mend. Would it motivate the 22 other men in the Pirates locker room that realize that Polanco could help them conquer the NL Central? We think it would, and we know that Clint Hurdle-Cortes would have a passionate speech to go with it.
It would scream of a commitment to winning despite the millions of dollars it could possibly cost the small market Bucs in the future.
It would show Polanco that the team believes he is ready to face the grind of Major League pitching every day.
It would show the team that it’s about NOW as Hurdle repeated endlessly during the spring.
It won’t make one bit of financial sense, but it would be a fresh strategy, a desctructive approach some would call it because Polanco would certainly feel the pressure with the call-up.
But wouldn’t an army want all 25 of its’ absolute best warriors when they are caught in the battle of a generation? And don’t kid yourselves the business of baseball in Pittsburgh is all about right now, right this very minute.
The Pirates have to dig themselves out of a hole they never had to do in 2013.
One player isn’t going to cure the Pirates ailments. But one player can show the other 24 that the mission is critical and there is no turning back. If Clint Hurdle wants to say it’s about NOW, he will make the speech.
It’s time to burn the boats.
Unfortunately, we think Bob Nutting is all out of lighter fluid.