Sep 22, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; A Pittsburgh Pirates fan waves a jolly roger flag against the Cincinnati Reds during the ninth inning at PNC Park.The Reds won 11-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Okay dreamers. Now, more reasons why the Pittsburgh Pirates will win the National League Central in 2015.
Part 2: The Pitchers, and the rest of the NL Central.
The Starting Rotation – Hang on to your (five) horses, everybody:
Francisco Liriano is back! And believe you me that soul-crushing slider will castrate bats all season. Left-handed hitters will gently weep as they shuffle back to their dugouts — their shame broadcast on PNC Park’s big screen. Right-handed batters will shudder at the sight. Best of all, Papa Francisco will remain healthy all season, and rack-up 18 wins. Gerrit Cole finally becomes the dominant ace scouts foresaw when he was the number one draft pick in 2011. His curve ball and slider will match the awe-factor of his consistently mid-90’s fastball. Believe it or not, he’ll amass more home runs than starts lost to shoulder fatigue. As for Batman? The superhero always achieves his crowning success before retiring a legend. A.J. Burnett will again log 200+ innings and inspire the killer instinct during stretches when the dawn seems darkest. In 2015, Burnett rises one last time. The trio in Robin roles — Vance Worley, Jeff Locke, and Charlie Morton — will, at the very least, offer the Pirates a chance to win whenever called upon, and sometimes flash “where the hell did THAT come from” kind of performances. Look for young studs Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham to pitch in later in 2015.
Former All-Stars Mark Melancon and Tony Watson will remain at the top of the reliever food chain by, you know, doing what they do. The towering John Holdzkom will further validate himself by exhibiting poise, and flashing dominating stuff, whenever situations are tightest. Jared Hughes will post another sub .200 ERA season, and huff and snarl with every jog to the mound. New acquired lefty Antonio Bastardo, and a cast of others, will help keep the waters in the Shark Tank bloody all season.
Francisco Liriano’s soul-crushing slider will castrate bats all season. Left-handed hitters will gently weep as they shuffle back to their dugouts — their shame broadcast on PNC Park’s big screen.
The Cardinals rule at the top will end. This year, Caesar chokes on his grapes. The other teams in the National League Central — phooey:
-The Cardinals are widely regarded as the NL Central favorites again. But baseball is a game of luck to a large degree, and luck eventually runs dry. Despite a solid rotation and line-up, and crafty management, Lady Luck will sucker punch the Cards in 2015.
-Sporting News have chosen the historically sad-sac Cubs to win the World Series in 2015. Say what?! They won’t even win their division. Despite infusing home-grown talent, signing formidable starting pitching in the off-season, and hiring so-called brainiac Joe Madden to helm the team, The Cubbies will remain undercooked for at least another year.
-The Reds are relying heavily on bounce-back efforts from several of their aging and injury-prone vets — a dicey proposition for any squad. Although the talent is there, dominance will remain dormant pending a perfect storm of good health and recaptured youth. This “perfect storm” will not be a summer blockbuster.
-Finally, The Brewers are challenged similarly as the Reds. Their offense has much potential, but the staff lacks a true ace. They ran out of fuel in 2014, and the tank may be less than topped-off on Opening Day. Plus, Ryan Braun is a Brewer, and karma still has a score to settle.
Come October, after the final pitch of the regular season, the Midwest will be strewn with the debris and carnage left behind by the battle for the NL Central title. But in the end — no bobble heads, no batter walk-up music, and no Great Pierogi Race. Just the Jolly Roger raised high above the rumble heaps.
And there you have it.
Whenever the grizzled rooster crows again and this nine-year-old wakes up from his dream, he will still not be Mike Schmidt. He’ll go back to his workaday life as a stuffed suit with a 401(k) plan.
No sir, his picture — that of a moustachioed thoroughbred snatching a screamer down the third base line — won’t be gracing the front page of the sports section. But in 2015, maybe the headline PITTSBURGH PIRATES WIN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL will be.
Let the Black and Golden Age begin.