Last year, when our lowly Pittsburgh Pirates, coming off of a 19-year losing streak, got themselves a new coach and a crop of young yet promising players. (For those keeping score at home, when I say "losing streak" I don't mean "non-playoff years," I mean "lost more games than they won," which by all accounts in all professional sports is a pretty remarkable level of horribleness.) So I decided to keep a homeland-security style Pittsburgh Pirates Care-O-Meter on the right side of this blog to track how much I was going to follow the Buccos this year. Here is a picture:
I'm a lukewarm fan of baseball. I find it nominally boring. While you would think that I would love something as stat-heavy as baseball, I can't quite connect. And I'm sure part of it is the franchise; half of the fun is watching your favorite players, and the Pirates have a cottage industry of plumping up decent prospects and then trading them away. It's like a revolving door of broken dreams. Plus, unlike football (and not quite as bad as hockey), baseball seems to have this arcane and mystifying system where random farmboys sling balls around in rural Oregon for years before they are ready for the pros, and they get their way to a major park only after a labyrinth-style ascension through the ranks. I just can't bring myself to care all that much about a thousand faceless prospects until they've been around for a while.
So this year I thought about running it again. Despite their late-season debacles, the coach seemed to have at least got everyone's shit together, at least to the point where it was plausible. But I chose not to. Not only was the joke old, but it was actually kind of a pain to keep up with. I had forgotten that unlike every other reasonable sport, there are approximately five thousand games per season, so I would easily lose track of the record.
Still, I'll have to admit that things are certainly looking up. Right now, only a few days away from the break, your Pittsburgh Pirates have managed to have a thin lead as first in the division. They're also around 10 games ahead, so they can still suffer a modest collapse and still bounce back. For the first time in nearly two decades, it's possible to get excited about Pittsburgh baseball again.
Then again, let's not get ahead of ourselves. This isn't the first time a promising season then went into a downward spiral. And we're one injury away from watching everything collapse; Andrew McCutchen has proven to be the only reliable offense so far. So it's cautious optimist at the moment.