xERA:The Lost Metric

Imagine working on something so hard for months and possibly years, only to have unveiled at a time when no one is paying attention.

As most of you probably know by now, I am a pretty big “stats nerd” and spend a lot of my time in the Nerd Cave, compiling and comparing MLB players (especially Pirates) based on every advanced metric that is available. Now don’t get me wrong, I still like the old reliable slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) for batters and the ERA for pitchers. I will even find myself flipping through DRS in comparing fielders’ abilities. However, there is just something about the new stats that just gets me all excited. This year OAA (Outs Above Average) for Infielders was introduced and I got lost in the numbers. The same thing happened when the JUMP stat was introduced for outfielders. I even wrote an article at the time that compared Bryan Reynolds and Starling Marte, utilizing this as one of the main statistics. So, much to my excitement when the newest advanced metric arrived earlier this week I drove in head first; unfortunately so far it feels like I am the only one.

By a show of hands, how many of you even knew there was a brand new metric to judge pitchers’ skill level? If you raised your hand you are either a lier or as nerdy as me. Everyone here has probably heard of FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). Even Mitch Keller discovered it on his own toward the end of last season, so you probably have to. It is a pitching metric that attempts to remove “luck” and defense from the equation in order to determine how a successful a pitcher should be based on the variables that the pitcher can control; including strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs. FIP is a stat that I have fallen in love with, but even I understand that it has its limitations. It is not the be-all end-all to judging a pitcher’s performance capabilities. It can however show that there is room for improvement or at least hope. Take the previously mentioned Mitch Keller, whose “bad luck” has been written about in multiple articles. Keller had a ERA of 7.13, but a FIP of 3.19; which means that he shouldn’t have given up as many runs as he did. It doesn’t change the bottom line, the runs were scored. That isn’t the point though; I am not here to sell you on the importance of advanced metrics. I just want to open you up to the possibilities.

So, about this new metric; it’s called xERA and it’s as simple as it sounds. xERA is the expected ERA of a pitcher over time. I know that xERA itself isn’t something totally new. However, it is something that is new to Statcast and in particular Baseball Savant. The xERA in this case is based off of a pitchers xwOBA (Expected Weighted On Base Average). xwOBA, much like FIP removes defense from the equation; relying more on the exits velocity and launch angle that is produced. Sprint Speed is the last part of the equation because as we all known a faster player is more likely to get an infield hit on a high chopper to the 3rd Basemen or Shortstop, than a slow player.

With all this being said, I bet you are all wondering how the Pirates pitcher fared using this “new” advanced metric. It should come as no surprise that Joe Musgrove rated the highest/best among all qualified Pirates with an xERA of 4.08, which is .36 points better than his actual ERA. This shows the potential or expectation for improvement, but unfortunate for the Pirates and Pirates fans, Musgrove’s 4.08 xERA ranked 83rd. This ranking is a little misleading because it also includes relief pitchers. However, after a quick count, he would rank somewhere around 35 for starting pitchers; right in between John Means of the Orioles and Aaron Nola of the Phillies, both of whom had lower ERA’s than Big Joe. Long story short Big Joe is a solid starting pitcher, with potential to improve.

Some of the other Pirates starting pitchers listed include: Mitch Keller (7.13 ERA vs. 4.35 xERA), Steven Brault (5.16 ERA vs. 5.19 xERA), Trevor Williams (5.38 ERA vs. 5.30 xERA) and Chris Archer (5.19 ERA vs. 5.44 xERA). None of these make me exceptionally optimistic outside of Keller. However, this was last year and there is always room for improvement. My real concern comes when I started to focus on qualified relief pitchers. The top Pirate reliever is no longer on the team (Francisco Liriano) and the next one is currently injured (Clay Holmes). However, the delay in the season could allow Holmes to recover from his foot injury. I also don’t want to overlook the fact that the Pirates have other quality relievers that were unable to be considered qualified because of a lack of opportunities. These opportunities were limited due to either experience or injury. Keone Kela performed well in “limited” innings to the tune of a 2.12 ERA. His xERA did not fare as well and landed at 3.31. Michael Feliz is a Pirates reliever that I have been pretty high on this off-season and he did not disappoint according to this new metric, earning a 3.80 xERA versus a 3.99 ERA.

Once again I don’t want anyone to think that this metric is not without its flaws. It is just another tool that can be used in evaluating and possibly projecting future performance/value of each of the Pirates pitchers, starters and relievers.

Friday Focus – How Short is Too Short for an MLB Season Pirates Fans?

MLB and team executives are meeting regularly with the Players Union. If this were a normal season and we were heading closer to regular season play in 2020, I might follow that revelation with discussion of the new CBA and the challenges that lie ahead there.

This is not a normal season however and one of the things I wonder most is this, how many games is enough to feel like the regular season mattered? At what point do you pull the plug?

Let’s look at it from as many angles as I can think of and see where it takes us shall we? I’m in no way going to list all possibilities, but I think I’ll hit on the most likely.

Games by May 15th
Every team would have missed between 40 and 45 give or take.
Possibilities
1. Take the front part of the schedule and transplant it to the end. This would end the season somewhere around the middle of November.
2. Eliminate those games from the schedule entirely and still end in September.

Biggest Questions
1. With possibility one I question the ability of cold weather cities to play productive baseball. Rescheduling would be easiest this way, perhaps something could be done to play the home games for those clubs first and finish in dome and warm cities.
2. Number two up there poses a whole new slew of questions. The balanced schedule would be shot. No way to lop off a section of the season that large and pay no balance price. One way they could fix this would be to completely recraft the schedule. For instance, Interleague games constitute 20 contests a season. Those could go then maybe trim a game or so off each out of division season series to hit the number desired.

Games by June 1st
Every team would have missed between 55 and 60 give or take.
Possibilities
1. Eliminate those games from the schedule entirely and still end in September by building a custom 100 game schedule to end close to on time.

2. Eliminate most of those games but keep the season around 120-122 pushing into October 15th or so.

3. Playing a full season becomes near impossible, without multiple double headers scheduled.

Biggest Questions
1. For number one and two, either of those could be done, neither without a fresh new schedule. Elimination of interleague is a given.

2. Number three, there would have to be an agreement with the union to forego off day requirements and the league would have to expand rosters in some form and fashion to facilitate the beating players would take.

Games by June 15th  
Every team would have missed between 70 and 75 give or take.
Possibilities
1. Becoming difficult to see much more than 100% intra-divisional games as home and away contests across the league would push the limits of scheduling.

2. 80 or 82 games is very likely. Obvious scheduling upheaval.

3. Playing a full season probably off the table.

Biggest Questions
1. Number one is the most viable but not without issues. Not sure how you would settle Wild Cards. I would think it might be fairer to take the top two from every division and make them 3 game series. Hard to say the Mets were better than the Padres if they never played each other or their opponents.

2. On number two, you start to eliminate the marathon of the season which leads to teams evolving.

3. Full season is just dead right here. Nothing I can think of, makes sense. And this is just the schedule. I’d go further here but past that date, we start to exit the land of reason.

There are so many other questions arising as this stretches on, for instance, the league is apparently talking about merging the 2020 and 2021 drafts. How many questions do you have about that? Let’s talk about all of them right here at InsideTheBucsBasement.com with Craig @BucsBasement and Me @Garymo2007

Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

  1. I wonder, how many games would MLB have to play for you to consider it a season? I’m cheating here a bit as this is a big subject in tomorrow’s Friday Focus but lets say its 82 games, enough for you?
  2. Everyone has been thinking of ways to stay entertained as we self isolate, how do we all feel about watching rebroadcasts of old games? I struggle when I know the outcome personally but it seems to bring a ton of you joy.
  3. MLB2020 The Show came out, anyone else getting into it yet? I love it and am always on the early order list for it.
  4. Any thoughts on MLB discussing cancelling the 2020 draft and merging it with 2021? Sounds like an awfully difficult situation. What do College Seniors do until next season. Do high school players automatically go to college? If so do they have to stay or can they enter the draft in 2021? What a can of worms, that said, what do you do with them if we blow into short seasons and this isn’t over with drafted players. Huge story.
  5. I’ve been thinking a lot about Manny Sanguillen lately, is he the best bad ball hitter ever? I’d have to say Vladimir Guerrero would be my pick. Corey Dickerson hitting those balls that bounced in front of the plate always cracked me up too.

Take Care Pittsburgh, looking forward to your thoughts.

Through The Prospect Port Hole: Yerry De Los Santos

When players are injured, especially early on in their professional careers, they often get lost in the shuffle; long forgotten by even the most avid prospect junkie. For some they fade to obscurity, never to be heard from again, while others burst back onto the scene and make us remember the potential that existed when they were drafted or signed in the first place. Luckily for this week’s Pittsburgh Pirates’ Prospect the latter was the case. However, his dominant performance on the mound went fairly unnoticed by many due to some other top performers on his team.

Yerry De Los Santos was signed by the Pirates in July of 2014 as an International Free Agent at the age of 16 from Samana, Dominican Republic. The 6’2” 160 lb Right Handed Pitcher was signed to a $100,000 bonus and began to train at the Pirates Dominican Academy. He began his professional career the next year for the DSL Pirates, where he started 14 games and pitched 59 innings. He struggled consistently the entire season, ending up with 4.73 ERA, a 1.678 WHIP and 28K/17BB. The following year in 2016 his season ended before it began as Yerry was injured, resulting in Tommy John Surgery and recovery program, rather than any work on the mound.

Yerry returned for the 2017 season once again in the DSL, but was shut down after pitching only 8.2 games in 5 appearances as a Relief Pitcher. He was successful in a limited sample size as far as allowing base runners; resulting in a 1.154 WHIP and a 1.04 ERA. However he only struck out 4 batters. The future looked very uncertain for this young man as almost 2 full seasons had been lost to injury. In 2018 Yerry started his third straight season in the DSL. During, this time he has gone from a youngster that was 2 years below the average age to an old man, 1.6 years above the average age, with very little progress to show for his efforts. At the time Yerry probably didn’t know it, but this was going to be a roller coaster of a season for him, as he pitched in 12 games and for a total of 18.1 with three different teams, across two levels. As previous stated he started on the DSL, moved to the GCL and ended the year with the Bristol Pirates of the Appalachian League. He experienced more success than he had any previous year by striking out 24 batters, posting a 1.145 WHIP.

Attempting to build upon the progress made while bouncing around the Rookie Level, Yerry was promoted to the Greensboro Grasshoppers to start the season last year. For the first time in his career, all the potential that was inside of him was unlocked as his once below average Fastball began to hum at a consistent 94 to 96 mph; earning him a 55/60 grade from Fangraphs after the season. He was just plain dominant all year, producing a 1.04 ERA, a .880 WHIP and 13.14 K/9 (a 38.0% Strikeout Rate).

Surprisingly the Pirates chose not to protect Yerry from the Rule 5 draft in December of 2019. However, they got lucky as no team drafted him in the Minor League portion, possibly due to his injury history. It is my hope that Ben Cherington and his new regime in the Baseball Operations will capitalize on their good luck and start the talented Righty Reliever/Closer on the Bradenton Marauders roster, with the ultimate goal of a quick promotion to AA Altoona, if he continues his dominance at the High A/Advanced Level. Unfortunately much of this will be dependent on factors out of pretty much anyone’s control, including Yerry’s, as it is currently unclear when the Minor League Season will begin.

The Pirates Have a Shopping List – Ten Things to Stock Up On

We are all actively learning the importance of stocking up on things we need. When this all kicked up, were you as surprised as I was that toilet paper became as precious as currency?

I thought it might be fun to come up with a shopping list if you will for the Pirates to prepare for when baseball does come back and indeed the future.

10. Power Bats. One thing the Pirates desperately lack organizationally is power. Mason Martin and Oneil Cruz represent the two best looking options for that element.

9. Coaching That Understands Speed. The Pirates have an abundance of speed in the system. Swaggerty, Oliva, Madris, Bae, to name a few. Speed is clearly going to be part of the club in the future and coaching a team like that is different. Maybe they already have the right people in place, if not, better get on it.

8. Build Around Power Arms.  This begins and ends with Quinn Priester. He can’t be left to be the one great hope. Maybe Malone is the second half of the equation. Far too often the Bucs have lacked more than one option as the future ace.

7. Extensions. Identify, and execute extensions of key players. Sounds kinda simple doesn’t it? Nothing could be further from the truth. Make a mistake here and you have another Jose Tabata.

6. Positional Excellence. This Spring, the Pirates instituted a catching program designed to focus on and improve upon all aspects of receiving the baseball. Another example was developing a new throwing motion for Josh Bell and all first basemen at that to guide them toward proper technique. More of this please.

5. Catching Depth. Like the moves or don’t the Pirates met the imminent need and brought in competent catchers to back up Jacob Stallings. Next step is developing some of their own.

4. Fundamentally Focused Growth. Players that make it often have done so on raw talent; MLB is not the place to learn that isn’t often enough. A team full of Yasiel Puig’s wouldn’t get very far.

3. ]Add Even More to the Analytics Team. Ben’s first pass at improving the infrastructure was a great start, but it will need to improve, and they will need to work out the kinks in implementation.

2. Credibility. This means so much, and here is where it matters most. Signing players for solid money, will build credibility with agents. Signing free agents beyond the Dyson level will open eyes in the league. So much happens when you get this key aspect built up to where it belongs.

1. Major League Budget. When the core matures, and it’s time to spend, they must make good on their promises. So, what they should be stocking now is all the money they aren’t spending.

What do you think? What did I miss? Let’s have a fun discussion on what the Pirates need to stock up on most.

In A World of Uncertainty

When will Major League Baseball start again? No one knows! Every date given thus far is just a shot in the dark, grasping at straws for a beacon of hope. In the past few days it has gone from a two week to an eight week delay. That is the bare minimum; an optimistic outlook to say the least. What happens as that day approaches and another decision is made to push the beginning of the season even further back? How will Major League and Minor League players adjust? What will it mean for the sport as a whole, as well its individual teams and players when it actually does come back? Right now we are left with more questions than answers.

As a life-long, diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan and a fan of baseball in general, at every level; from the Little League World Series to NCAA Baseball to the Independent Leagues to Minor League Baseball to the MLB I find it hard to believe that everything has come to a screeching halt. All of the emotions pent up inside of me at the moment are those of a fan or a fanatic at their depths and as intense or extreme as they can be at times, it is obvious that they pale in comparison to those that are still actively involved in the game.

This very minute a kid who was just looking forward to riding his bike down to the Little League field in his brand new uniform to play a game with and against his friends is siting in his house wondering when he will be able to return to school to see them, a High School Senior that wanted another shot at the state championship or was longing to impress a scout one more time is in the cage working on his swing or on the mound trying to perfect a new pitch, a College Player who dealt with a slump or injury last season and is in the midst of a comeback splits his time between online classes in the dorms and individual workouts, a Minor League player that was attempting to make an impression on his coaches only days ago at the Spring Training facilities is now in a car or on a plane going home contemplating his future and a Veteran Non-Roster Invitee who was having a strong spring wonders if he will get a shot to “latch on” with a team, in the hopes of extending his career, once baseball finally returns.

Everyone’s world has been turned upside down to some degree and I feel like most of us have tried to make the best of it, but what are you supposed to do when one of your main outlets has been taken away or your career/pursuit of one has been put on hold? I guess only time will tell. So for now we all just wait, hold on to hope and try to make things as “normal” as possible.

Worth The Gamble

Every night at 7 PM no matter what was going on, my Grandparents’ television had to be tuned into the Pennsylvania Lottery to see if they won the daily number drawing and almost every time they came up empty handed. There would be conversations about how they were one number off or it was a number they used to play, but stopped playing weeks ago. Then every once in a great while all the star aligned and the numbers would come out perfectly in order, just like my Grandma or Pap had played them. Immediately all the days, weeks or months of “losing” went away and there was celebration. Each grandkid got a couple extra bucks in their birthday card or there was an extra special trip to the Dairy Queen.

Looking back on these days, there are a lot of fond memories, but as an adult with a mortgage, bills, kids, groceries to buy I can’t help thinking about how much they lost before they won; realizing there is almost no way in the world that they won more than they lost over time and that they never hit for the big money/never got the big check handed to them. It didn’t matter, they keep on playing anyway. They kept on gambling, with the hope of that big payday and the celebration that would go along with it.

To me Minor League Baseball Players are much like my Grandparents were back in the day when they played the lottery. Putting in more than they may ever get back with the slim chance of getting that big check handed to them in the end and celebrating every small victory along the way, which most of the time is just enough to keep them going. An 0 for 20 slump followed by a 4-5 night, feeling homesick during a long bus ride in a part of the country you have never been to and hit a go-ahead home run in an extra inning game or striking out the side for a save after giving up the game winning hit two appearances in a row all keep the dream of “hitting the lottery” alive for many young men. In the end most are faced with the decision of “soldiering” on or making the difficult choice to hang up the cleats for good. Currently this decision is much more difficult than it has ever been.

Recently I have had my eyes opened to the fact that some people believe that MiLB players have hit the lottery in being drafted and/ or signed by a Major League Baseball team and to some degree I don’t disagree with them. I mean, how lucky is it to be given the opportunity to play the game that you love for a living. On the other hand, only a select few players every year are offered the big pay day, while most are given enough to get by with for a few years while they figure things out. If you think about it two or three, maybe five at the most are given that live comfortably for the rest of your life money in the draft and international bonus pool, while countless others are given just enough to entice them out of going to college or entering the workforce. So with each organization having between 275 to 290 Minor League players in their system it would probably be safe to estimate at most there are 50 players (at the high end) at any given time that fit into the life changing money category. That leaves as many as 240 MiLB players that are “gambling” and or “betting” on themselves, while struggling to get by. Some of these guys will win the lottery, but as I stated in an an earlier article approximately 9 to 13% of MiLB players that are drafted/signed will ever make an MLB roster. The odds are clearly against them.

I will admit that these odds are much better than my Grandma and Pap winning the a Pennsylvania Lottery, but most of the time the results are clearly the same. A few extra bucks to put in the family birthday cards and a couple extra trips to the local ice cream shop, but not enough to bank on and rarely ever enough to retire on. Most of the time it creates a few fond memories and a lot of questions as to whether or not it was worth the gamble.

Bryan Friggin’ Reynolds – Immune to the Sophomore Slump?

Bryan Reynolds burst onto the scene last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and as much as you get the impression he’d be just as happy you didn’t notice; you sure did. How could you not?

Check out these numbers and try not to dream, 4.1 WAR, 16 HR, .314 BA, 83 R, 68 RBIs (from the 2 hole), all in 491 at bats. Did I mention he is consistent from both sides of the plate? Majority of seasons this young man runs away with the Rookie of the Year award, but Bryan came up in a class of very impressive youngsters. Pete Alanso, he of the 53 home runs and Fernando Tatis Jr. with some seriously beautiful stats in only slightly more than 300 at bats.

If this is what the future of the National league looks like, I’m here for it. It’s easy to forget just how unheralded Reynolds has been in his time here. The pain of moving Cutch played a role in that, so did Kyle Crick making an immediate impact on the backend of the bullpen. See, it made Bryan seem like little more than a throw in, well, to those who don’t really look at and study the prospects anyhow. (Admittedly me far too often)

Right around that time, the Pirates acquired another young outfielder, and from the GM to the broadcast crew, Jason Martin got the lion’s share of attention. They talked up his power potential, they fawned at his smile and eyes (Sorry Greg, couldn’t resist), and they spoke to the excellence of his glove work. Then we actually got to see Jason play, and know what, he looked pretty good! Who’s that Reynolds kid again?

Then it happened, Erik Gonzalez and Starling Marte collided, Jason Martin was already on the IL the Pirates needed help, emergency help. I mean, why should the pitchers be the only one’s on the IL right? In steps Bryan Reynolds, tall kid, facial hair of a twelve-year-old, walkup music from the man in black (that’s cute), and he hit. Good for him. Something else happened after that, he kept hitting. He started sporadically at first, spotting Melky Cabrera and picking up the slack for injured outfielders all over the place.

Clint Hurdle to his credit avoided the urge to Austin Meadows the kid and my god, Bryan Reynolds just kept hitting, from both sides of the plate. Suddenly he wasn’t just a guy holding the outfield together with glue and twigs, now he was an obstacle for Corey Dickerson or Polanco getting back on it.

He understood his place on the team from day one, and he never gave them a chance to make the choice they always had. Bryan Reynolds not only stuck, he rose to the top two or three offensive threats on the club. Someday Bryan’s Gonna Cut You Down.

A sports cliché that has survived almost as long as the game itself is the curse of the sophomore slump, I hear History Channel has a pilot in the works, but I digress. One of Bryan’s teammates Kevin Newman has a stack of numbers that show he is primed for regression, if you’re honest you saw it in real life, just in case you’re one of those numbers is spooky types. He racked up a nice batting average by driving ball after ball into the infield grass and beating the dribblers out. Maybe for Kevin that is sustainable, but the numbers sure are stacked against him.

Bryan on the other hand has some numbers that show he could actually be trending up, in fact most projections for 2020 have him adding some power with a minimal drop in average. Obviously current events will alter what a full season looks like for all players, but none of that means he can’t have a strong sophomore season, and I’d never bet against this guy delivering on his promise. I’ve made that mistake before, and as Johnny Cash would say, I Hung My Head.

If Bryan is going to eventually be handed the keys to the Pirates club, it’s nice to know he only drives one direction, forward.

Is Pittsburgh Still a Baseball Town?

When I was growing up, the stories of the recent success experienced by Pittsburgh Pirates fans echoed in the pantheon of the city. Green Weenies, Famalee, Pillbox Caps, seats painted gold to show just how far Willie Stargell mashed a ball, Roberto Clemente’s ill-fated humanitarian trip, 71, 79, its quite a lot to take in as a young child.

Pittsburgh was the city of champions, the Steelers won four championships in the Seventies and the Pirates won two. I wasn’t aware really, but I grew up in that shadow. The expectations of every team I watched from the time I started paying attention to sports was shaded by the expectation that we were not only the top of the food chain in professional sports, but always would be.

Times changed, and sports changed.

The Pirates and Steelers of the 80s were abysmal to be kind but 1990 brought winning back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates were finally back on top in their division and while they didn’t get the job done that season, they seemed poised for more in the future. The Penguins of course won the first of two back to back Stanley Cups as well. As a 13-year-old I watched my entire generation gravitate toward hockey. We played it, we watched it, we lived it. And our baseball gloves collected dust as soon as the Pirates’ run was over in 1992.

Something else changed right around then, I became aware of the economics of sports. The Pirates were forced to let Barry Bonds walk away in free agency, and then came the trades that dismantled the team. Jim Leyland left and openly stated he didn’t want to coach for a team that wasn’t trying to win. The Penguins were in serious financial distress as they had spent far more money than the team could actually afford to win those two cups and it nearly cost them their franchise.

MLB was in trouble too; labor peace came to a halt in 1994 and for the first time in modern history the World Series was cancelled. Thinking back on this time it strikes me how different this game could be today had they just set up the league to handle the modern era and free agency by using the strike to build a foundation of economic success right then.

So, are we a baseball town? Does Pittsburgh still love the game that helped lay the foundation for the other teams in this city to build on? Or, has Bob Nutting destroyed that for you?

On the surface, let me say this, If Bob Nutting spending too little has eclipsed all of that history I just spoke to, man that’s giving an awful lot of power to a man you clearly loathe.

I remember sitting on my grandparent’s porch, listening to Lanny Frattare and Jim Rooker call a game against the Reds. The game ended and my Grandpa who rarely spoke due to hearing loss told me about what it was like when Maz hit the homerun to win the 1960 World Series. He and his co-workers were all allowed to leave the mill and join the party in the streets. This wasn’t downtown Pittsburgh we’re talking about; this was Beaver County.

See, when I say are, we a baseball town, I don’t mean the city proper, I mean all the territory the Pittsburgh Pirates OWNED baseball fans around here. Think of how incredible that must have been, in an industry that was still not easy for workers, to recognize the moment and willingly send people home to celebrate. That’s the kind of binding power baseball has held here in the past, and when you talk to that endless optimist and think he or she is off their nut, take a look at how bad the Pirates were before that season. That is the dream many of that generation hold onto, then you have the folks that grew up in the 70s when the Bucs were supposed to lose to Baltimore both times and not get there at all past the Reds.

We’ve been hurt here for sure, and much of it has been self-inflicted by ownership. Stewardship of that responsibility should be paramount to this new management group. Not to go all Field of Dreams corny here, but if they build it, we will all come back.

Just like we did when they put a winner on the field in the middle of last decade. We can quibble over the baseball town phraseology, what we really are probably looks more like proud. We’re proud of winning, and proud of trying to win. Say what you will of the Penguins and Steelers, and there are plenty who will say they both should have won even more with talents like Mario, Sid, Geno, Ben, hell I’ll even toss in AB, but you can’t EVER say they don’t try. Both spend to the cap every season and each make moves to improve every chance they get. Baseball of course doesn’t offer the same spending limit but to folks who want desperately to be fans of all three of our big pro sports squads, it’s hard to look at the Pirates and put them in the same “try” class.

Part of me wonders if that’s a fair expectation or comparison, part of me sympathizes and agrees with it completely. Whether perceived or real, the Pirates must start to show they have a pulse, or the heartbeat that used to pound for them in this town will eventually lose it’s rhythm. Perhaps current events will intercede and cause absence to make the heart grow fonder.

In my heart of hearts, Pittsburgh will always be a proud sports town, and I long for the day when this club, the Pirates, is ready to join the conversation again.