PITTSBURGH, PA – A new goofy swashbuckler has long replaced the Danny Murtaugh-looking pirate of the 70’s & 80’ Pittsburgh. Coincidentally or not, I’m almost positive no other American sports team had the likeness of a manager/coach on its emblem. Gone, too are the yellow-crowned, black-beaked hats worn by Roberto Clemente and the Spirit of ’76 pillbox hats. Thankfully, the present day hat looks closer to original than most clubs nowadays.
At ten games over .500 and vying for first place, the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates are knocking on success’s door for the first time in a long while. To be precise, this team hasn’t gotten over the playoff hump since the Bonilla-Van Slyke-Bonds patrolled the Three Rivers Stadium outfield. Moreover, fan happiness at PNC Park isn’t just limited to all-you-can-eat seatsanymore. Life expectancy rates are up since the Bucs were last relevant and so are the fans’ waistlines.
Increased attendance figures will perilously test the fairly new stadium’s engineering and structural integrity for the first time as well. Pittsburgers, as they are called aside from fat, are a lot like Dewey Oxburger – swallowing their own share of aggression watching the Pirates the past two decades. The same way pitcher Steve Blass “lost” home plate in the 70’s, pizza, hot dogs, and whatever else these robust fans could stuff a mouth with was lost along with many a baseball game.
Today, as A.J. Burnett ( a.k.a. “Bunt-face”) is on the way to fulfilling MTM Cam James’ prophecy (that’s why he’s on our staff, folks) of a 15-win season, the organization may actually buy at the trade deadline, rather than open up their annual fire sale. The ex-Yankee is headlining MLB’s fifth-ranked pitching corps (by ERA) as Joel Hanrahan does likewise for a bullpen whose save conversion rate is second to none in the game. Proving pitching is the ultimate prerequisite to winning, the Pirates offense save for Andrew McCutchen’s .360 batting average, is hitting an anemic .243 ranking them near the bottom in MLB. Pedro Alvarez looks like the next player for a strong organizational scouting department to tout as his power numbers are impressive for a young player.
If the team can continue closing out games, getting timely hitting and quality starts from the rotation, maybe the Pirates will be lucky enough to scare the sliding pants off of a team in the post-season. After this success the skids will be greased for eliminating the Pirate Parrot mascot. In line for the vacant job with a face straight out of National Geographic or the Martin Sheen pic, The Believers, is former Bucs catcher Manny Sanguillen. To this day a menacing Sanguillen looks more Somali Pirate than Pittsburgh Pirate. Coming full circle with a return to a rich past and winning playoff form is what Pittsburgh Pirates fans have been waiting for and the Sanguillen mascot satisfies both aspects.
West Coast Craig is worth waiting for tomorrow.