Pirates off to a good start—can it continue? (April 4)

PIRATES RF GREGORY POLANCO smashed a three-run home run against Detroit in the season-opener, giving the Pirates a 13-10 victory, March 30. The Pirates won their first four games of the 2018 season, including their home-opener against Minnesota, April 2. (AP Photo)

Once upon a time there was a hare (a rabbit) who always boasted about how fast he could run. He had a lot of self-confidence about his swiftness and ability to win any race. This annoyed the tortoise (a turtle) who finally told him, “Even you can be beaten.” (Excerpt from the Aesop’s fable: “The Tortoise and the Hare”)
The game-time weather conditions for the Pirates 2018 home-opener at PNC Park were cloudy, overcast and chilly: the perfect metaphor regarding the expectations for the team’s performance for this season.
Recently, I predicted a 60-102 won-loss record for the team in 2018. The Pirates swept the Detroit Tigers in their season-opening series in Detroit and then came home to squeak by the Minnesota Twins, 5-4, in the Pirates’ home-opener on Monday, April 2.
Immediately after the home-opener concluded a longtime friend and colleague stopped by my seat in the press box and whispered this small observational tidbit in my ear. He said: “Aubrey, did you take a look at the Pirates today?” He continued to smile while telling me that “after the prognostication I had made regarding the Pirates 2018 performance that I had to be: 1. Crazy 2. Stupid 3. Blind 4. Uninformed and 5. All of the aforementioned. Didn’t you take a close look at those boys? They were tight.”
When I asked him about what negative effect that the loss of Andrew McCutchen might have on the team, he laughingly pulled a Chuck Noll on me and said, “McWho?” I then asked him what about the loss of the starting pitcher Gerrit Cole, who was arguably the Pirates’ best starting pitcher. He went on to say that “Cole wanted too much money and didn’t want to continue to play in Pittsburgh.”
OK, OK, I get it. The Pirates are 4-0 after their nail-biting win over the Twins, April 2, but hold up for a moment. The combined won-loss record of the Tigers and the Twins in 2017 was 149-175. And, the Tigers finished dead last in the AL Central sporting a 64-98 record in 2017. So that 3-0 rain and cold-soaked series win over the Tigers in Detroit should be recognized and appreciated, but for Pirates fans and the media to bask in the glow regarding the win, especially at this embryonic point in the season, seems to be just a bit much.

And what about that Pirates less-than-stellar bullpen? Let’s just say that one or more of the Bucs’ relieving corps may not be featured on “Dancing with the Stars” anytime soon. One of the newest Pirates, Colin Moran, (acquired from the Houston Astros as part of the Gerrit Cole deal) had a more-than-awesome debut with the Pirates, smacking a grand slam home run in the bottom of the first, giving the Pirates a 5-0 lead after Josh Harrison had walked and scored the Pirates’ first run after Gregory Polanco doubled to right field.
During the Pirates’ opening series against the Tigers, Moran had gone just 1-for-9 (.111) in the two games that he played for the Pirates over the weekend, so it is no small wonder that Moran did not cause former St. Louis Cardinals and current Minnesota Twins starter Lance Lynn to drip with fear when he stepped up to the plate with the bases full. I am also reasonably certain that the Pirates were just hoping for Moran to make contact against the wily veteran righthander. However, my opinion in regards to the trade of Cole remains unchanged. In light of Pittsburgh’s current bullpen “shortcomings” Cole would have remained a stabilizing force in and out of the dugout for the Bucs’ pitching corps, starters and relievers. As far as the rest of the team is concerned, especially the outfield, even though I continue to disagree with the McCutchen trade to the San Francisco Giants, if the current outfielders, especially Gregory Polanco, continue to stay healthy and produce on an even semi-consistent basis, in the long run the move by the Pirates may pay off. However, boys and girls, please keep this in mind. Most competitions of substance are generally won not by the swiftest competitors but the steadiest. Don’t believe me? Ask the hare.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com.)
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