By Richard A. Mathews
Time Magazine called the 2000’s the Decade from Hell. While I hope Time’s assessment of the prior decade was not factual in your personal lives, as Pirate fans it might not be much of a stretch to agree with one of this country’s older magazines.
Like many, a New Year and a New Decade caused an attempt at removing the old baggage sitting around that the “Boss” somehow doesn’t understand is really good stuff to keep. Having turned 50, I really probably keep a little too much stuff and what the heck, you got to live with your wife anyway. So into my files I went throwing out what didn’t need kept but all too often stopping to read many of the thousands of articles I once wrote on our Pittsburgh Pirates.
I thought you might enjoy the following excerpts from a 1997 piece I wrote and how the 2010 Bucs rate against the original Freak Show.
“Can Cam,” remains the cry from crushed Pirate fans who will need to buy a program just to have a clue who is on the field in 1997.
Every sensible national baseball review of the Bucs chances in 1997 predict a 100+ loss season.
But then whoever said I had any common sense.
I love the five starting pitchers this team will have in 1997.
Moving Cordova into the rotation sets up what I see as a very, very promising group of young arms including the return of Lieber, Schmidt, Loiaza and Cook.
Okay, none of these guys has much MLB success. That fact admitted, I love their stuff.
Ericks could be okay as the closer but it will not matter if the starters don’t pitch well. This team isn’t going to score a ton of runs.
Cam is putting a team on the field with “0” power.
Then again, the position players have basically “0” big league success with the exception of Al Martin and free agent shortstop Kevin Elster. Picking up Sveum and the return of Young add a little more experience although this team is going to win or lose off how the young guys come through.
Moving around the horn, Kendall is back remaining the most solid bat in the lineup.
Johnson will be tried at first but is likely to platoon with Young. The big guy has pop but that hole in is his swing is as big as he is.
Tony Womack looks to finally be getting the break he has hoped for. Womack may not be able to play average defense yet his speed and ability to get on base could make him a dangerous leadoff man.
Elster isn’t going to make anyone forget Bell. Kevin is okay defensively likely to hit near bottom of lineup.
Joe Randa can’t replace King offensively. Randa has reputation of being doubles hitter with good plate discipline.
Martin holds down left again, nuff said.
Allensworth will be back in center hoping to improve his strikeout to walk ratio so he can use that speed to the team’s advantage.
Right is a huge question mark. Interestingly, Baseball America thinks Jose Guillen, who only played A ball last year might make the club.
There really is no bench to speak of at this point. Don’t be surprised to see Cam pack the end of the bench with cheap free agents.
As I opened the article with, this team will win or lose off starting pitching.
Their defense should be adequate.
Team speed is actually fairly good.
There isn’t a truly weak bat for average in the projected starting group. Our Bucco’s will have to manufacture runs to score which might not be a bad strategy.
Long and short, I’m looking for this team to surprise the experts.
No, I’m not talking about a Division Champ or even a .500 club.
All I’m saying is you might enjoy this team more than you think.
(Now let’s forward a decade plus and review the 2010 Buccos.)
In Mahlom, Ohlendorf, Duke, Morton and Hart, this year’s team arguably has a comparable if not better potential starting rotation.
Hanranhan is a more experienced closer with better stuff than Ericks was although I’d move Hart into the closer role and strongly consider inserting McCutchen in the rotation.
Around the horn you judge the talent but here are my marks offensively:
Doumit/Kendall – total offense I take Ryan
Young/Jones – Garret’s 2009 if replicated wins this analysis
Womack/Iwamura – Tony’s total offense in 1997 was unreal.
Elster/Cedeno – very close historically, Kevin had better power
Randa/LaRoche – Randa wins LaRoche could come close Pedro could be the answer
Martin/Milledge – Lastings edges out Al if he puts up second half of 2009 number all year.
Allensworth/McCutchen – very similar players, Mac has more power.
Guillen/Who Knows – That is the big question mark.
Now if management put Clement at first and Jones, Garrett edges out Jose with Clement capable of edging out what Johnson/Young did in 1997.
Turning to the bench, the 2010 team has a solid advantage over the 1997 club.
The 2010 Bucs have not lost a game yet.
Yet the experts believe this team will lose a 100.
So my friends I ask you, “Is 2010 going to be the Year of the Pirates?
Maybe just maybe we are about to see the Freak Show De Ja Vu.