By Richard A. Mathews
Many brilliant message board posters contended, you cannot compare the 1997 Bucs Freak Show offense to the Bucs 2010 lineup.
Perhaps you are correct.
The cast of rookies, second year players and castoffs which Cam Bonifay put together in 1997 out scored what makes up the what will be largely a second audition by the 2009 club to prove they are true MLB worthy competitors by 89 runs.
The 1997 Freak Show offense scored 725 runs while our 2009 Bucco offense scored only a National League dead last total of 636.
For those Pirate fans who knew the 1997 Freak Show offense would out perform all expectations, you are welcome to right off the 2010 season.
For those who believe 2010 could be the Year of the Pirates Freak Show De Ja Vu, I hope you will read on.
Reading through the Pirates 1997 roster prior to the start of that enjoyable campaign, few would dispute why the team was predicted to have the worst offense in baseball.
With the exception of Al Martin and free agent Kevin Elster, the Bucs starting lineup did not have a player in it that had more than one full year of MLB starting experience.
The bench was equally pathetic made up of inexpensive castoffs such as Smith, Ward and Sveum. Sveumís best season of his career had occurred a decade earlier with his career MLB statistics through the 1996 season indicating he should be selling insurance not playing baseball.
Unlike the clubís starting five pitching rotation, the primary 1997 Bucco starting eight soon found themselves completely out of MLB in the personís of Allensworth and Polcovich or returned to the minors such as Jose Guillen all which happened by 1999.
The 1997 team was inexperienced.
The 1997 team was not expected to hitting for average.
The 1997 team had no history of hitting with even doubles power.
The 1997 team should have been the worst offensive team in the National League.
Our Message Board is correct as usual.
The 1997 Freak Showís offense simply does not compare to what will be the 2010 Bucco offense.
The 2010 team should be able to put up better offensive numbers at such about every position!!
The only two positions the 2010 should not be able to surpass versus the 1997 team offensively might be first and third base.
Then again, if Clement is given a full season to mature, maybe the big guy can pull a Craig Wilson type season striking out a ton but hitting 25+ homers while driving in 80+ rbi.
Across the diamond, I have no clue if Andy LaRoche will finally breakout to fulfill his long-time potential label. But if he does, this LaRoche has the tools to be a solid defensive third baseman while hitting .270 with enough power to generate a respectable .450 slugging percentage.
At second, Iwamura should hit his MLB career average which is very similar to Womackís but with a higher obp.
There is no reason to believe Cedeno will not offer more pop than Polcovich had in his one and only magical season.
Al Martinís career MLB numbers can be achieved and surpassed by what appears to be a newly dedicated Milledge.
McCutchen may fall victim to the sophomore curse but has all the tools to be the best offensive center fielder in Pittsburgh since Van Slyke.
Jones has more power than Guillen ever had. The big manís approach and ability to adjust to the fact he isnít going to see many early count fastballs will go a long way to determining if he can replicate his rookie seasonís success.
In total, the Bucs projected starting eight should make all Bucco fans forget the teamís 2009 offensive woes in a hurry.
Forgetting the potential arrival of Alvarez or Tabata, the 2010 teamís bench makes the 1997 bench look absurd.
Jaramillo can actually hit not just play defense behind Doumit.
Vazquez is not going to scare any relief pitcher but has a MLB career of at least some success.
Church a year ago would have started over Moss but today both could end up on the bench.
Okay I have absolutely no clue what Crosby is doing on the roster unless of course for some reason Youngís days are done. Personally, I am not ready to give up on Young as a super sub. Sure Young had terrible slump. He also finished the year slump and all hitting .266 with some power.
There truly is no comparison between the Bucs 2010 offense and the 1997 Freak Show team.
The 2010 Bucs should be able to score at least 80 more runs this season than they did in 2009 and that still puts them slightly behind the 1997 squad.
As important as the 2010 squadís athletic potential, additional experience and new pickups are, I agree you have to look at how your competition has changed to be objective.
While I agreed in the first part of this follow-up series, yes particularly the Cubs and Cards should be better offensive teams than they were in 2009, as a division, I donít see pitching being better.
If MLB Central pitching does improve in 2010 it will largely come from the maturity of former staff not a substantial influx of high end free agent talent.
I could spend the next several hundred words going team by team attempting to argue who might present a more successful pitching squad. Instead I spent a couple hours reading the pre-season annuals which are currently available and found few of those presented a consensus.
In conclusion, I commend the Message Boardís original observation; the 2010 Bucs are simply superior offensively to what the 1997 Freak Show team was.
There is no reason to believe the 2010 Pirates cannot improve their 2009 N.L. dead last run total of 636 by a half run a game to say 716.
That type of reasonable increase in offense would lead to if not a half dozen more victories per year if not maybe a dozen.
That type of run production combined with a starting staff capable of lowering the teamís era leads me to continue to contend, 2010 could become the Freak Show De Ja Vu.