Foreword: Admittedly, I was sentenced to Pirate Prison for my 2010 Preseason Article, but what the heck Once a Bucco Fan Always a Bucco Fan as such I present my:
Pirate Preview 2011
By Richard A. Mathews
So letís get the Old Guy Jokes out of the way first, yes I am now an AARP card carrier, I earned it.
But let me ask you how many remember the last Pirate Team to post a record almost as bad as the Bucs were in 2010?
To me that team seems like it was only playing yesterday finishing the season at 64-98.
For as bad as the 1986 club was on April Foolís Day 1987, the few Bucco fans willing to admit as much, were shocked when Tony Pena was traded to the Cards for three guys named Van Slyke, Lavailliere and Dunn.
We were shocked.
What we didnít realize was the Pena trade added two desperately needed additions to the club.
What we didnít realize was off-season trades and deals struck throughout the year would transform the Pirates from Bums into a team which finished 80-82.
What we didnít realize was, in 1987, we saw the core of a Pirate team which would begin a three year run as Division Champions.
I bring up 1987 because in the current Pirate club, I me for the first time in many years, Buccoís who not only belong in on Major League team but truly have the potential to improve while remaining Pittsburgh Pirates.
Today I see a potential starting pitching staff that barring injury does not a AAAA type pitchers competing for the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation.
How long has it been since on any given day the Pirates can put a starting pitcher on the mound that could end up being pulled late in the game having yielded three runs or less and none of us would be surprised at that quality start?
Today I see a potential 1-6 lineup without a weak bat.
A lineup where every hitter including proposed platoons can turn a two-out situation into a two run inning with one swing following a walk or error before they step into the batterís box.
How long has it been since the Pirates had a lineup where every hitter 1-6 is expected to total home runs for the years into at least the teens?
Today I see a roster of truly young professional athletes either coming into their prime or already there.
How long has it been since we saw that type of player in every Pirate uniform?
Everyone knows I am especially in the Spring and overly optimistic Pirate fan.
I will not pretend to know if this is the year the Bucs actually forge the foundation of a team who will in time return playoff baseball to Pittsburgh.
All I do know is, I never thought on April 1, 1987 a trade of our All Star Catcher Tony Pena would be one of the last moves necessary to build the foundation of three future division champions.
I am looking forward to watching this 2011 Pirates club play.
I hope you are too.