The second half of the season just got underway. The good: the Pirates beat one of the National League's best teams, the Giants, by a 2-1 margin. The Giants, by the way, started the NL's reigning Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum.
The bad: the Pirates wasted yet ANOTHER stellar outing by Paul Maholm, who logged yet another no decision and who must be counting them in his sleep by this point.
The bizarre: both of the Bucco tallies scored on solo home runs, both home runs came from the same guy---Garrett Jones---and they came 14 innings apart. The real kicker: Jones is 28 and had barely sniffed the big leagues prior to this season, having been buried in the Twins' organization until the Pirates got him as a minor league free agent this past winter.
It's been that kind of a year for the Pirates in 2009, especially since the front office decided this was going to be Rebuilding Year Part 17. Which would be bad, though not bizarre, like Leonard Part 6. Leonard Part 6 was "bizarre", which is to say, definitely not good.
But I digress.
The good: both Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez have played very well all year, which has definitely been a factor in the improved performance of the pitching staff. Freddy made the All Star team again.
The bad: Jack continues to miss games here and there even when he manages to stay off the disabled list, which he didn't do over an extended stretch earlier in 2009. Freddy, too, continues to have issues with his body, the latest being a twinge in his back that caused him to sit out for nearly a week, though the team decided not to put him on the retroactive 15 day DL. So, how long before either or both breaks down for an extended period if not for good?
The bizarre: after being shopped more aggressively than a K Mart Blue Light Special, Jack and Freddy were approached by the front office this week about signing an extension. Huh?!? Unfortunately, things with this team's fan base being what they are, the Mulder and Scully wannabes are already out in force with their conspiracy theories. That is, Joe Lunchbucket strongly suspects that this is a cynical PR ploy by the suits. See? We did the right thing, we tried and tried and tried to re-sign Jack and Freddy to extensions, and they refused our lowball, ERRRR, we mean, our oh-so-reasonable offers. That's why we're trading them now in exchange for still more "hot prospects"!!! Or was that a bag of baseballs?
The good: the pitching staff is without a doubt much better than it was in 2008---though of course it could hardly have been worse. Then we would have been the Washington Nationals!
The bad: the offense has been terrible throughout most of the season, especially since its top hitter, Nate McLouth, was sent packing to Atlanta. McLouth was probably also the single best player produced by the Pirates' system during the Dave Littlefield years.
The bizarre: speaking of the aforementioned Nationals, their one-time, uh, "closer" Joel Hanrahan was brought to Pittsburgh when the Pirates dealt two MORE Littlefield holdovers (Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan) to Washington. Hanrahan continues to stink, which is not bizarre, it's just bad. It also makes one wonder if Neil Huntington is determined to rid himself of every last shred of the Littlefield organization, even---especially?---where those shreds are actually useful players. Or even, perhaps, better than useful. Which would be REALLY bizarre. Almost as bizarre as the notion that Neil Huntington might spend his off hours throwing darts at a dartboard festooned with Littlefield's doomed and dour visage. It couldn't be that....could it?
The good: two rookies, Robinzon Diaz and Jason Jaramillo, did a stellar job filling in as the starting catcher while Ryan Doumit worked his way back from a severe wrist injury and subsequent surgery.
The bad: Doumit just can't stay on the field for any length of time to save his life. Oh, and he also looks totally unfit for duty, if his early returns are any indication. And if he isn't hitting like Doumit has shown that he can hit---on those rare occasions when he's able to play more than a week at a time---well, let's just say that the cavalry isn't coming over the hill to save our offense anytime soon.
And if his wrist is anywhere close to 100%, well, then: I'm Mickey Mouse. Which would be bizarre.
The good: the Pirates still have half a season to play, and they play more home games than any other team in baseball. There's also a lot of talent in the system, particularly at high Class A and below.
The bad: they may be talented, but these kids aren't arriving in Pittsburgh before 2011, if then. And expecting them to immediately lead the way to a winning record or two or three is expecting a whole lot.
The bizarre: all indications are that the Pirates streak of losing seasons might well hit 20 before it ends. Which would not only be bizarre, but seriously---incredibly---bad. One wonders what might have happened had the front office just kept the team it had coming out of spring training, then added Rookie of the Year candidate Andrew McCutchen to the mix. Of course, then we might not have gotten an extended look at Garrett Jones, unless we traded Adam LaRoche so that Jones could play every day at first base, his best position.
Then, too, if the lowball offers the Pirates are getting for LaRoche continue, it just might be that Adam will not be dealt, in which case the team might offer him arbitration after the season. Which in turn might mean that he would take it. Which might mean the LaRoche Era would continue past 2009, meaning that poor Jones would find himself blocked again, just like he was on the Twins. Which would be bizarre.
All of which reminds me of a line from World War II that seems apropos for anyone still watching this team: "'THE WORLD WONDERS".
(Contributor Will Pellas takes a look at the wackiness that is the Pirates' 2009 season)