Alphabet Soup: 26 Reasons Why Rooting for the Pirates Rocks

AJ Burnett: The Pirates got AJ in a trade with the Yankees earlier this season that many felt was pointless for the Pirates, a team perceived to not have any chance of winning and short on money. The trade, however, could not have worked out more perfectly. The team is 18-6 in games he has started and he has ended numerous team losing streaks. He has be an invaluable leader for a team with little experience. He has continually made it clear how honored he is to play for the Pirates, which is something few veterans have said of late. He genuinely enjoys playing there, and the fans have embraced him fully. He has been the recipiant of many emotional standing ovations after crucial and impressive individual efforts. The team has his back, and for seemingly the first time in a while, a displaced veteran finally has the Pirates’ back.

Buc Town: If you haven’t heard the masterpieces by former Steeler Chukky Okobi AKA Chuk Wun, you NEED to give it a listen. Here’s version 1, 2, 3 and the newest #4. This is rapping at it’s finest. The man has a way with words…a lyrical genius almost…

Cutch: A slow August might hurt, or perhaps doom, Andrew McCutchen’s MVP chances, but he has been an invaluable force all season long, and nothing but a pure joy to watch. No player means more to his team than McCutchen does, especially considering how he kept the team alive offensively, almost single handily, during the early months. McCutchen ranks 1st in the NL in OBP, and is 2nd in AVG, SLG, wOBA, wRC+, and in fWAR. He is on pace to have the best single season for a Pirate since Barry Bonds, and it’s no coincidence that this should be the first time the team has finished above .500 since Bonds left, and perhaps the first time they’ve made the playoffs as well.

Dramatics: There was the Pedro Alvarez home run after a long rain delay in the top of the 9th to erase a 4-1 deficit and his solo shot in the 19th inning to give the Pirates a big win against the Cardinals. There was Josh Harrison’s walk off hit against the Astros. The Pirates had two walk-off hits during their opening series against the Phillies via a Presely infield hit as well as a McCutchen single. Even players like Drew Sutton contributed in big ways in his short time with the team. The Pirates even had a walk-off hit by pitch to beat the Cubs. There is a reason the team has become affectionately labeled “the Battling Bucs” – someone seems to step up when it’s most needed.

ESPN: Do you hate ESPN? Unless you are a Jets fan right now, you probably do. ESPN obviously is a business, so they do what will get them the most money and often that usually means shunning small market/bad teams. Last year the Pirates, in the heat of their hot stretch, landed a spot on ESPN’s Monday night baseball telecast. Subsequently, at the time, they hadn’t been on ESPN’s popular Sunday Night Baseball broadcast since 2002.  Even this year, with key games against the Cardinals and Reds last month, ESPN looked over them yet again. They did recently have a Wednesday night game air on ESPN against the Cardinals, where they won 5-0. ESPN hates the Pirates, you hate ESPN, so therefore you should love the Pirates.

Five hundred: Pirate fans will surely be disappointed if this team misses out on the playoffs, but after a whopping 19 losing seasons, just getting above .500 is a great start. Only the Washington Nationals (Expos) and the Kansas City Royals have longer playoff droughts than the Pirates. 81 wins seems doable, and that alone is a great feat.

Garrett Jones: Supposedly when the Yankees were shopping AJ Burnett, they were reluctant to trade with the Pirates unless they got Jones back in return. At the time, I thought it was silly to hold up that trade over Jones – who I figured was nothing more than just a platoon outfielder – and was willing to part with him in a heartbeat. I guess the front office knew better than I did. Jones is having a great year, and while he doesn’t quite have the pop most cleanup hitters have, he’s been more than adequate. Among NL first basemen with 400 plate appearances, Jones is 4th in HR, 2nd in wRC+ and has posted a respectable 2.4 fWAR. If for no other reason, imagine what a lefty pull hitter like Jones would have done at Yankee Stadium this year. Just be glad he’s still in Pittsburgh.

Holt: Brock Holt was never ranked highly in the Pirates organization. He seemingly came out of nowhere this season and has been raking in both AA and AAA to the tune of .344/.406/.453. When Neil Walker went down on August 26th, it was next man up for the Pirates. That next man was Brock Holt. While Holt himself might not be worth the price of admission, it’s just another reminder that this isn’t a team full of superstars and household names. I’m sure I ask my father if he had heard of every player that started yesterday, and after McCutchen, Alvarez and Barajas (from his AL days), I doubt he’d be familiar with any of the rest.

Inexperience: The team’s inexperience reared its ugly heads last year as the Pirates, who were contending at the AS break, completely collapsed and reverted into the worst team in the majors. Clint Hurdle has plenty of experience; he has managed World Series teams. AJ Burnett won a World Series with the Marlins, but hardly pitched at all that season and missed the playoffs completely. He has made 7 career playoff starts. Wandy Rodriguez has started 3 playoff games, all in 2005. Clint Barmes was a part of Hurdle’s 2009 Rockies team, and has 14 playoff at bats to his name. Rod Barajas has made the playoffs twice, amassing just 9 at bats. Jason Grilli was a part of the Tigers 2006 World Series run, however, he made 5 appearances pitching in only 3 innings. James McDonald made 2 appearances for the Dodgers in 2008, pitching just 5.1 innings. So, by my estimation, the Pirates have 17 post-season pitching appearances, and just 23 playoff at bats combined on their entire roster. Watching a team with so much inexperience and so few veteran leaders battle through a tough 162 game season is such a joy.

Chad Qualls could return on September 10th, and his 17 playoff appearances would match the rest of the roster’s. And he’s been awful both this season and in the playoffs.

Joel Hanrahan: As I’m writing this, Hanrahan is second in the NL in saves and his 3 blown saves are fewer than any of the other top 11 saves closers. He isn’t the most elite closer in the game, but he has electric stuff and the passion and emotion he brings to the mound is awesome. Plus, he has some sweet facial hair.

Karstens: His derp face.

Los Angeles: Maybe you like big money teams. Maybe you like how not having a salary cap rewards teams with owners willing and able to spend. Maybe you like $200,000,000 payrolls. Me personally, I’d rather root for the underdog, the team with a 41.8% win percentage the last ten years. I’d rather root for the for the team with a bottom 5 payroll over a team that is set up to be a top 5 payroll for years to come. Hopefully we will have the proper David vs. Goliath outcome.

McDonald: J-Mac has had a weak second half, but was amazing early on. He was a legit All Star Game candidate and was pitching like a true ace. His control has caught up to him, but he’s still a very likable and enjoyable pitcher.

Nothing Better to do: Summer is the worst sporting time of the year. As a huge NBA and football (both pros and college), it’s often a struggle. Since I live in Pittsburgh, what’s better to watch at 7 PM on a Wednesday night? Nothing? What’s better to do on a Saturday afternoon than go tailgate and go see the game? Nothing. Not when they’re playing so well, not when the stadium is so nice and especially not when there are no other sports on.

Offense: For about the first two months or so, the Pirates were hitting the ball at a historically low pace. They still managed to hang around there via the strength of their offense. Things suddenly turned around as players like Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walkers started to find their groove. Currently, even with the historically slow start, the Pirates are 4th in the NL in home runs and 7th in slugging. They showed some major power in June and July especially, hitting 39 home runs in each of those months, both times leading the league. In April and May combined they hit 38. The long ball is fun, and lately, they’ve been doing a lot of just that.

PNC Park: The chance for the Pirates to show off PNC Park and it’s beautiful cityscape in the background to the world is another reason to root for the Pirates. This is a park that gets a lot of acclaim, but little publicity. The amount of home games the Pirates have played on national TV over the years has to be absolutely minuscule. The park is all it’s hyped up to be, and a playoff game in those friendly confines would be unreal. I’d shell out all the money in my savings account to go to a home playoff game at PNC Park.

Come on…find me a park with a better backdrop than this

Quit: During the Pirates recent 4 game losing streaks, frustrated fans were blowing up twitter talking about how the team wasn’t trying and was showing quit. I didn’t think that was the case – inevitable regression as well as you know, normal cold streaks were probably the case – but it became hotly debated. I don’t think this team has quit, but we’ll find out. The finish line is approaching, and the time is now for them to step it up and fight it out.

Redbirds: I used to kind of like the Cardinals. I like their jerseys, they have a fun history with a lot of my all-time favorites (Ozzie, Musial, Brock, Dean, Gibson, Edmonds etc.) but they are just a bunch of bullies. Since the turn of the century, they have won two World Series, made 5 Championship Series, and have finished under .500 just once. They’re the anti-Pirates. They’re the quentisential favorites to the Pirates’ obvious underdog status.

SIT THE FUCK DOWN!: In perhaps the biggest game of the season for the Pirates and AJ Burnett at the time, the Pirates entered game 4 of a series against the Dodgers having lost the three games prior. AJ didn’t have his best stuff, but got enough big outs to get the win. After a Hanley Ramirez showboat around the bases earlier in the game, and persistent whining and complaining from the Dodgers, Burnett struck out Hanley, who decided to once again complain to the home plate umpire. As AJ walked off the field, he barked back over towards Hanley yelling “sit the fuck down” at him. #STFD has gained momentum, and has become another rally cry for the team’s fans. It was a big game, and his passion and emotion seemed to bleed through once again.

Toro: Well…El Toro that is. Pedro Alvarez has been on of the streakiest hitters this season, but when he is on, he is ON. Alvarez recently had perhaps the best game of his career against the Braves. Pedro has dominated the Cardinals this year to a tune of .397/.462/.828, 7 home runs, 23 RBI and 13 runs in 58 at bats. The two most recent series against the Cardinals are a big reason why Pittsburgh is still hanging around, and Pedro is the main reason why they did so well in those games. His inconsistent bouts make his ridiculous breakouts all the more exciting. He isn’t a model of consistency at all, but that makes him all the more exciting (and frustrating) to watch.

(If you’re interested in really seeing how dominant he has been against them, read this)

Underdogs: No team comes close to touching Pittsburgh’s level of futility the past decade. Their 41.8% win percent over the past 10 seasons is the worst in the majors, beating out Baltimore (43%) and Washington (44.8%) pretty easily. To put their woes into the most obvious perspective I will say this: I am a 23 year-old adult, and no one my age can remember the last time the Pirates were in the playoffs. No one my age can remember Barry Bonds rocking the black and gold. Yeah…it’s been that long. If they somehow top the Cardinals this year, it will be their first time finishing 2nd in the Central since 1997.

Victories: No one jumps on a bandwagon unless there are victories. The Pirates currently have 72 of them which equals last year’s final total. For a while in July, the Pirates trailed only the Nationals in wins. That’s made the team much easier to watch.

Wildcard: Love him or hate him, or love the extra wildcard or not, Bud Selig has certainly created a lot of extra excitement due to the extra wildcard. The significance of winning your division has now skyrocketed. No one wants to be a wildcard team if they don’t have to be. The Pirates, however, will take it. If the second wildcard wasn’t in establishment, the Pirates would only really be playing for .500 at this point. They’re 10 games out in the Central as I write this, and trail the Braves for the first wildcard spot by 4.5 games. The wildcard wouldn’t be out of reach, but it’s much more in reach right now than it would have been in any other year.

Xenon: Xenon is a chemical element with the atomic number of 54. It is described as being colorless, odorless and heavy. It is also a noble gas that occurs in the Earth’s atmosphere at trace amounts. It has nothing to do with the Pirates, but words starting with X are few and far between. Xenon is approximately my 32nd favorite atomic element.

YOLO: You only live once. Hop on for the ride. No reason to waste your time rooting for a boring team.

Zoltan: For whatever reason, the fans and players have latched onto a scene from the “comedy” movie “Dude, Where’s My Car”. The team has embraced it, and it has seemingly brought fans and players together. It all started when Rod Barajas blasted a game-winning home run and was received at the plate by his teammates throwing up the “Z” Zoltan sign. It was after that when the Pirates really took off, and the Zoltan Z became a permanent, and random, fixture for the team. It’s an inside joke that that bonds them just a little more, and for a young and inexperienced team like the Pirates, looking to snap almost 20 years of losing, anything that helps should be embraced.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: