Saturday, April 2, 2011

Once again, it begins with a win for the Pirates

It's a shame, shame, shame that this is as good as it's going to get for the Pirates. At least it's better than the Mets! (PS: Ratt's drummer, Bobby Blotzer, is from Pittsburgh. See? Informative!)

The Pittsburgh Pirates are that out-of-shape guy who shows up every year for the local five-mile race. Nobody knows why he’s there, he’s completely ill-prepared and in no condition to run, and all he’s going to do is embarrass himself, but goddamnit, he’s there at the starting line. And he’s always the one who sprints out and takes the early lead over the first 200 or so meters before reality and a lack of fitness sets in. He eventually falls to the middle of the pack, then the back of the pack, and then race organizers are impatiently checking their watches and wondering if they should call 9-1-1 when he finally stumbles, wheezing and limping and dry heaving, across the finish line long after everyone else.

But hey. For a few seconds, he was in first place. And so are the Pirates, who are in the midst of the worst run in American professional sports history (18 straight losing seasons and counting) yet continued to OWN Opening Day yesterday by beating the Cubs (of course) 6-3. It’s the Pirates’ fifth straight Opening Day win, which ties them for the longest streak in the majors with fellow 2010 last-place finishers Seattle and Arizona. Is that irony? No, Alanis, it’s coincidence.

The Pirates, Mariners and Diamondbacks moved into a tie for first place thanks to our favorite team the Mets, who saw their five-year streak of Opening Day victories snapped when they were routed by the Marlins, 6-2. But hey. At least they weren’t no-hit. No idea whether or not Terry Collins will pen another letter to Mets fans this morning, this one simply stating “We’re fucked.”

In the end, the Pirates, Mariners and Diamondbacks will likely jockey with the Mets for the first overall pick in the 2012 draft. But let them have their moment for now—especially the Pirates, whose famously absentee and cheap ownership has turned one of baseball’s most storied franchises into a joke with a seemingly endless laugh track.

Even with all those Opening Day wins the last five years, the Pirates are 255-393 since the start of the 2007 season. Yeah yeah yeah, I know, the Pirates have spent $25 million in the amateur market the last few years and are confident better days are ahead. And come Opening Day 2016, Pedro Alvarez will be manning third base for the Red Sox.

This is how long the Pirates have been awful: Their Opening Day lineup in 1992, their last winning season, included right fielder Kirk Gibson, who is now managing—holy crap!—the Diamondbacks, and starting pitcher Doug Drabek, whose son, Kyle, is pitching for the Blue Jays. You know you’re old when the kids of pitchers whose baseball cards you collected are now collecting big league paychecks.

One of my favorite college basketball sites is The Mid-Majority, whose creator, Kyle Whelliston, declares that it always ends in a loss for the smaller schools he covers (this year, of course, might be different, with VCU or Butler guaranteed to play in the title game Monday night) For the Pirates, it always begins with a win. Alas, the losses are coming, as sure as that fat guy hitting the wall less than a quarter of a mile into the race.

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