All things being equal, I would have been a Pittsburgh Pirates fan

I’ve been a Red Sox fan has long as I could remember.

I remained loyal even when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York and Los Angeles.
My Red Sox fan credentials are solid. Don’t believe me? Turn on HBO.

But I wonder what my fandom would have been if I didn’t grow up in New England.
What team would I have picked if geography didn’t play such a factor?

Simple. I would have been a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.
And anyone who reads this blog regularly would see why.

My theory that you truly start following a team when you are 7 or 8 years old have the Pirates playing a huge part of my baseball life.

The 1979 World Series was the first one I remember watching, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. The Orioles were terrific but the Pirates were just cool. Their players seemed to be more fun, their uniforms were bonkers and the players were dancing to disco in the dugout.

I’ve written a lot about the 1979 Pirates, including this post which is my personal favorite one.

Willie Stargell remains one of my favorite players ever. I banged the drum loudly for Bert Blyleven’s Hall of Fame candidacy and for Dave Parker as well. And to this day, I get goose bumps when I hear Sister Sledge’s We Are Family and can close my eyes and see Pops take McGregor deep.

Years later, I got emotionally attached to another Pirates team. I rooted for the 1990 and 1991 Pittsburgh Pirates to win their Division and in the NLCS. They lost a pair of heart breakers.

But it was the 1992 team that I really loved.

I was first and foremost a Red Sox fan in 1992, but that edition was a truly boring team.

Boggs and Burks were finishing out their time with the Sox. Veterans like Greenwell and Jack Clark were hurt and Tom Brunansky led the team with 15 homers. Clemens was still great but the team was a non contender. (Back then the Red Sox and Yankees were boring, losing non contenders. Go figure.)

I found myself following the Pirates, who were supposed to finish behind the Mets after Bobby Bonilla defected to Queens (along with new comer Bret Saberhagen.)

Instead the Pirates got off to a 12-2 start. The fought with the Cardinals, Mets and Expos until mid season they blew the competition away. An 11 game winning streak in late July and early August made a joke of the race. And there was a sense of urgency with the team.

They knew that Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek were going to be free agents and this would be their best shot to win a pennant. And if you saw me during the 1992 NLCS, you would have thought I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. And after the Francisco Cabrera hit stabbed Pittsburgh in the throat, I was crushed more than any baseball event since 1986.

On the blog, I’ve constantly got on the Pirates for their awful drafts, their lousy trades and I was so excited for them last summer when for a few months they looked like contenders.

But I also find myself being drawn to the Pirates of the past.

I have an obsession with 1925 World Series hero Red Oldham.

I wrote about the alternate history of a potentially integrated Pirates team in 1938.

I watched the MLB Network rebroadcast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.

I am currently reading a book about the 1971 Pirates and have a Roberto Clemente book next on my shelf.

I have a Pirates fascination.
It is easier to root and follow a team now with, XMRadio, etc. If I had all of that back in 1979, maybe I wouldn’t be a Sox fan. Maybe I would have been a die hard Pirates fan.

Then again, if that were the case I would have missed out on 2004 and 2007 and I’d have had no winning season since that 1992 season.

Maybe it is best.

But let the record show, I am rooting for the Pirates. The NL Central is winnable. The 7 year old version of me is cheering you on.

And one final Pirates obsession… I LOVE this video about Dock Ellis and his no hitter.

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A very interesting trade…

Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero.
I am not sure what to make of this trade between the Mariners and the Yankees.
On the one hand it seems to make sense for both teams.
On the other hand it makes sense for neither team.
It’s not often a trade can be so perplexing but at the same time refreshing.
For the Yankees, they got Michael Pineda. At 23 years old he has already made the All Star team and gives New York youth they desperately need in the pitching staff.
Then again, he tailed off badly in the second half and seemed to pitch better in pitcher friendly Safeco Field. And the AL East beat him like a drum. And his home run rate rose dramatically in the second half.
Cause for concern?

Meanwhile the Jesus Montero era in New York lasted a whopping 18 regular season and 1 post season game.

The future home grown slugger is heading to the Pacific Northwest and presumably his #63 will never be retired in Monument Park.
He’s a right handed masher who was ranked one of the top 5 prospects in all of baseball in back to back seasons.
Maybe he’s not a long term solution at catcher but he could have caught a season with Russell Martin and split DH duties.
He might have been part of a NEW “Core Four!”
But off he goes. A homegrown talent going to spend his career elsewhere.
Some Mariner blogs are comparing him to Miguel Cabrera.
Then again lots of bloggers complained to me when I didn’t call Colby Rasmus an elite player. It’s one thing to be a prospect.
It’s another thing to produce.
(I’m looking at YOU Alex Ochoa.)
And hitting doesn’t win titles. Pitching does. The Yankees were banking on the likes of Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and A. J. Burnett to keep them in 60% of their games. You can always sign a hitter, but 23 year old All Star pitchers don’t grow on trees?
Pineda joins a staff where he, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes would all be under 26. Suddenly the rotation isn’t so ancient. They are a turn around season from Hughes away from Cashman’s vision of a young core of pitchers backing up Sabathia.
Throw in David Robertson and suddenly the Yankees might have their pitching foundation for the next 6 or 7 years.
(Just ask Joba Chamberlain.)
Provided Pineda isn’t a one year fluke who gets torched in Yankee Stadium. (Remember how Jeff Weaver was going to be the young ace of the team?)
But there is more than one team in this deal.
The Mariners stink.
They’ve lost 95 or more games 3 of the last 4 years.

And with Ichiro in the final year of his deal, his Mariner tenure will likely end without a single World Series appearance.
The same was said for Griffey’s time in Seattle…
And Edgar Martinez’s…
And Randy Johnson’s…
And Alex Rodriguez’s…
And no doubt Felix Hernandez’s time will end pennant-less in the Pacific Northwest.
They need to mix it up. And a player that Brian Cashman once said could be a new Manny Ramirez.
Maybe put Montero along side young Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley and the Mariners will build a nice line up.
But I thought the Mariners best hopes to finally win the pennant was to take the Giants blue print. Stockpile pitching and win around your dynamic ace.
And the West could be won with great pitching. And shut down an East, Central or Wild Card opponent in a short series then play a National League style World Series… that was the Mariners ticket.
And I thought Michael Pineda could have been the Matt Cain to Hernandez’s Lincecum.
So what’s my take on the trade?
I literally have no clue.
It could be great for both or blow up in both of their faces.
The Yankees could have their young rotation and the Mariners could get a dominant lineup.
Or the Yankees could have a bust pitcher while the Mariners picked up a hitter with no position who can’t handle big league pitching.
Maybe they should have stayed on their original teams.

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