So, I spent my Saturday night watching the Pirates blow a late inning lead. Nothing new there, right? Well, instead of watching them lose at PNC Park, I drove all the way to Detroit to watch them lose to the Tigers. I should preface this by saying that the Tigers are my second favorite team, so I was probably 60% rooting for the home team, if only because they at least have a shot at making the playoffs this year.
Comerica Park, home of the Tigers, is a great venue. It's very expansive with tons of concession stands and a vast variety of choices for food (not to mention Little Caesar's Pizza throughout the park). Granted the Tigers had more land to build on than the Pirates did for PNC Park, so that explains that. However, one thing that struck me right away was the amazing lack of in-game entertainment that's prevalent to the point of nauseating at your average Bucco game. There was no pierogie race, no hot dog shooting, no t-shirt tossing or even any Q&A's with the Tigers' players. All you had was the game, and I was perfectly fine with that.
Y'see, I am one of the few people who actually go to a Pirate game to *gasp* watch the game. Yeah, I know that the on-field product often makes me wonder why I even watch the Pirates in the first place (more on that in a bit), but I just really enjoy baseball. It's not my most favorite sport like it was when I was a kid, but I still enjoy a Saturday night at the ballpark. I don't see a trip to PNC Park as a family outing that consists of waiting for the game to end so they can watch the fireworks or going ga-ga over the Pierogie Race and ignoring most of the rest of the game.
The people I sat by at Comerica Park not only were there to watch the game, they also knew things about the team and actually were there to watch the game and a team that doesn't suck. Granted, a team with Miguel Cabrera (a leading AL MVP candidate), Justin Verlander and Brennan Boesch (top AL Rookie) on it just has to be better than the Pirates, and Jim Leyland can manage circles around John Russell, but I digress...
Back to Tigers fans knowing their team. My friend Mike and I stayed just outside of Toledo, figuring that would be a cheaper option than staying close to the city. So, we were about an hour away. The game started at 7:05, so we were hoping for a relatively quick game so we could get back to our hotel and grab some food and beer at Applebee's before it closed at midnight (by the way... wassupwitdat?). When Mike said this aloud, the guy in front of us said, "Not with Bondo (Jeremy Bonderman) pitching. He's guaranteed for 2:45 every game." Of course, he was right, and of course, the game went into extra innings (with the Pirates losing on a Carlos Guillen walk-off homer in the bottom of the 1oth that I called before it happened). We didn't get back until almost midnight. If it wasn't for the drive thru at Mickey D's and a Meijer grocery store (thank god you can buy beer in a grocery store in Ohio after midnight), we would have been SOL.
Anyway, back to my point... it was refreshing to go to a game with actual baseball fans and not just people out for a night of entertainment. I don't have anything against the latter, but don't give me dirty looks when I boo or yell at the Pirates when they do something stupid (which is rather often, come to think of it). Most of the blame for this has to be placed on the Pirates management, who are more concerned about entertaining the fans then putting a representative ballclub on the field. If Pirates' brass was concerned about the on-field product, then former number one overall draft pick Pedro Alvarez would be in the starting line-up tonight.
Last week, one day after phenom Stephen Strasburg made the Pirates look like a bunch of high school kids in his Major League debut, the Pirates promoted pitcher Brad Lincoln and left-fielder Jose Tabata to the big club. It was the right time for both of them, and seeing as how they're two of our top prospects, it's about damned time. But where is Alvarez? Shouldn't he be playing third base instead of Andy LaRoche? Neal Huntington will tell you that Alvarez just isn't quite ready yet. He needs to hit lefties better or be more patient or some such excuse. Remember, Huntington wouldn't promote Neil Walker because Walker was supposedly a malcontent at AAA Indianapolis (something that not one person believed).
Tonight, Lincoln and Tabata are making their PNC Park debuts. Imagine the walk-up the Pirates would have gotten if Alvarez had been making his Major League debut tonight, which would have been significant because the Pirates normally can't draw above 10,000 fans on your average Tuesday night. Sure, it wouldn't have gotten the kind of overwhelming media attention that Steven Strasburg got for his debut, but I can guarantee you that it would have gotten the Bucs some exposure on SportsCenter and the MLB Network. But, no, Alvarez will be in Wilkes-Barre tonight still playing in the minor leagues. What a missed opportunity, but I'm not surprised.
Speaking of not surprised, no one on the Pirates should have been surprised by how poorly Ryan Doumit played first base over the weekend. He pretty much blew Saturday night's game when he couldn't catch Evan Meek's low throw that would have ended the 8th inning and should have fielded a pick off throw earlier that put a runner at second for the Tigers. What I don't get is why John Russell just didn't put Doumit at DH instead of Garrett Jones. Jones isn't the second coming of Keith Hernandez defensively, but he's tons better at first base than Doumit. For that matter, why was Ryan Church even in the line-up? Why not Delwyn Young?
I realize that the Pirates have very, very few actual Major League players on their 25 man roster, but that's no excuse for some of the line-ups JR has posted lately. At least Aki Iwamura is relegated to the bench, but that also means he's an option for pinch hitting. I have a feeling that once Alvarez is finally promoted that Aki will be on a one way flight back to Japan. Let some other team deal with him and his below .200 average. What a total waste of a trade, one of the many that Huntington has made since he became GM.
I know a lot of people are calling for JR and Neil to get the boot, and I can't say that I'd blame the Pirates if they axed the both of them. At the same time, I'm not sure what good it would do so long as Bob Nutting refuses to spend any money on the big league team. If Bob Nutting isn't the worst owner in sports, he's definitely right up there.
Well, at least Andrew McCutchen has been as advertised, though he was drafted by the previous regime, and Garrett Jones has been a pleasant surprise, even though he was picked up by the Pirates last year as a favor to JR. Of course, that means that the Pirates two best players have little, if anything to do with the GM's ability to recognize talent.
Well, sucker that I am, I'll be going to both games against the Indians this weekend. What can I say? I still like baseball, inept Pirates be damned.