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Wakeup Call: A fan base resurrected

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> Really enjoyed Joe Starkey’s column today about the response of the Pirates’ fan base to their seriously modest success to this point. Speaks very powerfully to the city’s deep feelings about the baseball club.

>> Raise your hand if you thought this team could be 37-37 on June 23, almost entirely on the strength of its pitching.

>> Two things I liked seeing on the NHL Awards show last night:

1. The obvious is Dan Bylsma getting coach of the year. I’ve described at length my feelings for the Penguins’ work ethic last season that was the best I’d ever seen for that franchise, as well as how admirable and smart it was for Bylsma to stick to his system after all the injuries. So, it was nice to see the league’s broadcasters cast the right vote.

2. Did you happen to notice that every single player nominated was in attendance, even the members of the recently losing Canucks?

With all due respect to other sports, that kind of fraternity exists only in hockey.

>> I can feel this Jaromir Jagr thing happening. Didn’t necessarily feel that way a day earlier, but I do now. Just makes too much sense all-around.

>> I’ll be trying to arrange a chat for us sometime around noon. I’ll let you know in this space the when and where if I can pull it off.

43 Comments

  1. Good morning! First post, for the first time! I was at the game yesterday, it was awesome. Some of us never left our Buccos, but we like to see the rest of the city slowly getting on board. I am all for it, even if my game warching experience at PNC Park is disturbed by all of the newbies going to seats during at bats… That being said, jump on the bandwagon, this is fun!

  2. When a team has not had any success for years modest success looks good. Even the losses are better this season, as most games are close to end.

  3. Exactly JAL.

    The Pirates of 2010 (and earlier) were like a 600lb shut-in. Even in losing 34% (34% tv ratings bump) of the body weight, the team is still a 400lb schlub.

    I read the other day that attendance is just now on track for the 2008 levels. I guess the only frame of reference that I will get excited about is breaking the year 1 PNC attendance levels. 2.3M people? If the Pirates are hitting 2.0M in attendance in 2012, 2.3M in 2013, and then 2.5M in 2014, I will consider that a resurgence.

  4. This town and the people surrounding the Pittsburgh area will always support a winner. We love our Steelers and Penguins. Hopefully the Pirates will climb into those ranks as well. Its great to see meaningful baseball heading into July. And I can wear my Pirates gear around without anyone chuckling at me or apologizing to me about being a Pirates fan. Lol.

  5. Couple of things that caught my attention while watching the replay of the 71 WSG last night:

    1. No seats in the outfield beyond the fences.
    2. Balls in the dirt were routinely thrown back out to the pitcher. Never see that happen today.
    3. The horrible condition of the field. Players today are spoiled with the pristine parks.
    4. Only a few players used batting gloves.
    5. The size of the bats seemed to be much larger with a tapered knob. Saw a lot of players choking up.
    6. Boot Powell (sp?) was a large man.
    7. Bob Robertson was a beast at 25.
    8. Love the Willie Windmill
    9. Roberto, as graceful at 37 as he was early in his career.
    10. NBC kept on pumping the NFL coverage and how they would be leaving immediately following the game. Post games now are as long as the games themselves.

  6. Looks like the team is on pace for approx 1.8M this year, but it is hard to guess since April & May avg’s have little correspondence with summer attendance. Plus, if the team stays near .500, there will be a nice bump all summer.

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance

  7. Starkey’s article was a thrill to read. Pittsburgh will be hopping when the Pirates are in a pennant race. I am happy – and not surprised – that the fan base is reawakening.

    I would also like to acknowledge something else, something even more important.

    You. Us.

    The Core of the Base, if there is such a thing.

    Those who stuck around through 18 years, angry, but here.

    Every. Day.

    Here.

    This is NOT a diatribe against “bandwagon jumpers.” I want em ALL on board. Better for the franchise. Better for the team. And just a better fan experience for ALL of us when it is in fact all of us.

    Nope. Not a diatribe.

    Just a celebration and a recognition.

    Here’s to you. Here’s to us.

  8. It definitely is strange this year to see all of these “renewed” Pirates fans, some of which just a year ago were telling me, a fan since the cradle, that I needed to give it up. Truthfully most of this newly rediscovered fanbase are “fair weather” fans, that will jump ship the first sign of trouble, I know a few I know personal did after the Cleveland series.

    I barely remember the 91-92 seasons, I was 10, meaning most of my fan-dom has been built on poorly played baseball, stop gap players, and broken promises. But yet I still watch every year…intently…and sure I make a claim here and there that I’m done with this team, but I never am.

    I am excited to see competitive baseball this late in the season, even if it’s a weak division. This years team is playing with heart and they want to win, and you can tell by watching them. Even Overbay and Diaz, who are probably the least productive of the bunch, are playing with a positive attitude. There are no “joggin’ Ronnys” this year, there are no Operation Shutdowns, no trade me and get it over with attitudes…They truly believe they can win every night, regardless of the opponent.

    Yeah it’s still .500 ball, and yeah our offense is anemic 5 of 7 nights a week as of late, and the pitching is starting to falter abit after a stellar start of the season, but there is something positive about this team, and maybe everyone is starting to feel it.

    What will upset me, is say the Buccos have an amazing second half…and are competing for the Wild Card…I am going to have a heck of a time getting tickets. Also not to jump on the FO-Hate train, but a “good” season this year will give them reason/cause/an excuse to raise ticket prices, which they have wanted to do for years but couldn’t without alienating the existing fan base…be cause people (the renewed fan base) will suddenly pay for them now…

  9. Reading all of these things about attendance -

    I was glancing at Sunday’s Phila Inquirer sports section this morning. Phillies already @ 1.8m for the year. At a much higher ticket price. This is how they afford a $160m payroll.

    Sigh.

    I think we’re all enjoying this year because every game is a chance to win. Last year, I didn’t feel that way. It was more a surprise when we won. This year, I expect it, although I’m not surprised when we lose like I was surprised when we won last year.

  10. To clarify on thing I said in my post…

    Calling most of the new fan base “fair weather” is unfair….and I apologize. Some are definitely “fair weather” while most are “fragile” and untrusting, they don’t quite believe what they are seeing to be the real deal, but they enjoy what they see on the diamond. They are fans, but have been hurt so much in the past that they will pull support back quickly from the team. Alot of 25-35 yr old fans were fans in the early 90′s and had their hearts broken then…

  11. Top 2012 FA’s (21-40) according to Hardball Talk.

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/06/23/2012-top-111-free-agents-nos-40-21

    Hard to believe Capps is only 28 yrs old!

    I agree about the Maholm write-up.

  12. Pirates optioned Harrison to Indy and called up d’Arnaud

  13. Here’s what scares me about Jagr — this is from a conversation with the New York Post’s Larry Brooks in today’s paper:
    —–

    <>
    —–

    Jagr doesn’t appear to realize that he is going from a league that plays 54 games to 82, to a league where people will be looking to crush him like Alex Ovechkin did in the Olympics, where he will take a pounding every game, unlike in European hockey where there is no comparison when it comes to the physical aspect of the game.

    Playing 9 minutes a night on occasion — and perhaps even being a healthy scratch now and then — would be all about preserving him for the games that count. Which would push his games-played count up toward 100 if all goes well. 100 games at the best, most brutal pace in the world, at age 40.

    If he doesn’t get why he might need to play less, then I’m not sure we want him. If he has truly “matured,” then he has to understand his own limitations and how his own need to play every minute he can every night would need to be subservient to the team’s needs. Great players who can still play when they are up in years have to learn to adjust their game and their own expectations. Judging by today’s quote, I don’t think Jagr has yet.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/rangers/not_on_speed_dial_n8VaL9qvpZ816X0MpM16qO

  14. @JAL Not sure if I understand this move. Why not option Ciraco? JH batting .283 with only 5 k. Not sure what Chiraco brings to the table.

  15. Somebody please explain to me why Ciriaco is still with the club. I guess I’m just not smart enough to understand.

  16. Wow, I really thought Harrison was playing a good 3B for us, and he was getting on base too. Ciriaco is a waste of space on the roster…

    Also, D’Arnaud before Presley? Are the Pirates really that bottle-necked in RF that they bring up a fourth SS? By my count, we have Cedeno, Wood, Ciriaco, and now D’Arnaud all on the major league roster…I’m going to assume Wood is now our full time 3rd Baseman. Ronny has been swinging much better and his Defense has been solid…where does this move fit in?

  17. The reason for Ciriaco staying with the club (not MY reason or wish but PBC’s) probably goes back to what they said when PC was brought up.

    He’s NOT there for his offense. He’s there because of his defense, which is supposedly more refined than the other backups…and because of it he generally is intended to sit on the bench and give Clint the option to use other better hitters earlier in the game. Because he knows he has PC sitting there as a potential late inning emergency defensive fill-in.

    That, essentially, is what they said at the time. At the time, i bought it. Not so much now.

    Now, they have a multitude of other middle infield backup options. Maybe not great ones, but acceptable. So if PC had been sent back down, couldn’t Harrison and D’Arnaud alternate the bench emergency role?

    Sure, they may rather have PC be the wasted bat, the guy who sits. By keeping PC up, they give both Harrison (in AAA) and D’Arnaud more ABs. But at sometime, when the team is at .500 and in contention, isn’t time to start making moves that benefit your, um, TEAM? And its CHANCES?

    But aside from that whiny rant, that is why, from PBC’s perspective, PC is still on the MLB roster.

  18. and i just KNOW someone is gonna argue the merits of keeping PC with me as if it was my idea

  19. @Drew71 Was PC brought up from AAA before or after the signing of Brandon Wood? If it was before, why did they sign Wood? If it was after, the original question still remains…why is PC still on the roster?

    Maybe I am giving Wood more credit than he deserves, but he was a major league ready SS/3B who I believe started for the Angels this season, seems to be a more well-rounded refined player than someone who just runs and fields for an inning late in a game.

  20. ^I know it wasn’t your idea…lol

  21. Presley and Lincoln potentially coming up next week…

  22. I don’t get it. If you are going to bring up D’Arnaurd to start at SS wouldn’t Ciraco go as you Ronny can be back up SS. I can’t believe they brought up D’Arnaurd to sit.

    Also now who is the backup 3B?

  23. Pedro Ciriaco is like the beater car of a pizza delivery driver.

  24. Are we certain that anyone besides us even knows that Ciriaco is on the roster?

  25. Good point. Maybe they forgot.

    Let’s send a letter.

  26. As always, thanks for the link JAL.

  27. JAL, I know everyone loves Tim Williams, but I’m not sure he made any sense of it.

    So he is saying that the 24 & 25 spots on the roster will shift as such:

    (Was)
    1. Ciriaco and Harrison

    (Now)
    2. Ciriaco and D’Arnaud

    (Will be next week)

    3. Presley and Lincoln

    (Then shortly after)

    4. [Presley or D'Arnaud] and Harrison

    ***

    Well that’s just bizarre. For the following reasons:

    1) In step 2, we will have 5 guys that play some combo of 2B/SS/3B. In step 3, we’ll only have 3 guys. Who are the backups when both Presley and Lincoln come up to replace D’Arnaud and Ciriaco?

    2) Do we have a space on the 40 man? Will someone have to be cut to make room for D’Arnaud? Are we really going to send something through waivers so that he can come up for 1 week?

    3) What is the point of bringing up a prospect for 1 week?

    4) If Harrison will ultimately return July 3, what is the point of even sending him down now? You still have three guys on the roster who can play SS even if you demoted Ciriaco instead, so that isn’t a reason.

  28. @Drew–

    “…multitude of other middle infield backup options…” Good point here, but I caution those as real options. There is a clear pecking order for SS and that is Cedeno. Period. Wood at SS is a big, BIG risk… his instincts and glacial-like-reaction time at SS are terrible. Looks like he’s afraid to dive for a ball, too. Just way, way too passive a player…sort of cruises around the field at 50mph in the passing lane, if you know what I mean.

    Cedeno has to get his brain together… that bunt with the bases loaded was asinine, at best. Harrison at 3B was getting troublesome, too, as he is not quick on the lateral movment… he and Wood let two or three balls through the left side of the infield yesterday that average fielders would have gotten to… they’re just not good defensively.

  29. I am guessing based on this logic Lincoln is coming up for a spot start and that’s it? Maybe while Morton is “resting”, or maybe giving J-Mac a rest next week?

  30. Fat J

    d’Arnaud already on the 40, no moves needed. Lincoln and Presley are on the 40 too.

  31. Jimmy-

    Not sure if they’re “bringing up a prospect” for one week as much as filling gaps in the roster against specific teams (for the DH).

    Nobody wants Ciriaco on the roster, but his need is as a desperation, defensive injury replacement for either Cedeno or Walker. Wood is not a middle infielder in the major leagues for more than a spot start… he’s slow, has poor reaction times/instincts and not a very strong arm.

    They’ll be able to live with these changes for the short term, 7-to-10 days…beyond that, well, I know I’m damning with faint praise here, it’s nice to be speaking about a few positions due to several injuries than the absolute lack of talent all over the field.

  32. Naje – stop making sense. it is an off day. we need a conspiracy.

    don’t make me send Fat Jimmy over there. don’t be fooled by the name. solid muscle.

  33. Okay, I think I get it, Naje. Thanks.

    Nevertheless, I guess I just fundamentally disagree with Hurdle on the need for Ciriaco. I realize Wood is not a good defensive shortstop, but — personally — I would rather live with Wood’s defense for a game or two at SS than waste a roster spot with Ciriaco + live with his bat for a couple games.

    If you lose Walker/Cedeno for more than a few games, you can always use the DL and make a roster move to bring Ciriaco back (or D’Arnaud). I don’t like playing with 24 men all the time.

  34. Did you happen to notice that the NHL Awards show took place in Las Vegas?

    That city is great for fraternity building.

  35. Watched some of Around the Horn yesterday and they were discussing Mark Cuban possibly buying the Dodgers… One of the guys made the comment that he really should buy the Pirates who need him…

    Got me to thinking if Nutting may consider “selling high” with the team winning before he has to raise payroll and cut into his profits… Here’s to dreaming…

  36. Jimmy —
    Certainly, after a month of dealing with the Ciriaco situation I think we’ve all scratched a hole through our scalps and into our cranium…it gets curiouser and curiouser by the day. My only defesne of Hurdle here is that a late-inning replacement in the middle infield w/ Ciriaco is much, much better than giving a game away late (8th inning and beyond) with Wood on the field. But it is, at the minimum, odd to carry a guy that has not helped the team at all. But what if PC saves that ONE game for the team to get them to 82 wins? (chuckle chuckle…)

  37. @ Fat Jimmy – That link is great! It has to be true, nothing else would make sense.

  38. Seems sites listed d’Arnaud on the 40 when announcement was made so someone does have to come off the 40. My error

  39. I’m still wondering why this front office didn’t do more to get us some help in the off-season.
    We could be leading this division right now if they had done so.

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