Every year around this time, you find people writing primers on the upcoming baseball season, and more often than not, there's an air of optimism in the writing-- even among Bucco fans. Not that I'm going to cite any examples, but I'd say that this year's tone is more subdued amongst yinzers than in previous campaigns. If there's an optimism to be found, it's of the long-term variety. Already in March, the tune people are singing is "Wait until the year after next-- then we'll be fine."
I'm more or less on board with that. As I've written here many times in the past, I do trust the current front office, and think that if anything is going to work in turning this franchise around, it's going to be the slow, frustrating process of rebuilding the developmental side of the organization. This takes a couple years, somewhere between three and five. And of course, it's only when the team finally begins to approach .500 that they'll be at the point where they can shed the parts they have to get the pieces they'll need to be a consistent competitor in the future.
So, as always: hang in there.
We're just now entering year-three of reboot, and there's still a lot more that needs to happen to bring us to a point of competence and stability. What you should be watching for this season is the development of young players and the off-chance success of cheap retreads. In case you missed 2008-2009, all of the old guard is gone. With the exception of only a few players (i.e. Duke, Maholm, Doumit, Iwamura, Dotel, Donnelly), everyone on the roster is a career question mark. Almost all of them are pre-peak age, and those that aren't have had some success and now it's a question of whether they can repeat it.
My guess is that this patchwork team has been built to play slightly above-average defense behind a staff that mostly pitches to contact. Then, if possible, Huntington will trade those low K/9 pitchers, as well as some of those high-slugging, low-onbasepercentaging position players. It won't be the purge of 2009, but don't be surprised if a few guys go missing in June.
In any case, there shouldn't be too much heartbreak regarding trades, since almost everyone on the team falls into one of three categories:
1) Played here less than a year, and you probably wouldn't be able to spot him in a crowd.
2) Played here for a couple years, but has really sucked and hasn't shown any of the, like, heart and high BAbip that Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez were all about, respectively.
3) Will not be traded and thus you don't need to worry about being upset over them being traded because they definitely won't be traded (this label applies to Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and maybe a few pitchers).
I guess maybe the only guys who don't fall into one of those categories are Paul Maholm, Zach Duke and Ryan Doumit. They've played here a couple years, have been purely mediocre, and have put up with a lot of bad baseball all around them. I think it'll be notable when they depart, but not on the scale of like, Clemente's plane going down.
Anyway, over the next couple of days, Matt and I will post things about the 2010 Pirates (if not here, then in our heads, where unfortunately you won't be able to read them). Not all of the things we write will be tragic; just most of it. Hopefully we can point you in the direction of some of the very few, very bright spots on this roster, and that'll make you more likely to enjoy a trip to PNC Park this year. No promises.
More to come...