Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In my best Tim Kurkjian voice

I went to the Pirates-ChiSox game tonight with two friends because I wanted to be there the night Pedro Alvarez played in his first big league game. I figured that if I was lucky, I'd see him hit his first home run, or at least his first hit. I wasn't really expecting any of that -- really, I'm just satisfied that he wasn't in a car accident on the way to the ballpark and that he made it through batting practice without tearing a hamstring or breaking both his legs. The goal was just to see him play. Mission accomplished.

Sitting there in right-center, I realized something pretty exciting. There'd been a lot of talk and a lot written since last night about how the Pirates' future effectively began today. The future is now. That sounds great and all, but what ultimately sunk in wasn't just that I was watching Alvarez and Jose Tabata for the first time, or that I got to see Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen as I have before. It was that these guys were all in one place at the same time -- that tonight, the Pirates fielded their best lineup in 13 years, and their most talented lineup in 20 years.

Think about that. Wednesday night's lineup had more upside in it than the average Pirates lineup did two full years before the losing started. Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and last night's starter, Brad Lincoln, are all homegrown former first-rounders. Jose Tabata is a legitimate, major-league quality talent, whatever his real age may be. These guys were all on the field at the same time last night. It literally gave me chills when I realized this.
Of course, it could all go horribly wrong. In fact, this club has a track record of things going horribly wrong. But there's a chance that it won't. And if it doesn't, maybe -- just maybe -- I'll be able to say I was there the night it all started.

And years from now I'll tell my children and grandchildren -- or someone else's children or grandchildren, or really, just anyone who happens to pass within an earshot the park bench where I imagine I'll spend most of my time -- of that magical night back in the summer of 2010; that night on which I looked into the future.

I'll tell them that I saw Pedro Alvarez majestically strike out swinging on a 91-mile-per-hour John Danks fastball. I'll tell them about watching Pedro's courageous plate discipline, fouling off a 3-1 pitch down in the zone before taking a pitch nineteen yards outside the strike zone for the first walk of his career. And I'll tell them about that infuriatingly hilarious 9th inning.

In fact, why wait? I'm going to tell you about that infuriatingly hilarious ninth inning.

With the Bucs down 5-2 in the top of the ninth, Brendan Donnelly came on in relief of Evan Meek. Jayson Nix (brother of Reds outfielder Laynce Nix, who used to date Jason Bay's sister, and whose parents have some crazy thing about including unnecessary y's in their children's names) doubled to left. Andruw Jones, pinch hitting, popped out to second base. One out, man on second. Enter Juan Pierre. If the Pirates can make Russ Ortiz look like Cy Young, they sure as hell can turn Juan Pierre into Ty Cobb. Ain't no thing. I'm going to let Dejan tell this because there's just no way I can do it justice:

Chicago had a 5-2 lead entering that ninth and, with White Sox's Jayson Nix on second and Brendan Donnelly pitching, second baseman Neil Walker, who has been solid defensively, failed to scoop up Juan Pierre’s roller.

E-4.

Pierre stole second, and Doumit’s low attempt to get him bounced into center field to allow Nix to score.

I just feel compelled to add here that Ryan Doumit sucks.

E-2.

After a second out, Alex Rios walked and, on ball four, Pierre bolted for third. Doumit’s throw went off Alvarez's glove and into shallow left, allowing Pierre to score.

E-5.

"I really suck, and that was totally my fault. But later on, I'm going to pretend that the shitty throw was just my way of hazing the rookie and getting him his first error." - Ryan Doumit, as he exists in my head

Shortstop Bobby Crosby, who earlier botched a routine bouncer, collected that ball in left and sailed his throw home to the backstop.

E-6.

Juan Pierre basically did everything you're not supposed to do in order to be good at baseball, and he wound up still scoring an insurance run for his team. And in the process, he got credit for two stolen bases, neither of which were seriously contested defensively. After reaching on an error, he advanced on what was ostensibly an error, then advanced again on what was ostensibly another error. Then, he scored on an error. Then, the Pirates tacked on another error before the play ended, just for good measure.

And yet, I'm sure someone out there watching this game -- someone named Ozzie Guillen or Joe Morgan or one of that crowd -- would insist up and down:

LOOK AT JUAN PIERRE, OUT THERE CREATING THAT RUN ALL BY HIMSELF. YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF YOUR LEADOFF GUY, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT SPEED AND YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT QUICKNESS AND SMART BASERUNNING. THAT'S WHAT JUAN PIERRE BRINGS TO THE TABLE, AND THAT'S WHY HE'S THE BEST LEADOFF HITTER IN...

After this unfolded, my friend said that the worst part about this inning was that it validated Ozzie Guillen's worldview. Juan Pierre, making things happen by...stretching that defense or spreading the field, or whatever totally not real bullshit Juan Pierre does that makes Ozzie Guillen think he's an acceptable baseball player. Comical, sad.

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