Pittsburgh Pirates

Why Pittsburgh Pirates' Neil Walker Should Be Named Team Captain

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 31:  Neil Walker #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates after hitting a walk off solo home run in the tenth inning against the Chicago Cubs during Opening Day at PNC Park March 31, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Ryan GauleCorrespondent IMay 14, 2014

Neil Walker was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of the 2004 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.   

When Walker played his first full major league season in 2010 with the Pirates, it was evident that there was something special about him.  

He finished fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year Award race after batting .296 with 12 home runs in 110 games played.  

Walker batted only .251 in 2013, but his .305 batting average over the month of August helped carry the Pirates into the playoffs for the first time since 1992.  

This season, Walker is on track to have one of the best seasons of his career.  

Although he is batting just .267 in 38 games played, the second baseman has blasted eight home runs.  

The pace he is on would give him 34 home runs on the season. With that amount of power, he could be in the running for the 2014 National League Most Valuable Player Award.  

The thing that makes Walker so special is that he is a leader in every sense of the word.  

A Pennsylvania native, Walker has been playing in Pittsburgh since 2009. Within a few seasons, things started to turn around for a franchise that had struggled for two decades to put a winning team on the field.

Walker has been in the starting lineup as the Pirates' second baseman in every game so far this season, and his presence in both the locker room and lineup has made a difference.  

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 06:  Neil Walker #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates fields a ground ball against the St. Louis Cardinals during the game at PNC Park April 6, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Pirates defeated the Cardinals 2-1.  (Photo by Justin K.
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

After losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 National League Division Series, Walker was disappointed, but he knew he could build off that experience.  

According to Tom Singer of MLB.com, Walker spoke about the early exit from the playoffs last season, saying, "We did all we could. It was one of those things where we needed to try to do less, not force the issue. That experience will benefit us throughout the season. We know to just trust what we normally do, not try to do anything special."

That is just the kind of attitude that shapes a suitable captain of any team, regardless of the sport.  

Walker went 0-19 in that playoff series. Although Pittsburgh's heavy hitters Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen did well, the Pirates needed Walker to perform to win.  

Walker has played through the rough seasons with the Pirates, and he has also seen how much pleasure is taken from a successful season.  

Neil Walker is arguably the most important player in the Pirates' lineup, so he deserves to be awarded for that.  

For the Pirates, it may be time to give him a contract extension and name him the captain. He is a natural-born leader who knows how to win.  

 

*Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference

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