The Pittsburgh Pirates have exceeded many people's expectations thus far into the season. Aside from a few that still remain optimistic after 15-straight years of losing, this season has been a big surprise for many.
Recent events bring up questions on whether this team will continue to exceed those expectations or will they fall back into the depths of last place?
With the recent injuries to both the disappointing Ian Snell and the surprising Phil Dumatrait, two starters in the five-man rotation have gone down in the past two days.
This could spell disaster for the Bucs as they desperately hold on in inter-league play. With games coming up against the surging Yankees and the exciting Rays, things look bleak for the Pirates.
They are a meager 36-40 and 12 games back within the NL Central. If you want that spelled out it essentially spells, “No Playoffs”.
People laugh at the fact that the fans or organization may be thinking that but, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility the way they were playing well and with the hopes of that young pitching staff.
Though with the worst ERA in MLB and two starters going down in two days, this spells disaster for the Pirates who will have to turn to the unproven pitchers that will be brought up to try and salvage a mediocre season.
John Van Benschoten and Ty Taubenheim are on top of the list to fill in for Snell and replace Dumatrait, which does not bode well for the Pirates.
Van Benschoten has made a few major league appearances in his career, all of which has been nothing but a miserable experience for him and fans alike.
He has shown that he can get hitters out with his above average fastball in the minors but, against major league hitters is a different story. Even though Snell is not going on the DL and has had a bad season, most would rather have Snell out there.
Dumatrait is eligible to come off the DL as soon as he can, which should be when they travel to Milwaukee. Hopefully the rest will restore Dumatrait as endurance issues has always been a concern.
The Pirates seemed doomed heading into the interleague stretch with or without their pitching in order.
The best series to take advantage of this interleague play was against Baltimore and Chicago.
They in essence squandered three games away in Baltimore by giving up three leads. One was the starter and the other two were the closer. Losing two out of three against Baltimore was not what the team was looking for.
Going into the series against the White Sox they were hopefully going to turn things around against a team that was struggling to hit the ball. The Sox have lost five in a row heading into the set with the Pirates but fixed that quickly against a vulnerable pitching staff.
The Pirates were left watching run-after-run be scored against the pitching staff as they got swept.
Things took a small turn by winning two of three against Toronto but, things again look bleak as they look to finish interleague play. They await the Yankees and the Rays who are looking to creep up and stay ahead in that division.
I don’t see either team looking past the Pirates as this week looks to be one of the worst so far this season for the Bucs.
Barring a steal from both series the Bucs will be well under .500 and out of contention for any playoff spot. The question then is, what should the ownership do about the remaining players with contracts coming up and salaries to be handled.
There are many questions to be answered and thought about in this next month.
There are a slew of players with contracts up, a few including some big names: Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte, John Grabow and Jason Michaels.
There are more that are up at the end of this year so there are many decisions to be made. Should they unload soon or wait till later in the season?
I think they should ride this team out and see if they can reach that, what seems to be, unreachable .500 mark or even above with the club they have now.
If they can get that burden off their chest it would be huge. After this season I think is when the unloading should begin for a few reasons.
For one it will send the wrong message to the team. It will kind of send the message of surrendering and this group, unlike the past, doesn’t seem to be that way and could demoralize that club.
Secondly, unloading them now or during the season means you have to deal with teams that are in contention. Teams that are not in contention aren’t looking for a player to help them out right away. They are also thinking future.
So I believe that they should wait until the end of this season when everyone’s hopes are restored and other organizations are looking to improve and contend for a championship and move some of those players for young prospects.
The harsh reality is that this team is not going to contend for any title. That is the ultimate goal and rightfully so.
The best chance to compete is to continue with the young talent you have now and continuing to bring in younger, less expensive talent into Pittsburgh and then compete.
There are ways to do so and right ways to do it just take a look at the Rays.
Until this year I believe Pittsburgh has a bigger fan base and will bring in more if they start to win like the Rays which will make Pittsburgh more successful in the future.
The Pirates are in a bit of a situation that is going to make it hard for fans, players, and the front office.
Getting through this tough week or month is going to be key and hopefully the organization will do the right things to help this team compete.