For Love of the Game: The Pirates Are Worth Watching Again
The Pirates aren’t yet resurrected, far from it. But their return to relevance has made baseball fun again at PNC Park, and for now that’s more than enough.
The Pirates may have work yet to do in their continued efforts to regain their long-lost competence, let alone their credibility, but from a Pittsburgh perspective baseball is unquestionably back.
The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and, believe it or not, the anticipation.
I can confirm this after a trip last Sunday to PNC Park.
It had been a while, not because of any determination to draw a line in the sand and protest the money Bob Nutting still isn’t spending, but because the Pirates had become an afterthought.
What they had put on the field in the Derek Shelton era, in 2020, 2021 and 2022 at the outset of the franchise’s latest reboot, had been so off-the-charts awful it just never occurred to me to venture down to the ballpark last summer.
That’s how a 61-year-old guy who grew up with the game winds up attending zero games for the first time, not in recent memory but in memory of attending anything, anywhere, anytime.
But this year has been different, last Sunday in particular.
Last Sunday was the day Andrew McCutcheon reported for work poised to join the 2,000-hit club, and then delivered.
It was a vivid reminder of what can happen at a ballgame and how you never know when you might see something special or historic.
Last Sunday was also the day Mitch Keller took the mound and, for the first time in four starts regained the form that maintains he’s an ace in the making.
So the still-had-to-figure-out Pirates have that going for them in their ongoing effort to re-engage with the masses.
But beyond that, they have a product again.
Not a finished product, but the kind of product that’s worth talking about if you like talking baseball.
I can confirm this because I spent much of last Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the Mets chatting with the guy seated in front of me, a stranger at first but also a guy I soon realized shared my love of the game.
We watched the game. And we talked baseball. About whether Shelton should send the runners with first and second occupied and a 3-2 count on the hitter in an effort to stay out of the double play. About whether the Mets had made the right move by bringing in a lefty to face Jack Suwinski in a critical situation. About whether a bunt was in order to get the potential lead run from second the third with nobody out.
We even checked the out-of-town scoreboard to see how Milwaukee was doing against Oakland.
I hadn’t had that type of experience at PNC in years.
It had been too long.
But thanks to the Pirates at least trying to contend again, thanks in no small part to the continued efforts of McCutcheon, an iconic hero for a franchise with a history of such, and Keller, who is maybe on his way to the All-Star Game and perhaps even a Cy Young Award sooner rather than later, such conversations can be had again while beers are shared and the game is embraced.
That’s not a pennant, but it’s more than worth the price of admission.
Take me out to the ballgame.