Home Openers Are Always Hopeful, Yes, Even for the Pirates

The Pirates are coming off their first back-to-back, 100-loss seasons since the 1950s. But they’ve at least hinted this season might finally be different. We’ll see.

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Credit the Pirates for this much already: They’ve made it all the way to the home opener and provided reason enough through six games to embrace what has traditionally been one of the most celebratory and sentimental days on the sports calendar every year – football, basketball, hockey, what have you –  let alone every baseball season.

Home openers are special.

Home openers are scared.

Home openers are that, to quote James Earl Jones/Terence Mann in “Field of Dreams,” because “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.”

That’s why people will come when the Bucs host the White Sox at PNC Park.

That’s why a few of them will keep coming.

“They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”

That isn’t just Hollywood rhetoric.

That is the enduring beauty of baseball.

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Unless you’ve lost 100 games the past two seasons, like the Pirates.

Unless you’re a franchise that hasn’t even been trying, like the Pirates.

Unless the color commentator for an opposing team described your lineup as a “hodgepodge of nothingness,” which is what NSEN’s Dennie Eckersley had to say last August about the Pirates.

Unless the team is owned by Bob Nutting, like the Pirates.

We all know the drill by now.

Spend Nutting, win Nutting.

Except this year the Pirates swept the Red Sox and achieved a 4-2 record in advance of their PNC Park debut.

Did that elevate the Bucs into a hodgepodge of something-ness?

Could this season possibly be different?

General manager Ben Cherington said as much in spring training.

“It’s time to start getting better,” Cherington announced to Kevin Gorman of TribLIVE.com in late March. “It’s a different time in our evaluation.”

It sounded more like GM rhetoric than a declaration.

We’ll find out which eventually, as the Pirates progress throughout the 162-game slog and answer the type of questions that have to be answered along the way from where the Pirates have been to credibility.

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Questions such as:

  • Can Derek Shelton manage?
    The affable skipper went 142-242 for a winning percentage of .370 over his first three seasons, but his hands were tied because of the roster he’d been given. Is Shelton the right guy to finally lead the team out of the wilderness? Or will a “different evaluation” eventually lead to a different guy managing the team?
  • How long will Bryan Reynolds play for the Pirates?
    He’s their best player and he wants to be paid as such and, failing that, has requested a trade. Will he be dealt? Will he be signed to a contract extension and then traded? How serious are the Pirates about putting Major League players, rather than prospects, on the field?
  • Are Ji Han Bae, Jason Delay, Jack Suwinski, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Colin Holderman, Dauri Moreta and Jose Hernandez Major League players?
    Suwinski hit 19 home runs last season. He also hit .202 in the majors and spent time in the minors. That jury, among others, is still out.
  • Are Rich Hill, Vince Velasquez, Carlos Santana and even Andrew McCutchen here to provide veteran presence and stability, to help the youngsters win games as they develop?
    Or will they be dealt eventually for even more prospects?
  • Will the revolving door to the clubhouse close?
    The Pirates used a franchise-record 68 players last season. The tryout camp at the Major League level has to stop.
  • How long before Oneil Cruz becomes a legitimate star?


  • Will he be playing for the Yankees once he does?

Play ball!

Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section