Pirates’ Latest ‘Superman’ Arrives With The Standard Asterisk
Oneil Cruz has the look of a player who’s ready to justify the hype. But if history is any indication, Pittsburgh will be nothing more than a pit stop in his career.
It was a night to celebrate for baseball fans more than Pirates fans, and that’s a dynamic Pirates fans need to embrace.
Assuming they haven’t already.
There was Oneil Cruz on Monday night, announcing his presence with authority in what almost immediately became a triumphant return to the big leagues. Cruz unleashed an absolute laser of a throw from short to first, the ball exploded off of his bat into the gap and he navigated the bases like he had been shot out of a cannon.
AT&T SportsNet color analyst Bob Walk suggested Cruz “could be Superman” while setting the stage, and Cruz wound up lacking only the cape.
He didn’t knock the cover off the ball or shatter a light stand, but it wasn’t for a lack of vicious intent with a bat in his hands.
Cruz wasn’t quite Superman or Roy Hobbs and might not ever be.
But for a night, at least, he was the next best thing.
So captivating was his performance that he earned applause from fans and teammates alike, and justifiably so, even when he made the fundamental mistake of making the first out of an inning at third base when he tried to stretch a double into a triple.
It was worth it just to watch Cruz run.
It was what Pirates fans had been waiting for, starved for, actually, a prized prospect delivering as advertised in a manner that would best be described as inspiring.
Alas, there’s also plenty of evidence to suggest this story still won’t have a happy ending, at least not in Pittsburgh.
We were reminded of that on Monday night, as well.
As Cruz was electrifying PNC Park, Gerrit Cole was throwing seven no-hit innings for the Yankees in Tampa.
There was a time when Cole was the guy Cruz is now for the Pirates.
Then it came time to pay Cole more than it costs to placate a Bryan Reynolds or a Ke’Bryan Hayes and …
You know the rest if you’ve been paying attention.
That’s the path the Pirates have repeatedly taken.
That’s the narrative the Pirates have consistently created.
Which is why the exploits of any perceived rising star in the organization, no matter how spectacular, have an asterisk attached.
That goes for Jack Suwinski blasting three home runs, including a bottom-of-the-ninth decider, as Suwinski did on Sunday. That goes for Roansy Contreras delivering five innings of four-hit, one-run ball, as Contreras produced on Tuesday night in another encouraging outing at PNC Park. That goes for Bligh Madris making an immediate splash upon his Major League arrival this week.
That goes for Cruz, too.
Contreras, like Cole, is living, breathing proof.
Contreras was part of the return in the Jameson Taillon trade in January of 2021.
Remember when Taillon was “that guy” for the Pirates, after Cole but before Cruz?
Now Taillon is the guy who went 8-1 with a 2.70 ERA in his first 13 starts this season for the Yankees.
They’re all seemingly destined to end up in pinstripes eventually.
It’s either that or they grow up to be Gregory Polanco.
That doesn’t make the long-awaited, much-needed displays of athleticism and baseball star power we’ve been treated to of late any less entertaining.
But none of them suggest the Pirates are eventually headed anywhere.
They’ve conditioned us all by now to assume they aren’t even interested in making such a trip.