Saturday, January 27, 2007

Thoughts on PirateFest and the 2007 season

Last night and again today I made down it to PirateFest. Last night I only stuck around for about an hour, just long enough to get my Sanchez jersey signed and see the red ugliness the Pirates introduced as their new third uniform, which I think might be the ugliest alternate jersey in the Majors. (Check out what they're saying over at Uni Watch.) Plus, since when did red become a Pittsburgh color? I understand the Pirates were once red and blue, as were the Penguins, but they both switched for a reason. Needless to say I disapprove on a lot of levels. I loved the gold All-Star jerseys last year, why not have gone with something like this for a third jersey?

Why this instead?

I only stuck around for about an hour last night, just long enough to wait my turn in line at Freddy's autograph table. Today I went down again, this time with my brother Matthew, my college pal Adrian (recently transplanted back to Western PA from Boston) and Matthew's friend Brandon. Beforehand, we got breakfast at a place called Eggs 'N At on University Blvd in Moon. I'd definitely recommend it for portion size and overall tastiness, but not for price. A glass of milk and "eggs 'n at" (eggs, bacon, great home fries, toast and a nice-sized pancake) cost me almost $10. But you can't beat a breakfast place with a Pittsburgh theme. I'll be back there for sure.

Back to the Buccos: Despite being at PirateFest twice in the last 24 hours and the amount of thought I've given them of late, I'm really not that excited about the upcoming year, at least in terms of actually expecting to see a winning baseball team. Here are my reasons. Last season the Pirates ended with a 67-93 record. To get to 82 wins (which is 1 more win than loss on the season) is a 15-game improvement--huge, in other words. Here's a quick rundown of the off-season additions and subtractions:

Lost: Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, Mike Gonzalez

Added: Adam LaRoche, Einar Diaz, Luis Matos, Jose Hernandez

In other words, we have the 2006 Pirates (end-of-the-year edition) + LaRoche. We'll miss 2006 Gonzo for sure but with DL's mad bullpen-building skills (possibly his only) I have no doubt the relief core will be fine in the hands of Salomon Torres, Matt Capps and the like. So, the question is, is the addition of LaRoche plus a year experience for all our young guys, particularly Chris Duffy, Ronny Paulino and our young pitchers (the four-headed mosnter MaDukeSnellGorzyHolm) enough to add up to 15 additional wins?

Well, when I say it that way...

A handful of teams have made a significant jump in recent years, adding 15 or 20 wins to their total, teams like the Padres, Tigers and Cardinals to name a few. The LaRoche deal was a great trade for a lot of reasons, but the bigger key to 2007 will be not how many home runs he hits into the Allegheny, but how well MaDukeSnellGorzyHolm pitch 5 out of 7 days a week--and if they do. LaRoche makes our lineup respectable, not great, but it'll be good enough, we hope, if the Fantastic Four stays healthy (this is the first and maybe the most important key, because our depth behind fifth starter Shawn Chacon is scary bad) and if they pitch, simply, better. Which they can without a doubt.

But here's what really bugs me about the Pirates (and maybe in the end this has very little to do with actually playing baseball, as these guys would definitely have me to believe), the Pirates just don't seem to care all that much about winning. I could be wrong. I've just been reading some of the reaction to Jack Wilson calling out Jose Castillo the other night on the Stan Savran Show, and it really seems to me that he's talking like a guy who is sick of losing. Today at the Q&A session, however, I got the opposite impression. I'm all about "good guys" and a good clubhouse atmosphere, which it seems like the Bucs have, but when "good guys" win you 67 games, it's not always the best thing to brag about that. Maybe that's just the Pirate PR parade getting me down, but the only thing the players said today that made me think they cared about winning baseball games and not just having a good time was when Freddy said he'd trade 10 batting championships for one World Championship.

I know this for sure: I'm definitely ready for one World Championship. Heck, I'd even take 82 wins.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Red, Freddy and PirateFest: Day 1

I'm heading down the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in a few minutes with a couple goals in mind. First, I want to be one of the first Pirate fans to see Lefty McThump himself, Adam LaRoche, in black and gold... or will it be red? That's goal #2: check out the new alternate unis. And thirdly, last summer I was way caught up in FreddyFest, also known as the 2006 All-Star Game. As such, I bought a #12 Sanchez National League All-Star jersey, and it's my goal today to get batting champion The Rake himself to sign it. Here's hoping.

Also, just wanted to post this picture I took with my phone a few weeks back:

Yup, that's my proud Mii after I Wii-bowled a 300, a.k.a. a perfect game--12 straight Wii-strikes sure beats real-bowling in the 140s. Like I said to Wilsey in an email, this was definitely my proudest "sports" moment since I knocked Stewie down in that football game freshman year. Oh, the memories.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Yes, yes, and yes

The PG's Stats Geek returns with this right-on piece of right-on-ness.

As far as I'm concerned, the man who named Lefty McThump "Lefty McThump" should be able to say exactly how the Buccos bat.

Two updates on myself: I am currently computerless. It's hard for me to talk about this, but, I dropped my MacBook last week (I know, *head hanging in shame*, I know) and (gulp) cracked the LCD screen. I wish I'd taken a picture of it now, but at the time I was too angry/frustrated/shocked/upset to think of doing something cool like that, and that I was before I got a price quote to fix it. At least it won't be gone long, I'm hoping we'll be reunited tomorrow.

Second update: I'm ready for spring. Winter has gone on long enough. Between a couple of days now of snow and cold and dropping computers and all the ridiculousness about the Penguins leaving Pittsburgh (I'm really expecting any day now to hear Lemieux say they're going to KC), it's been a rough one. Remember, too, that this time last year I was here.

Oh, well. At least I have the Stats Geek again.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Growing up is more comfortable

In college I had this obsession with all things Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart runs were the highlight of my week, whether for a midnight Smallville release or to stock up on Malt-O-Meal cereal--the greatest knock-off brand on Earth. But, a big reason I dug Wal-Mart was the way it helped me avoid doing laundry. Let me explain. I'm of the belief that a pair of blue jeans can be worn for weeks on end with no downgrade in cleanliness and a serious upgrade in comfortability. T-shirts can be reworn under the condition that three sniffs horizontally from pit to pit reveal no funky odors and/or said shirt has spent sufficient time in a laundry basket or pile. And, sweatshirts can be worn endlessly as long as the garment in questions reveals no visible food stain. These rules got me through college and actually became more lax overseas. In short, I love being a guy. BUT, even as a guy, I have rules. These rules specifically concern the re-wearing of socks and underwear, which I only allow under the worst of circumstances. Which brings me back to Wal-Mart. And laundry. My laundry cycle ended when my supply of socks and underwear ended. There was an art to having the supply of each end at the right and same time. But, there were times when one ended early (for one reason or another) or simply, I didn't want to do laundry. And so, the Wal-Mart run, where I stocked up on Fruit of the Loom tube socks and boxer briefs. (Sorry for the details, but that's just good storytelling.) A new pair was heaven. I lived for living out of a plastic bag of socks--because really, there's nothing like a new pair of socks. Which brings me to my point.

Since graduating from college and living a year away from home, and then coming back, I've been trying to figure out who exactly I am after college and China. For example, I do laundry now. And when "the cycle" ended this last time, I didn't turn to Wal-Mart. I realized that the socks I'd been buying cheaply and enthusiastically, beyond that first magical wear, really weren't that comfortable. And they got threadbare real quick. So, I decided to go Gold Toe. It really was a hard decision, but here in the first pre-wash wear, I'm feeling good. And I even took 'em out of the plastic bag.

Oh, and by the way, this is just sick:

More on Apple's new hotness later. For now, I think I'm in love.