As of July 4, 2013 (9:20 am EST) the Pittsburgh Pirates have crossed the halfway point of the season and display a record of 52 - 31. One of the hottest teams in baseball Pittsburgh went 15 – 5 in their last 20 games and currently hold a 2 game lead atop the NL Central. In a blog I wrote last week I asked what makes this season different from past seasons, which saw the Pirates battle for top position early on to the eventual collapses late in the year as things went from great to painful. I decided to reach out to one of Pittsburgh’s most renowned sports-media personalities and get to the heart of the magic taking place in PNC Park and beyond, and whether this magic amounts to anything more than smoke and mirrors.
Stan Savran has covered sports in the Steel City since 1979, in newspaper, radio, and television he has offered his unique and thoughtful insight to all things Pittsburgh. He was the logical choice for answers to my questions regarding the hot Pittsburgh Pirates and speculation as to where they will sit at the close of 2013.
Q - Do you think baseball requires more patience than other sports for grooming young athletes?
A - I don't think baseball necessarily requires more practice time than other sports. But there are two things that make it more difficult to hone skills. In this part of the country, of course, the game is seasonal. And to be a better hitter, you have to face pitching. Live pitching, not machines at batting cages. A basketball player can practice year round...outside or inside. Practice his shooting skills, dribbling, etc alone. Of course nothing is better than like competition. But a pitcher can throw to a catcher all he wants, but how does he know how good he is unless he can get a batter out? You need one to find that out!
Q - Would you say the casual fan is impatient?
A - I think ALL fans are impatient. I think the diehard, long-term fans UNDERSTAND what a team goes through, but he's no more tolerant than the guy who watches once a week.
Q - Are fan frustrations justified after 20 seasons in the red?
A - Fans are more than justified to not only be frustrated about the Pirates, they have every right to be downright, red in the face, MAD. It's not just financial issues that have held this franchise back, an unwillingness to spend the necessary moneys to win. It's that they have been downright incompetent. For 2 decades now. Yes, that anger is justified.
Q - Over the last few seasons the Pirates dwindled after a hot start, some say it was lack of experience playing late in the year that affected the athletes, do the Pirates have the correct tools to finally play deep in the season?
A - This team will not fold. They might fade slightly...NO team can continue playing as they have, but they will not fold. The reason? Their pitching is their strength...as is their pitching depth both in starting and relieving. The main reason they collapsed last year was because their pitching collapsed. For the above stated reasons, that won't happen in 2013.
Q - Could this be the year they end the 20-year slump?
A - I feel VERY confident that not only will they break the 20 year losing streak, but they will also make the playoffs for the first time since 1992. Don't know if they'll advance in them, but they will make the post-season.
Q - Are there any AAA stars we may see to close out 2013?
A - In addition to Gerrit Cole who is already here...we might get another look at Tony Sanchez and Duke Welker, and our first look at OF Andrew Lambo, but I think that will be the extent of it.
John Thomas Menesini
Football Extra Points