So, spring training is under way. The first practice game is in the books, and if the Pirates showed anything today, it is that they would be serious contenders for the 2011 National Junior College championship, if only that were what they were competing for. They laid the lumber to the hated Manatees of the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota by a 21-1 count in a lopsided rout between these two bitter rivals. The game was the first of the day for the Manatees, who had a regular season showdown against Florida State College of Jacksonville later this evening. Despite some serious efforts, I could not find a score for that game anywhere in time to use for this article. Not that it matters much, as this was just a practice spring training game for the Pirates. Not even a real spring training / grapefruit league game. A practice one. A game in which few if any actual Pittsburgh Pirates played today. A game in which the Buccos scored 10 runs off of the poor Manatee starter, a freshman from local Manatee High School. But this game was huge.
Why would I say something like that? No, I’m not drinking this evening, and yes, I know that in the grand scheme of things, this game against a junior college team went exactly how it was SUPPOSED to go. But that hasn’t always happened in this annual series. Heck, the Pirates LOST this game a couple of years ago.
But this game was big. It was the first game under the new Clint Hurdle regime. And the tone was set right off the bat in this game that this team is different - when Corey Wimberly took off for second base on a steal attempt when the Manatee pitcher threw to first. Sure, it was a bad throw and Wimberly ended up on third from the error, but it said right there that the Pirates are coming after you this year. Not just you, you stinking Manatees. The message was that these Pittsburgh Pirates are coming after everyone in 2011. Maybe I’m reading too much into this one game, but I’m choosing to ignore those thoughts and just go with it.
I know, seems like a lot to take from one game against a bunch of overmatched kids. But I’m starting to feel that no matter how meaningless spring training results may be in the grand scheme of things, they absolutely set the tone for the season. For example, last year the Pirates were a baseball worst 7-21 in spring training games. And as you know, they went on to lose 105 games in the regular season. So, the team dropped 126 baseball games in 2010. It *might* be nice to see something positive come from this spring, like a little confidence built from winning a few games. And if the games are so meaningless, let’s go ahead and let those meaningless losses fall to the other teams this spring, ok?
Guess which team had the BEST spring training record last year? Give up? Coming in at 23-12 and best in the Cactus League were the San Francisco Giants. But what the heck did they accomplish last year? Besides winning the World Series, I mean.
Who had the best record in the Grapefruit League you ask? The Tampa Bay Rays went 20-8 to lead that pack, and then they went and won 96 games to win the AL East.
San Diego used an 18-10 spring, coming off of a dreadful 2009, on their way to a 90 win season and just missing the playoffs. In 2009, the Yankees topped the Florida circuit and won 103 games and the World Series. The Angels won the Arizona spring and won 97 games and the AL West.
Now, I know this doesn’t mean everything. After all, Texas had a terrible spring but still ended up in the World Series too. But this Pirates team needs something positive to build on, even if it is spring training. Nobody can tell you they felt good going north last year coming off of that 7-21 spring. Despite all of the quotes and comments stating they would be ok, losing never breeds confidence. But confidence breeds winning. So now is the time to start getting some of that confidence going. It all starts tomorrow, with the real practice games, facing off against the defending Grapefruit League and AL East champion Rays.
For these Pirates, the season starts tomorrow.
Category: Pirates News