Derek Jeter scores as Ronny Paulino drops another throw - Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Saturday night in New York City. The Big Apple. Around 8:30, I emerged from a restaurant in Chinatown with five of my closest friends and began the ritual of wandering around aimlessly searching for a subway station. Some time later, we emerged from a subway train at the Times Square stop. We paused for several minutes to take in a break dancing show, then emerged at the surface on 42nd Street. All around us, people were scurrying to get somewhere. After a short time, my friends decided to catch a movie. I abstained, choosing instead to roam the streets. About an hour into my trek, I glanced inside a TGI Friday’s and spotted the Yankees on the television at the bar. Suspecting that it was a replay of the game I had missed earlier in the afternoon, I ducked inside to have a drink. As I was settling onto a stool, I watched a Pirates’ hitter ground into a fielder’s choice. Something was unusual about that play. And why was Kevin Brown pitching for the Yankees? Then I realized what was strange about the groundout. Matt Lawton had been the hitter. I was watching a replay of a game from 2005. As I sat there, it became painfully obvious what I was watching. This was the Tony Randazzo debacle that ruined any hope for the 2005 season.
Maybe it was another poor first round draft pick. Maybe it was the realization that our team is no better than it was in June 2005. Most likely, it was the similarity between the game I was watching and the one I had just witnessed the night before. Whatever the reason, it suddenly hit me. The Pirates are screwed. They have three guys on the roster with an OPS over .800. Five of our starting eight position players have an OPS under .700. Our defense is average on a good day and agonizingly defective the rest of the time. Only two starting pitchers are having any success at the Major League level. The bullpen has been terrible, and the stock of young relievers that Dave Littlefield spent years building has been of no assistance. There is very little help in the minors, on offense or on the mound. We are selecting relievers with little upside fourth overall in the draft. With competent management, this team can be competitive in a couple of years. We all know that the Pirates do not have competent management. I ordered another drink.
The bar was closing as Randazzo ruled Gary Sheffield safe at first. I left before the Yankees completed their comeback. Depressed, I wandered back to the movie theater. Before long, my friends emerged and we caught the subway back uptown.
The Tony Randazzo loss on June 15, 2005 sent the Pirates into a tailspin from which they never recovered. The Pirates have not won since Derek Jeter’s roller ended Friday’s game. Most likely, this season is about to spiral out of control. But I will be at PNC Park tomorrow night. I will expect a victory, regardless of the probability that one might occur. Some day, the Pirates will be the champions of baseball. It might not be this year, it might not be this decade, it might not be until I am an elderly man. But no matter how long it takes, I will be there. And I will be celebrating.