Thursday, August 30, 2007

August success causes mixed emotions

Matt Capps celebrates a Pirate win on Tuesday night - AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

On July 31, the Pirates’ season was lost. They were 42-62, 14.5 games behind first place Milwaukee, and sitting in last place in the NL Central. Suddenly they got hot. The Bucs are now 17-11 in the month of August, and despite last night’s loss to the Reds, only 8.5 games behind first place Chicago.

This sudden surge has produced two different viewpoints for players and fans. The first is that the Pirates have a legitimate opportunity to reach the postseason. The Cubs are currently in first place with a mediocre record of 67-64, and nobody seems interested in winning the division. With 23 of their final 30 games against NL Central teams, the Pirates are not dead yet. Sorry, but this is not going to happen. If the Pirates could somehow win 20 of 30 games, they would still be relying on other teams to fall apart. Simply to finish tied for first place, the Pirates would need the Cubs to finish 12-19, the Brewers 13-17, St. Louis 15-18, and the Reds 18-11. Considering NL Central teams will be playing the majority of their remaining games against other NL Central teams, this is very unlikely. I thought about going through each team’s schedule to determine if it is even mathematically possible, but I do not have the energy for that sort of research. (Keep in mind, I am dreaming about some sort of miracle finish too.)

The other point of view is that a strong finish will hurt the Pirates in the end. If the Pirates approach .500 by the end of the season, it might convince management to keep general manager Dave Littlefield. The team would actually benefit by falling apart over the final month of the season, as it would force ownership to clean house. I agree that the team must fire Littlefield if it ever wants to become a quality baseball club. But I am not sure the Pirates final record in 2007 will have a large effect on the decision. The most important factor will be ownership’s choice for the CEO position. Any quality baseball mind can see that Littlefield has done a terrible job as general manager. If the new CEO decides to keep Littlefield, based on any reason, we have much larger problems in Pittsburgh. That will be the new CEO’s first true test.

So what does this mean for Pirate fans? Do not get your hopes up for a potential playoff berth. It is extremely unlikely. But we do not have to root against our Bucs. Enjoy every win that we can get.

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