It’s weird seeing things from the other side. About six years ago the Pirates were exactly where the Houston Astros are right now. They were in complete rebuild mode, trying to build up a depleted farm system, and looking horrible in the majors. There’s no hope in the short-term, and it may take a few years before the Astros have any hope for the long-term.
When the Astros moved to the AL West this year, it meant the Pirates lost an opponent that they went 12-5 against last year. The Pirates were the Milwaukee Brewers and the Astros were the Pittsburgh Pirates. The next chapter in that book came tonight when the Pirates won on a walk off error. Bases loaded, two outs, 3-2 pitch. Russell Martin pops it up, Houston pitcher Edgar Gonzalez immediately celebrates, and then two fielders collide in the outfield and Travis Snider scores. It’s almost exactly the type of thing that would have happened to the Pirates against the Brewers the last few years. The only problem is that this chapter isn’t really a chapter, but a short-story. After the Astros leave Pittsburgh this weekend, the two teams are done for the year. There won’t be 14 other games where the Pirates can look forward to easy series wins.
Watching that dropped pop up tonight, my first thought was “I miss the Astros.” What the Pirates have been doing so far this year has been fantastic. They’ve been beating a lot of really good teams. So far they’re 4-3 against the Brewers, which is just as impressive as any other set of games they’ve played this year. They had the toughest schedule in the month of April, and went 15-12. They’ve got an easier schedule in May, and so far they’re taking advantage with a 10-5 record. But seeing so many Astros games replaced on the schedule by better opponents — and just replacing the Astros gives you a better opponent automatically — kind of makes it feel like it can never be easy for the Pirates.
I also thought about how it must suck to be an Astros fan right now. Scratch that. I thought about how I know exactly how it sucks to be an Astros fan right now. Sports can mean different things to different people. Some people live and die by sports. Some people view it as a form of entertainment. Some people have a casual interest, usually when the team is doing well. No matter what your interest level, it’s never fun when your team is that bad.
My interest level tends to be around the “entertainment” area. I don’t get affected personally by individual losses, or late season collapses, and I don’t get overly elated over wins, or the process of contending. Part of that is because I’ve spent so many years trying to predict different aspects of the game that it doesn’t seem like a game to me anymore. But another part is because I view the game the same way I’d view a movie. It could be like The Avengers, where I watch it, want to immediately watch it again, and look forward to each additional Avengers movie comes out. That’s where the Pirates are at right now, or at least heading in that direction.
The Astros are in Transformers 2 territory. They’re so bad that it’s tarnishing anything that happened previously. You’re not really looking forward to the next installment. The plot lines in the current installment are extremely predictable. Those two annoying robots who were pretty much the equivalent of wanna-be white rappers weren’t what you came for. No one cares about a love story with contrived tension. The parents are more support characters and were given too big of a role. The biggest character had a small role. Why is Ronny Cedeno in this movie?
I don’t know enough about the Astros to know which players apply to which examples above. An Astros blogger might be able to make that connection better, although they might not have seen Transformers 2. For that, they’re probably better off.
What I do know is that you’ve got to feel for Astros fans right now. It’s going to be enjoyable for the next two games watching the Pirates play the worst team in baseball. But after that there’s no reason to root against them. It’s not like they’re located in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Atlanta or New York. And while Pirates fans totally understand what the Astros fans are going through right now, I think it’s safe to say that the reminder the Astros are bringing this weekend makes the current success much sweeter. The Astros are a reminder of where the Pirates were several years ago, and the current team is a much more preferable situation. So I miss the Astros. But I don’t miss the reminder they bring of what it’s like to see a horrible franchise night after night.
Links and Notes
**The 2013 Prospect Guide and the 2013 Annual are both available on the products page of the site. If you order them together, you’ll save $5.
**Check out the new episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 4: Are the Pirates For Real? Plus a Jameson Taillon Interview.