First Pitch: The Year the Pirates Finally Add a Rival

Cincinnati Reds

Are the Reds the biggest rival for the Pirates?

Way back when the Pittsburgh Pirates were added to the NL Central, they were robbed of a lot of natural rivalries. The Philadelphia Phillies being the big one. The Atlanta Braves, although that would have probably led to a 300% increase in Sid Bream highlights each season. It would even be easy to have a rivalry with the New York Mets or the Washington Nationals (especially if the Penguins/Capitals fans bring the Pittsburgh/Washington feud to baseball).

Yet the Pirates have been stuck in the NL Central without any real rivals. Part of that is the move. Another part is that it’s hard to have a rivalry when you’re horrible year after year. The Pirates beat up on the Astros and get destroyed by the Brewers. That has been the story for the last several years.

There have been some sparks. Take the Brewers, for example. The Dave Kerwin incident. Crying Braun. But it’s hard to tell if that’s a rivalry that started when Randall Simon started clubbing mascots, or just Pirates fans and the Pirates themselves being frustrated at constantly losing to the Brewers. They’re 6-4 this year, and it doesn’t seem like that hostility is there.

The Reds, on the other hand, have emerged as a potential rival. From a location standpoint, the two teams are close enough to be area rivals. Cincinnati is actually slightly closer to Pittsburgh than Philadelphia. The Cardinals, Brewers, and Cubs have dominated the division in the past, and the Pirates and Reds are now emerging to take those two spots behind the Cardinals, who are always good. So you’ve got two young teams who have a shot at battling it out in meaningful games beyond the 2013 season.

Neither team owns the other team. This year the Pirates are 5-3 against Cincinnati. Last year the Reds won 11-7. The year before it was the Pirates winning 10-5. In 2010 it was 10-6 Cincinnati. So it’s not a situation like Milwaukee where there’s some bad blood, but it’s less interesting because you know that one team historically dominates the other team.

Then you’ve got the beanball wars. Aroldis Chapman hit Andrew McCutchen last year, and McCutchen wasn’t the same for the rest of the season. Brandon Phillips is always wanting retaliation against someone. On Monday night McCutchen was hit by Leake (probably accidental there), and Chapman buzzed a pitch by Neil Walker’s head (probably not as accidental). First pitch of Tuesday’s game: Charlie Morton hits Shin-Soo Choo. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Reds retaliate tomorrow, as they couldn’t tonight with the immediate warning by the umpire.

The beanball wars and the fact that these two teams are battling it out in the best division in baseball are key ingredients for a rivalry. The fact that neither team has a significant advantage over the other team helps. What could be interesting is if the two sides meet up in the Wild Card game. Currently that seems to be the consensus projection, and if the season ended today they’d be playing that game in Cincinnati.

Ultimately any sort of good rivalry is only possible if both teams are competitive. We wouldn’t be talking about this at all if the Reds or the Pirates were at the bottom of the division. Since they’re both competitive this year, it makes each game matter. As the season continues we’ll highlight those Cincinnati games, and especially the stretch at the end of the year where the Pirates play the Reds six times in their last nine games. The back and forth beanball wars only add to the fire.

Rivalries help make the game fun. Winning is always fun, but a win over a rival has a different feel than a win over someone like the Mariners or Angels who never play the Pirates. After years of going without a real rival, it seems the Pirates have found one in the Reds. We’ll see if that rivalry escalates tomorrow after today’s Pirates win — both on the scoreboard and in the beanball wars.

What do you think? Are the Reds the biggest rival for the Pirates? Do games against the Reds matter more to you than games against any other team?

Links and Notes

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker.

Prospects

**Jim Callis Releases His Updated Top 10 Pirates Prospects.

**Prospect Watch: Santos Walks Off in Altoona; Jamestown With Another Shutout.

**Jin-De Jhang Homers to Continue Hot Start; Brewer Throws Five Shutout Innings.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates Drop Two Games On Monday.

**Minor League Schedule: Gomez Tries Again For Second Rehab Start.

**Analyzing the Recent Chain of Promotions in the Minor League System.

**Pirates Officially Sign Reese McGuire.

**Pirates Save Slot Money on Shane Carle – Bonus Pool Updates.

Pirates

**Pirates Retaliate Against the Reds in the Best Way Possible With a 4-0 Win.

**Mike Zagurski Outrighted to Triple-A.

**Pirates Playoff Odds: Strong Homestand Bumps Up Chances.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://atung.net/ Steve Zielinski

    The Cubs are rivals. I’ve noticed many Pirates fans taking pleasure whenever the Cubs struggle.

    I only need to recall the “Thank You Pirates” sign during their last playoff series in order to contact my inner demon. Those fans were thanking the McClatchyfield regime for giving the Cubs ARam, Lofton, Simon and money for Hernandez, Hill and two players whose names I’ve now forgotten.
    Yet, it will take years of hard competition before many yinzers find the kind of hate for a Central Division team like they have for the Capitals, Flyers and Ravens.

  • Blue Bomber

    I will always hate the Brewers. The Pirates have been beaten up by a lot of franchises over the last twenty years (I remember not being able to beat the Astros or Cardinals for years). However, I don’t think any team tried to intentionally humiliate the Pirates the way the Brewers did. Their complete lack of respect for the franchise and us as fans will forever leave a bad taste in my mouth.

    That being said, these Reds are very easy to dislike. Chapman hitting McCutchen was one of the most ‘little league’ moments I’ve ever seen. Votto always has an annoyingly smug look on his face. I could list a hundred reasons to dislike Brandon Phillips. Bruce and McCutchen will always be compared and evaluated against one another. Ya, I don’t really like them either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    I’m not sure why, but I just can’t bring myself to hate the Reds as much as I hate the Brewers.
    .
    YET!! :)

    • Monkshot

      I don’t like the Reds, but I respect them. The Brewers are a different story, I hate them. I understand the Pirates were horrible, but they would disrespect us every chance they had. They enjoyed kicking us when we were down. The worst was the choreographed walk off home run by Fielder. I couldn’t believe they took the time to think up a celebration to use against a struggling team. It’s like somebody showing up the Marlins, it’s low class.

  • https://profiles.google.com/107500598404660809214 Kerry Writtenhouse

    I live smack dab in the middle of Reds country! I’ve hated the Reds for 40 years! From the Big Red Machine of the 70’s through today, I hate the Reds with every fiber of my being.

  • skliesen

    Pirates may consider Reds and/or Cardinals as rivals, but I’d be surprised if those teams felt the same way. Pirates got to put together a winning season first.

  • deacs

    A big part of me is happy when the Reds beat the Brewers. This makes zero sense but I can’t help it. I hate the Brewers. I really hate Phillips but as a whole I really don’t hate the Reds, nor the Cards. We need to be competitive for there to be a rivalry and I think we’re almost there.

  • leadoff

    I think the Reds have a couple of players that stir things up, but for the most part I don’t think there is a anywhere near a fierce rivalry.
    As I watched that game last night could not help to think of a division for the Pirates that would make a lot of sense and this is what I came up with.
    1.Reds
    2.Indians
    3.Phillies
    4.Mets
    5.Nats
    A division like this makes a lot more sense to me than having the Brewers and the Cards in the same division with the Pirates, also for the Indians, having the Twins in their division makes no sense.
    You would develop some rivalries from a division like this one.

  • finner68

    I dislike all the division rivals. The Brewers are the team I dislike the most. Braun is cheat and liar. The Reds are a close second. The Cardinals are just good all the time. If all the young pitching they brought up remains healthy and effective, they will continue to be the team to beat.

  • piratemike

    To me the only rivalry is with the No. 82. Until you have a competitive team all you have is other teams that look down their noses at you.
    Why shouldn’t other teams show distain for the Pirates when they have been a national joke for 20 years.
    When the Pirates put together a string of winning seasons and gain the respect of all of baseball then you can create real rivalries.
    I don’t like Hockey fights and I don’t like the beanball war going on between the Reds and Bucs. MLB should step in right now and put a stop to it before somebody gets seriously injured. Remember a guy named Tony Conigliari (sp.) for Boston whos life was ruined by a beanball?

  • leadoff

    I don’t believe other teams show distain for the Pirates, Lealand said the Pirates are for real.
    I believe the fans do show distain for the Pirates, most fans in St. Louis see a team like the Pirates come to town and pay little attention to them, Cards fans would fill the stadium if they were playing Pitt.
    I was watching a Cards game about a month ago and they had a fan poll and the poll was about who the Cards should fear the most in the division, of course the Reds were tops on the fear list but guess who came in 3rd? it was the Cubs then the Pirates, then the Brewers. Shows how bright those knowledgeable Cards fans are.

  • smurph

    I’m old enough to remember when the Pirates and Reds were big rivals – first in the early 60’s. The Pirates won the WS in ’60 and the Reds lost the WS in ’61. Then in the early 70’s, it was the Res vs. the Pirates in the playoffs almost every year. Who can forget the Bob Moose wild pitch in 1972 (I think). I also remember in the early 60’s there were only 3 teams wearing the sleeveless jerseys – Pirates, Reds and Indians. Also my Dad was a Reds fan when I was a kid, so there was a rivalry in our house.