Super Bowl optimism spreads
As the city I live in floats on an XL-sized high the next few days, I can feel the seeds of optimism spreading to other sports in this town. Since the Pens are awful — and frankly, I really don’t care — we’ll let this fantasy play out on the team that hasn’t played a game yet in 2006…that’s right, the Pirates.
Now, to be realistic, expectations are much different. When we’re thinking crazy thoughts about the Buccos and the ’06 season, we can let ourselves go wild with hope and say: "They’re going to finish .500!"
I know, it’s crazy talk. I let all the hysteria of the Steelers get to my head. But it could happen. And it’s the kids (see the tie-in to the Minors?) that’ll make it happen. Sure, right now, we can dream about Sean Casey hitting over. 300 in a homecoming, Jeromy Burnitz rediscovering his power stroke with that nice porch in right…but in all seriousness any hope for the future of the Pirates stems from the youth coming up right now. You heard it here first: Chris Duffy, NL Rookie of the Year. He’ll get help from fellow Bucco farmhands Nate McLouth and a full year from Ryan Doumit should help considerably. My midseason, Jose Bautista will be able to move Joe Randa aside much like Edwin Encarnacion did in Cincy last year.
But the real key to success will be the pitching. Joining less-than-old starters Kip Wells and Oliver Perez will be Zach Duke, who’ll continue to pitch exceptionally well and perhaps two other lefties in Paul Maholm (almost definite) and Tom Gorzelanny (maybe not imeediately). Or maybe Ian Snell finally gets his deserved chance in the rotation. However it falls, it’s one of the most intriguing young staffs in baseball. That rotation is what will make the Pirates aspire to winning 81 games in 2006.
OK, so maybe I’m delusional. Maybe I had too much Iron City last night. But a guy can dream, no?