What does .500 generally mean for any sports club? The answer is mediocrity. To the fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, though, it means much more.
The Pirates haven’t been .500 since 1992, coincidentally the final year of the Barry Bonds era in Pittsburgh. As of today, the Pirates are 17-17 after taking two-of-three from the bottom feeding Houston Astros.
They received three quality starts from Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton and James McDonald. Maholm and McDonald picked up no decisions and Morton picked up the victory. Solid pitching, timely hitting and “small ball” have done wonders for the Pirates this season. They haven’t been .500 on Mother’s Day since 2005 when they were 30-30.
Neil Huntington, general manager of the Pirates, has taken criticism for dealing away the Pirates best players in the past few years. Other than Jason Bay, Jose Bautista and Freddy Sanchez, the other players weren’t “great” baseball players to begin with. They were average at best. I would give the front office a pass for giving up on Bautista because he was performing like an average Major League Baseball player.
Can we give Huntington his due for what we have seen this year? I understand it is early, but a few players have played great baseball.
Charlie Morton came over in the Nate McLouth deal. The front office took criticism for allowing Morton opportunity after opportunity last season. He has improved on his accuracy this year. Although it is still a work in progress, he has turned out to be a reliable starter thus far. He is 4-1 with a 3.13 ERA. He has 24 strikeouts and 24 walks, but has shown better endurance and concentration.
Joel Hanrahan came over with Lastings Milledge in a trade with the Washington Nationals. Hanrahan has a 1.50 ERA to go along with 10 saves.
James McDonald has performed well in his last two outings. He came over in a deal that sent Octavio Dotel to the Dodgers.
Brandon Wood came over after the Angels gave up on him and has been solid defensively, patient at the plate and clutch with runners in scoring position.
Huntington has made mistakes along the way, but the original plan to blow up the team and start over was the right idea.
Who knows how long this .500 deal will last but can’t we just enjoy it? The Pirates are playing good baseball in May and that isn’t something we are accustomed to.
About the Author
Written by Justin Welton
Born in Franklin, PA. Life-long Pittsburgh sports fan + Boston Celtics. Attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Working for WCUC - 91.7 and WCUB-TV. Clarion Call writer for two years.