Some thoughts on the Pittsburgh Pirates and baseball in general as the 2023 Major League Baseball season begins.
Even though I spend the majority of my writing time writing about hockey and yell the most about football, I have always told people that baseball is my absolute favorite sport. It is the sport I grew up playing (poorly), and it is the sport that I enjoy watching in person the most. I have the ballpark checklist that everybody seems to have, wanting to go to every stadium (I am about halfway through), and it is the one sport I will travel to just for the purpose of seeing a game in person involving two teams I do not have a rooting interest in.
I love it.
Because I grew up in Pittsburgh, and the local Major League Baseball team is a consistent disaster, my love of baseball tends to get overshadowed by my work and my screaming about the Steelers.
But make no mistake, this is my time to shine!
Now that baseball season is here, let’s get into some things as they relate to both the Pirates and the league as a whole.
Bring on the pitch clock
Normally when MLB commissioner Rob Manfred had introduced something new to baseball I have absolutely hated it because chances are it fucking SUCKS. But not this year. I am on board with MOST of the new rules in place this year, and especially the introduction of the pitch clock.
This is not putting a time on baseball.
It is not putting a time limit on baseball.
The baseball itself still remains untimed.
The only thing that is timed is the dead time between the baseball.
Does this mean a game will be played in a shorter time period than we have become used to? Sure does. But up until the mid-1980s Major League Baseball games were routinely completed in under two-and-a-half hours. I remember going to the Forbes Field wall day a few years ago and listening to the real-time broadcast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, and that game, which featured 19 runs and was the literal decisive game of the World Series, was played in under three hours. The whole idea of a three-and-a-half or four-hour time period to complete a baseball game is a very, very new development.
And it sucks.
Not because spending time at the ballpark sucks. Not because baseball sucks. But because at least half of the time you were sitting there you watching batters step out of the box to readjust their batting gloves, pitchers take forever to deliver a pitch, and sometimes a combination of both.
That shit is GONE. The pitch clock violations we saw in spring training will also go away as well as players adjust. The Minor League players adjusted to it last year, the big leaguers will adjust to it this year.
That change, along with the slighter bigger bases, might also bring back the stolen base. Which I am also on board with.
The only one of the rule changes I am not entirely in favor of is the ban on defensive shifts. I do not like limiting strategy like that, and I am not sure it is going to have the effect the league thinks it will. Especially as teams find loopholes in how to still put an extra fielder on a particular side of the field (the Boston Red Sox were moving an outfielder over between first and second in the spring).
Let’s talk about the Pirates
My expectations for this team are low. Astonishingly low. I do think it is likely they will improve from a year ago, but that is setting an astonishingly low bar. They have lost 100 games two years in a row, and played at a 100-loss pass in the shortened 2020 season. They almost HAVE to improve just because it seems almost impossible to believe that a team can play at a 100-loss pass four years in a row.
But how much of an improvement they actually show — and if it actually matters — remains to be seen.
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