With a 9-15 August in the books so far, the Buccos dropped their overall record to 68-59 and faded even farther back in the National League Central standings.
A playoff spot is questionable, and if they miss, Andrew McCutchen might miss on the MVP too.
Would it be enough for Pirates fans to just see their team finally win 81 games?
Or is the more lofty, postseason aspiration still dancing in their minds?
You tell us, Pirates fans – will you settle for achieving that .500 record in 2012? Comment below!
If so, the Pirates better right the ship, and quick. It’s not that they have been just losing. They have been getting dominated on both sides of the ball. They have been torched by the Padres, and beaten by the Astros and Cubs.
Pittsburgh starts a huge series with St. Louis today. Cy Young candidates A.J. Burnett and Kyle Lohse will take the bump. And sure enough, the Pirates’ most solid August performance came in Busch Stadium a couple of weekends ago, when they stole two out of three from the rival Cards.
But, what previously looked like a walk-in-the-park September (aside from two series against the Reds), now looks like a potentially .500 or worse month if they continue to stumble.
And speaking of that number…a .500 overall record could be in danger. Call me Captain Obvious but the pitchers need to pitch better, the hitters need to hit better, and this team must avoid being the spoilees against teams like Houston, Chicago and San Diego.
Otherwise, the ticker might stop on “80,” a number that would be devastating to see, regardless if you’re a fan of the team or not.
The Pirates have been the darlings of the National League this year. And I can only hope they will break the curse – bonus points if they snag a Wild Card. To reach that .500 mark for the first time since 1992, they need to go at least 13-22 the rest of the way.
I know it’s settling, but 81 wins would be a truly joyous occasion for the tortured fan base at PNC Park. Will they get there?
Vote below: Will the Pirates make the playoffs? Will they even make it to .500?
-Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
We’re two weeks into the MLB season. Raise your hand if you had the Dodgers at 9-1 and the Angels at 3-6 in Los Angeles. If you put your hand up, put it down. I can’t believe you would lie to me like that. Here’s what I think on this beautiful Patriots Day.
1) I’ll believe in the Dodgers record when they play better teams. The San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t exactly the strongest teams in Major League Baseball. Matt Kemp is making his case for the best player in the league. Kemp currently leads the National League in slugging (1.026), OPS (1.548), home runs (6), total bases (40), runs batted in (16), runs (13) and hits (19). Hitting .487 apparently isn’t good enough for the league-lead, thanks a lot David Wright. The Dodgers have the Brewers and Astros on the road, then come home for the Braves and Nationals. We’ll know a lot more about them after those two weeks, than these first two.
2) Santiago Casilla should get a shot at the Giants closer role once again. We talked about it on the podcast and I have to re-emphasize it. Casilla was able to convert 6 of 7 save chances last leason and has been dazzling with a sub 2.00 ERA in each of the past two years. Casilla would be more suited for the clean slate 9th inning role trying to pick up saves. He would be better suited to be able to work himself out of trouble as he’s more prone to walking batters than Sergio Romo. Romo should be saved for the high-pressure situations. Romo’s 13.1 K/9 in 2011 is better served in jams when the Giants need a strikeout to prevent runs from scoring.
3) Don’t get off the Matt Moore bandwagon just yet. My controversial pick for AL Cy Young is off to a shaky start with a 5.54 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP. Facing the Tigers and the Red Sox on the road can do that to you. The Red Sox used their usual game plan of taking a lot of pitches and Moore obliged with four walks in 6.1 innings. Look for Moore to get on track at home this week against the Twins.
4) No Pujols, no LaRussa, no Duncan, no problem for the St. Louis Cardinals. David Freese looks like the real deal so far after those expecting a drop off after his postseason heroics. Carlos Beltran’s under-the-radar signing has paid early dividends. Lance Lynn has stepped right into the rotation spot left empty by Chris Carpenter’s injury with a 2-0 record and a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings. The only setback has Adam Wainwright who still doesn’t seem right coming back from Tommy John surgery.
5) All the teams in the NL East will finish over .500. The Phillies and Braves were the obvious teams on this list at the start of the season and are off to so-so starts. The surprises have been the Nationals and Mets who are 7-3 and 6-3 respectively. The Nationals pitching that I said was the most underrated staff coming into the 2012 season has been spectaular with an ERA under 2.00 through the first 10 games. The Marlins once they get through their off-the-field problems and can focus on baseball will be there in the end. How spectacular was the home run structure going off in Marlins Park? We all owe Omar Infante a debt of gratitude for setting it off. Here’s the link to it.
What do you think so far about the season? Let us know in the comments!
Today, Major League Baseball released the list of the 20 best-selling jerseys in 2011. Derek Jeter to no one’s surprise led MLB in jersey sales (He also was tops in 2010). His Yankee teammate Mariano Rivera still cracked the list at #18 despite being north of 40 years old. However, which jerseys are the best investments for the common baseball fan? One that collects items from all teams, not just their favorite team.
Jeremy Dorn and I are going to do this draft style. He won the toss and will pick 1st, while I get the 2nd and 3rd and then alternate after that. What we’re looking for in our jersey investments are quality of player, potential time in uniform, and overall awesomeness. Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera would have been high on this list in 1997. Now lets see if they can crack out top 20 as their careers wind down.
Pick #1: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
You know I have to go with my boy Matt Kemp. He was one home run shy of 40/40 last season, and just signed a long-term deal with the Dodgers. So to meet the criteria, we have the quality, we have the time spent in uniform, and the overall awesomeness speaks for itself. But I’ll elaborate anyway, because I have an unhealthy bromance with Kemp. Undoubtedly the best five-tool player in baseball today, Kemp hits for average (.324 in 2011), power (39 home runs, 126 RBI last year), steals bases (40), plays defense, and guns people from the outfield (NL Gold Glove for center field). He does all these things while being incredibly handsome. That’s all. Go buy a #27 jersey, everyone.
Pick #2: Joey Votto, Reds
A pick I don’t think you saw coming. After signing a long extension, Votto will be in a Reds uniform potentially through the 2024 season. That’s what I’m looking for in my picks. It’s much easier for me to buy a jersey, when I have the security that player won’t be gone any time soon. Votto is no slouch of a player either. He is the 2010 NL MVP and his 162 game averages of .313 BA/31 HR/105 RBI will only get better as he continues in his current prime. He’ll end up on a short list of greatest Reds of all-time especially if he leads the Queen City to their first World Series title since 1990. What also helps Votto’s case is what other Reds jersey would you buy? Brandon Phillips? Johnny Cueto? Jay Bruce? Drew Stubbs? Give me Votto all day.
Pick #3: Albert Pujols, Angels
The player you probably thought I was going with at #2, but the extra length on Votto’s contract gave him the nod over Pujols. It’s always nice to get in on the ground floor of a new player that has just joined a team. Especially when he signs a NINE-year contract. Angels fans won’t go wrong having a Pujols #5 jersey in their closet as he passes milestone after milestone and ends his career in Anaheim. Pujols’ credentials speak for themself, 3-time MVP, 9-time All-Star, 2-time World Series champion, and 445 home runs and counting. You gave me potentially the greatest player in MLB history in my closet, hope you can recover from that.
Pick #4: Matt Cain, Giants
Hah! Gotcha, Mapes. I hate the Giants with all my might, but I can’t deny greatness when I see it. Cain just signed a long extension in San Francisco and should be at the top of the rotation, dominating poor National League hitters for almost another decade. If you want a guy who not only oozes talent and will be in one place for a long time, but is also generally accepted as one of baseball’s good guys, go buy a Matt Cain #18 jersey. Even if it is that ugly orange and black.
Pick #5: Ryan Braun, Brewers
Hah! Gotcha, Dorn. That wouldn’t be the Giants jersey I would buy AND I just got the Dodger fan to take a Giants jersey. I’ll take Ryan Braun last year’s NL MVP. With Prince Fielder now in Detroit, it doesn’t leave many options for a Brewers jersey in your closet. Braun is signed in Milwaukee through the 2020 season with a mutual option for 2021, or as I like to call it “longer than Matt Cain.” I love that I have now locked up the last four years worth of National League MVP’s in my closet while you’re sitting with your favorite player and not even the best pitcher on your hated rival. Advantage Mapes. Bonus point for Braun is you get the sweet, baseball mitt style Brewers uniform.
Pick #6: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
First of all, I only took Cain because I’m butt hurt that the Dodgers can’t sign him. It makes sense, just let the logic sink in. I guess we’ll see which Giants jersey you WOULD take here soon *cough, Posey, cough* and that’s nice that you want to represent a player who roids. Well done. I’m taking Miggy for Detroit and his yearly MVP quest. I recently ranked him as the second best player in all of baseball and his numbers back that up. I don’t even care to look how long he will be with the Tigers under his current contract. Why? Because if he moves to a new team, I’ll gladly go out and get the new jersey anyway! That’s how badass this guy is.
Pick #7: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Sure go buy a new Cabrera jersey after 2015, maybe he’ll even go to the Dodgers. Nah, he’ll probably be another free agent they don’t sign. I’m taking the best shortstop in the game, Mr. Troy Tulowitzki. Rockies lock up their players long-term, if you had bought a Todd Helton jersey in 1997, you’d still be wearing it proudly today. (Top 4: Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Helton) I’ll take nine years of Tulo than 4 years of Cabrera any day. He hasn’t even hit his peak and has batting titles in his future hitting in Coors Field. Plus, chicks dig the purple. It’s science.
Pick #8: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Who doesn’t love a little Cutch? McCutchen is locked up for the next half decade at least with Pittsburgh, and when the Pirates finally climb back above .500 and start to contend again, McCutchen is going to be the face of the new era. He plays a solid center field and can rake with the best of them. He’s still young too…give him another two or three years and you’ll be seeing #22 jerseys everywhere. Not just in Pittsburgh.
Pick #9: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
You finally have a pick I like. I have to go with my man Giancarlo Stanton before you snap him up on me. Hell, I’m wearing his jersey t-shirt in my favorite color (orange) right now. I don’t have to worry about the Marlins changing their uniforms so I know I’m getting full tenure of the jersey when he’s in Miami. Stanton isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, where I might get worried that he moves on in free agency. Even then he’ll just be entering his prime and I have no qualms of getting another Stanton jersey, preferably a Braves one.
Pick #10: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Bring on the girlfriend jokes. I know, I know. But is there really a cooler catcher to get a jersey of in baseball right now? Not only is he far and away the best defensive catcher in baseball, but he really brought on his offensive game in 2011. Talk all you want about Pujols and Freese and Carpenter from last year’s World Series run, but Yadi is the heart and soul of that team. There’s a reason he looks so angry all the time – he’s a very intense, focused player. And even though he wouldn’t care, I’d love to rep his jersey. That #4 is going to be the backstop for the Cards through at least 2017.
Pick #11: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
I’ll even let you take Jose and Bengie Molina’s jerseys too. You could’ve had Molina in the last round if you wanted, but I’m sure you do look good in Cardinal red. I’m gonna go with the jersey t-shirt I actually bought today. I had a Jonathan Papelbon jersey t-shirt and we had a good run from 2006-2011, I picked Gonzalez today over Jacoby Ellsbury. The Red Sox have A-Gon in the lineup through 2018, I’ll take a solid seven years out of this shirt. There are no worries about the Red Sox changing uniforms. There’s a guy sitting out there that I thought would go top 5, but I can’t bring myself to take him yet. Maybe next round.
Pick #12: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
King Felix is still one of the most underappreciated pitchers in baseball. Mostly because he’s been buried on bad teams in Seattle. You’ve to go love this guy. He’s already established himself as one of the best pitchers in the game, and he’s still surprisingly young. If you have any baseball fashion sense (says the guy wearing jeans, $25 Nikes and a 10-year-old sweater), you know the Mariners jerseys are sick. And when you throw the “Hernandez” across the shoulders, you’re really stylin’! Felix loves living in the Pacific Northwest and is already signed there for a while longer. But I feel like by the time he’s due a new deal, the M’s will be contending, so I’ll take my chances.
Pick #13: Prince Fielder, Tigers
You really just picked a guy who’s rampant in trade rumors and is more than likely gone after 2014? You’re gonna go poor with all the jersey you have to buy. I’ll take the player I thought was going to go in the top 5 picks, the Tiger you should have picked, and a slugger that’s signed in the uniform through 2020, Prince Fielder! Chicks dig the long ball and Fielder provides that. Tigers also have a timeless uniform and worst case if he leaves, I can always pretend it’s a Cecil Fielder jersey.
Pick #14: Eric Hosmer, Royals
I have so much bro love for Hosmer that it hurts. He’s still on his rookie deal and will more than likely be the next long-term deal handed out by Royals management. You know I have to get a Hosmer jersey in that powder blue, too. As for the Fielder jersey, it’s a solid choice. He’s going to be a popular choice though, and I am more of a dark horse jersey kind of man. For example, I rep my James Loney Dodger jersey proudly all the time. Now imagine another pretty blue jersey with another first baseman’s name across the back? Hosmer is the best young first baseman in the game, Freddie Freeman be damned.
Pick #15: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
That is the first pick you’ve made that made slam something in anger. I should’ve gone Hosmer over Prince because you already had a Tigers jersey. That was a misstep on my part. I’ll redeem myself with taking the ONLY pitcher jersey I would buy and that is Strasburg. I fear the big injury with pitchers and they never recover, but I think Strasburg already has that out of the way. There is no player in MLB that gets the attention he does when he’s on his game. He’s under contract until 2016 and I look really good in red.
Pick #16: Matt Moore, Rays
Whoa, calm down there buddy! Strasburg is the ONLY pitcher’s jersey you would take? I think the fact that he’s already been injured is reason to NOT take him. What if the same problem crops up again? Once you’re damaged goods, you will literally always have the injury questions following you. So I’ll go with a guy who’s very young, very talented and going to be a breakout star in Tampa in 2012. He’s still on a rookie deal so he should be around for at least four more years, and he will have a chance to contend for a Cy Young by 2013 in my opinion. Moore, Felix and Cain. I dig my pitcher jerseys!
Pick #17: Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays
You’re right, I’d probably take a Matt Moore jersey too. I even picked him to win AL Cy Young this year somewhere on this blog. You took Hosmer, so I’ve to get a young stud in a blue jersey too and none better than Brett Lawrie. Toronto just updated their uniforms coming into this season, so hopefully they stick with them for a while. Lawrie is also a Canadian born and bred, so I have a feeling he can be a lifetime Blue Jay, unless they stick a team in Vancouver in the next 15 years, making this a safer investment.
Pick #18: Carlos Santana, Indians
You can’t take a guy who hasn’t actually proved anything yet…can you? I’m going with a sure bet. I don’t know if Santana will ever bring his average up, but the power game alone is going to keep fans in love with this young catcher. Plus, I’m still a little bitter that the Dodgers traded him away for Casey Blake. Talk about a bad decision. Right now, I’ve got the best young catcher in the AL Central, the best young first baseman, and the best overall player in the division all tied up on my team. I’m not a huge fan of that division, but I’ll gladly wear these guys’ jerseys.
Pick #19: Buster Posey, Giants
I’ll take the guy I knew you wouldn’t pick or be ridiculed for being a Dodgers fan with two Giants jerseys in his closet. Posey went to my favorite college when I was little (Florida State) and we have the same birthday! How do I NOT take him? As previously mentioned, orange is my favorite color too. Posey is on his way to super stardom and being the best catcher in the game, unless Joe Mauer can get himself back on track. A steal this late in the jersey draft as Posey’s jersey was in the top 20 sold in 2011 and he was hurt for the 2nd half.
Pick #20: Robinson Cano, Yankees
How can you have an epic jersey collection without a Yankee in there? I know they are the Evil Empire but if you think those classic threads are ugly, you are a sad, sorry person. If I’m going to take a Yank, it’s gotta be Cano. He’s the future of their franchise and has already established himself as a legit MVP candidate. He’ll be there for life more than likely as all great Yankees are. When I put that on, I’ll get evil glares until they see the big #20 on my back.
Clearly, I’ve out-drafted you tonight, Mapes. I’ll give you props for taking Giancarlo, Tulo and Strasburg. They are bold picks and we could be talking about those three for years to come. But Votto, Prince, Pujols and A-Gon? Come on, I know you’re more original than that! Everyone already has those ones, and while they look pretty, you’ll be matching about 5,000 other fans at any given game.
My team is clearly the more solid one, what with a classic Yankee jersey, the best young star in baseball (Kemp), and three awesome pitchers included on the rack. When making these choices, one must consider first how the jersey looks, then how relevant the player is. And anyone who thinks a Yadi Molina Cards jersey won’t just be pure glory is clearly in contact with Ryan Braun’s dealer.
Robinson Cano was going to make my honorable mention list, but they fact that he’s a free agent after next season kept me at bay. If he got signed to a 7-year extension tomorrow, he catapults to top 3. I was for players that I know I will get many years of enjoyment out of. You will be buying jerseys left and right while I’ll still slip on my Votto, Pujols, Fielder, and Gonzalez late into this decade. Gonzalez isn’t as owned as you think in Boston, I’ve actually been to Fenway Park. Plus, I have the color wheel completely covered red, purple, navy blue, bright blue, black, and orange. My quality of player is also far better and I didn’t pick a jersey of my biggest rival with my 2nd pick, what kind of fan are you?
Here are our honorable mentions!
Jeremy: Yonder Alonso (Padres), Justin Upton (Diamondbacks), and Jose Bautista (Blue Jays)
Bryan: Starlin Castro (Cubs), Jason Heyward/Freddie Freeman (Braves), and Joe Mauer (Twins)
Final Jersey Rosters:
Jeremy: Kemp (Dodgers), Cain (Giants), Cabrera (Tigers), McCutchen (Pirates), Molina (Cardinals), Hernandez (Mariners), Hosmer (Royals), Moore (Rays), Santana (Indians), and Cano (Yankees)
Bryan: Votto (Reds), Pujols (Angels), Braun (Brewers), Tulowitzki (Rockies), Stanton (Marlins), Gonzalez (Red Sox), Fielder (Tigers), Strasburg (Nationals), Lawrie (Blue Jays), Posey (Giants)
The fact that we got through twenty players and there are still a bunch of players that I would proudly wear on the street, shows what a great place America’s pastime is in.
Who would you want in your collection? Vote in the poll, eave a comment or yell at us on Twitter @Mapes4FanCave for Bryan or @Jamblinman for Jeremy!
Opening Night turned into the Kyle Lohse show as the Cardinals pitcher baffled the Marlins in the debut of their new stadium, even no-hitting them for the first 6 innings. The Cardinals won 4-1 to spoil the Marlins Park festivities. It’s on to Opening Day now for 13 more teams on Thursday. Here’s something to look for in each game.
Red Sox at Tigers 1:05 EST
The obvious is the debut of Prince Fielder. Even better though, is the best pitching matchup of the day between reigning AL MVP Justin Verlander and Jon Lester. Lester has struggled against Detroit in his career, so look for the Motor City to be in a jovial mood.
Braves at Mets 1:10 PM EST
The return of Johan Santana to the Mets rotation after missing all of the 2011 season. Santana pitches well against Atlanta carrying a 2.28 ERA in 12 career starts, despite a 3-6 record. What you won’t see or hear are the LARRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYY chants at Citi Field, as Chipper Jones will be on the DL to start the season for the Braves.
Phillies at Pirates 1:35 EST
The Battle of Pennsylvania kicks off the season. How will the Phillies lineup fare without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley? Erik Bedard takes the hill for the Pirates, which might cure some of the offensive problems.
Nationals at Cubs 2:20 EST
Stephen Strasburg settled down late in spring training and looks ready for his first Opening Day start. Ryan Dempster looks for redemption after a disastrous 2011 Opening Day start giving up 6 runs, but Dempster has a 9-1 career record against Washington.
Blue Jays at Indians 3:05 EST
Possibly the most underrated pitching matchup with Ricky Romero vs. Justin Masterson. However, all eyes will be on the Blue Jays budding superstar Brett Lawrie who comes in with a lot of hype after delivering in his 2011 Major League stint.
Marlins at Reds 4:10 EST
Despite the loss, the pressure is off the Marlins on the road. It’s all on the new 200+ million dollar man, Joey Votto, Cincinnati fans are excited for this season with great reason as they are among the favorites for the NL Central crown.
Dodgers at Padres 7:05 EST
The night cap of opening day Thursday (or late afternoon cap for fans of these teams) features NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. With the weak-hitting Padres lineup and Petco Park in effect, you’re on alert for the 1st Opening Day no-hitter since Bob Feller in 1940.
It’s time for one of the best days on the sports calendar, enjoy all the games!