Pittsburgh Pirates


Dave Parker, crushing it.

Dave Parker, crushing it.

A few years ago at a place of business we shall leave nameless, I was feeling less than inspired. It was hard to see what, if any, impact I was really making beyond just getting through another day without throwing an inkjet printer three floors down into the lobby. It’s your run-of-the-mill office restlessness, but it was mine and it came at a point where it all felt like one cumbersome weight.

The saving grace here was that I wasn’t alone. I had three or four co-conspirators who were just as frustrated and annoyed by our rigid 8-to-5 life, and we came up with a series of inside jokes to help pass the time.

One of them featured the gentleman in this card, Dave Parker. By the time I learned about him, he was augmenting the Bash Brothers in Oakland, a still-viable designated hitter in his late 30s who could send 20 or more baseballs out of the park. We discovered some truly amazing pictures of Parker in his earlier days as a veritable baseball hurricane in Pittsburgh, winning MVP awards and sporting some terrifying face gear and occasionally lighting one up in the dugout. We printed up all of these and hung them up around the office.

I also had this card of him as a Milwaukee Brewer and I taped it to the monitor of my computer. When things got tough or our boss gave us yet another meaningless or impossible task, it was, “be strong like Dave Parker,” or “what would Dave Parker do?”

It’s March now. This is the time to start thinking about baseball and bitching about lineups and Spring Training scores, typically. But always, it seems like a good time to chill before crushing whatever problem is staring us in the face into oblivion.

What would Dave Parker do? He’d chill. Then he’d take care of business.

Cobra

Sizemore was good, but he didn't quite match Evans' Opening Day record.

Sizemore was good, but he didn’t quite match Evans’ Opening Day record.

At this point in the season, it may finally be safe to assume that all Opening Days, save for the home openers of individual teams that may not have happened yet, are finally in the books. Overseas, Sunday nights, the real thing Monday, the Yankees and Astros finally playing a game on Tuesday, and then teams even getting in a second and sometimes third or fourth game as of yesterday. Baseball is back, officially back, standings count, statistics are being accumulated, and so on.

Focusing squarely on the Monday Opening Day, when most teams played their first game and played most of them in the day, there was no shortage of highlights amid the excitement. Neil Walker hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Pirates a win over the Cubs. Old friend Alex Gonzalez gave his new team, the Tigers, a game-winning hit against the Royals. The Mets game was delayed when they didn’t have a first baseman on the field, so they’re already in mid-season form.

And here, Grady Sizemore, playing in his first Major League game since 2011, hit a home run in what became a 2-1 loss in Baltimore against the Orioles. Where Opening Day is a time to quickly survey the rest of the league, most of Spring Training was focused on the Red Sox, and Sizemore’s phoenix-like comeback had been the focus. Seeing him already playing well in his first real action seemed like a good harbinger for the upcoming season. (more…)

For the first time in two decades, the Bucs have a shot.

As Labor Day morning is upon us, the standings tell us that the Pittsburgh Pirates are 1½ games behind St. Louis for the final Wild Card slot, with the Dodgers between them. That little space doesn’t seem like much, but jumping two teams into that spot will require someone to stumble — always a possibility — and a little luck on Pittsburgh’s side.

St. Louis has played well of late, though they haven’t blazed through August as much as they maintained the status quo. The Dodgers are still feeling out their new team some and have yet to rise or collapse under the weight of new expectations.

The Pirates, 7-13 in their last 20 games, have actually stumbled, and it’s the reason they’ve slid down to seventh in the National League after hanging out in either fourth or fifth with the Braves for a good chunk of the season. (more…)

His pitching motion, so casual and determined.

In conversation with a friend, I joked that I wanted to see Tim Wakefield pitch until I retire at whatever it is that I do. That would put Wakefield right around 81 years old, at least, and we would be treated to another 35 years of stories of him, his knuckleball and his age-defying ability to eat innings, throw strikes and put out fires.

It’s a silly and obvious exaggeration, but it wasn’t far from the truth. Through the course of the past few seasons, there may not be a player I’ve rooted for harder and more frequently than Tim Wakefield (save for Jason Varitek). There was a feeling that Wakefield needed all the good vibes he could get in order to hang on and rebel against time and culture.

Wakefield isn’t just a pitcher who played until he was very old. He’s a pitcher whose career looked to be over 18 years ago. He’s a pitcher whose existence hung on a throwback to the deadball era — a pitch designed to be pushed by the wind, released from his hand to the cradle of nature. Sometimes it left hitters stupifyed, and sometimes, it offered up a gift they happily sent flying back onto the Mass Pike. Such was the life he chose.

And such is the chapter that officially closes today, with the announcement that he will retire from baseball rather than try to make the Red Sox out of camp or, more feasibly, continue his career elsewhere. (more…)