Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wreck Specs

Being a Pirate fan, I think, gives you a unique perspective on the game.  An appreciation for the minutia, the mundane, that perhaps fans of other teams never fully get to appreciate.  After all, the good years provide a smattering of stars, veterans, and hopefully a superstar or two.  The bad years are spent bemoaning your team's losing ways, or hinging hope on the next big prospect.

Call me crazy, but being a Pirate fan through the 2000's was a beautiful thing.  The team was bad.  We knew the team was bad.  Dave Littlefield had displayed a fetish for soft tossing middle relievers, a rotation full of mediocre, innings eating starting pitchers, and a lineup riddled with aging veterans who, even in their prime weren't quite championship caliber players.  If that wasn't enough, a series of terrible drafts and underwhelming college pitchers in the first round offered a farm system majestically void of anything resembling an actual prospect anywhere close to the Clemente Bridge.

If you aren't a Pirate fan, you're still probably wondering what the appeal is here.  If you were a Pirate fan, perhaps you're already fondly reflecting. 

You see, the team was terrible.  Not even a glimmer of hope going into spring training terrible.  "Hey, we might finish 5th in a 5 team division" terrible.  "Wow, I never noticed that building in the PNC Park skyline" bad.  At that point, the team had already been losing for a decade straight.  What could you do but laugh at the endless cycle of retreads and soft tossing pitchers, of the errant throws over the first baseman's head and booted routine grounders to third. After all, you could scalp a ticket half an hour before gametime for $5.

And when your team is that bad - historically bad - it means you can no longer just cheer for the one or two star caliber players your team does have.  After all, every yinzer who goes to a game or two every summer will be wearing their Jason Bay or Freddy Sanchez tshirt jersey.  But you, the baseball connoisseur, grizzled veteran of blown six run leads, must reinforce your fandom (and possibly also satiate some masochistic part of your psyche) by cheering for the very players who so actively prevent your team from winning.

And at the top of the list of such players is perhaps my all time favorite Pirate nickname: "Wreck Specs" Franquelis Osoria, aptly named both for his glasses he wore on the mound and for his uncanny ability to blow any and every lead he inherited. 

Frankie as I imagine only his mother and Jim Tracy called him was the type of player that I imagine every team has, but who becomes so much more obvious on a terrible team.  This favorite player rule is the reason John Wehner has a World Series ring (courtesy of the '97 Marlins) and is thus obligated to send Jim Leyland and his descendents a Christmas card into the next century, or why Clint Barmes made many a Pirate fan cry last year as he made Mario Mendoza look like Babe Ruth.  Osoria came over from the Dodger organization, pitched an inexplicable 89 innings for the Pirates between 2007 and 2008 with an impressive 5.66 ERA during his time in Pittsburgh, but that seemed to do little to discourage Tracy from repeatedly using him in games.

After the 2008 season, Osoria disappeared from baseball.  He signed with the lowly Royals before the 2009 season, but never pitched an inning in their system. 

Though he has a few certified autos as a Dodger, Osoria's lone Pirate card came in 2008 Topps Update, released after the season.  It's possible he signed a few copies during 2009 Spring Training, but I have yet to see one.  My auto on a AAA Indianapolis Indians card came in my latest batch of purchases, and will have to serve as a placeholder until an upgrade can be found.


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