Opening Day feels a bit strange to me this year. This is the first time since at least 2007 that I won't be at the Pirates home opener, and it's definitely a strange feeling. I still maintained a 20-game package for this season, despite being a 5 hour drive from Pittsburgh and had tickets for today, but there was just no way we could make it out there.
So instead, my newly purchased mlb.tv package will have to keep me company today.
The Pirates pre-season commentary in the local media seems to again fixate on whether the team will play above .500 ball and whether they can avoid a second half collapse like the previous two years. And these are probably the same storylines that most baseball fans grasp on to.
But this season seems to be telling a very different story from where I sit. Sure, we can cling to the hope that Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, and Jonathan Sanchez make a video game-esque turnaround and magically recapture their late 2000's form. We can talk about the core players and budding superstar Andrew McCutchen. At times, pieces of this team look like contenders in ways past Pirate rosters never did. The emerging superstar. The strong top of the rotation. Legitimate power hitters.
But realistically, this seems like the last Beta test for a roster that is preparing to usher in their fleet of top prospects over the next few seasons. On paper, this team simply doesn't match up with the Cards or Reds. That doesn't preclude a few lucky breaks keeping the team into the hunt well into the season. It doesn't mean this can't be a .500 team.
But .500 never has or should be the goal, except for the casual yinzer who will now have one less thing to complain about in Pittsburgh sports. They can now return to bemoaning why Ben Roethlisberger should be replaced by Charlie Batch for next season.
This is a team that I expect to be entertaining to watch, competitive in most games, and one that I expect to bring my some genuinely fun moments over the course of this season. And that's something that honestly could not be said about many seasons over the past decade. We are no longer rebuilding. But the team is definitely still building, and it would be overly optimistic to view this roster as a completed project rather than one having many major components, but still largely lacking both some more major elements as well as the finishing touches.