Messing with the baseball gods.
For my weekend recap, I completely forgot about the bear who was chased around the Pittsburgh Mills parking lot by idiot drivers before wandering into Sears on Friday night. (Nobody was hurt because, you know, it was Sears!) I so wanted to take this is as a sign from the baseball gods (the most powerful and awesome of all sporting deity) that the Chicago Cubs are wandering into our town this week like this lost and frightened little guy. They are reeling and selling off any valuable part at bargain prices, much like the Pirates have had to do for so many years. So, we should definitely chase their pitchers off and tranquilize their hitters before releasing them elsewhere later in the week. This past weekend, while the Pirates were sweeping the lowly Miami Marlins, the Cubs were being swept by the St. Louis Cardinals by a combined score of 23-1. It was an irresistible force meeting an immoveable object. It was an automatic sweep for the Buccos, right? This is why you don’t mess with the baseball gods.
We headed off to PNC Park Monday night. I hadn’t been to a game in about 5 weeks. Mrs. Bagger used our tickets with a friend while I was in Arizona. I hadn’t seen the new and powerful juggernaut that is the Pirates’ offense. Last time I was at a game, the Buccos featured the great pitching but had to somehow win every game with just 6 hits. (Probably 3 of them courtesy of Mr. McCutchen.) Lately, though, we’ve been socking home runs and scoring like a construction company softball team. I was ready to see some fireworks that are not provided by the Zambellis. Again, this is why you don’t mess with the baseball gods.
It was a beautiful night at PNC Park. We were surprised to see our good friends Neil and Emma (fellow blogger at Em-anating) just down the row. Another good omen. What followed was a hitting drought. Both teams had a no hitter going into the 4th inning. That’s when a walk and a double led to the Cubs’ first run. That would be all they needed, however they showed off by getting another run in the 9th. Nobody likes a show-off. We wasted a rare quality start by Erik Bedard (7 innings, 1 run, 11 Ks, 2 hits), who took a very rough loss. All in all, the Pirates had only 2 hits, neither of which left the infield. It left me questioning the baseball gods… am I the jinx? why do they never hit the ball when I come to the park? The baseball gods were stoically silent to my fervent pleas. That’s just how they roll.
Oh well, sometimes a bear walking through Sears is not a sign but simply a bear walking through Sears.
I was a bit disturbed by this little occurrence…
Yes, these kids are playing a baseball video game… AT A MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL GAME!!! One thing I know. The baseball gods will not be mocked. They are no respecter of persons. And they are totally not down with this sort of blasphemy. I’m not saying this will affect the Pirates’ season; I’m simply asking if we really want to take the chance of inviting in this kind of bad karma into our temple.
Still, I am not deterred. This is still a magical season. Sure, I got a few taunting tweets last night from my old friends in Chicago. They’ve had a rough year. Let ‘em crow a bit, I figure. Heck, they’ve had a rough lifetime. I was a bit surprised at how many members of Cub Nation made the trip. They used to flood PNC because our tickets were cheaper and easier to get than ones at Wrigley. But from what I’ve heard, the bloom is off that rose. There are lots of empty seats at the Friendly Confines these days. So why so much blue? Then, it hit me. Sunday was the day all Cub fans had been waiting for. Fan favorite and long-time broadcaster Ron Santo was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Most of these folks were on their way back to Chi-town from Cooperstown. The folks in this pic are part of a HOF tour bus package that also includes two games here in Pittsburgh.
Good for them. One thing you have to say for Cub fans… they are not of the fair-weather variety. They are in it for life, thick or thin. And it has mainly been thin. Unlike Pittsburgh, they don’t have 5 World Series title flags waving over the outfield wall. Unlike Pittsburgh, they don’t have football and hockey teams with shelves full of gleaming trophies. Pittsburgh fans have been a bit spoiled by success and don’t have patience for teams and owners who aren’t going for it every single year. In Chicago, hope springs eternal. They are always looking forward, not back. There’s nothing to see back there. Their mantra is, as it always has been, “Wait until next year!”
If I still lived in Chicago, no doubt, I would still be the long-suffering Cub fan. What choice would I have? Root for the Sox? (cold shudder) No, thank you. After moving to Pittsburgh, I soon realized that I’m not good at long-distance relationships. And yet, I love baseball. So, I adopted a terrible 2006 Pirate team as my own. I watched them flounder. I watched them sell off parts. I watched them get young. And now, I am watching as that youth begins to pay dividends. I was there the night after they traded away the popular Nyjer Morgan and put a kid named Andrew McCutchen in center field. I was there when Joel Hanrahan came to town. I suffered through Ryan Church, Ryan Doumit, Lastings Milledge, Ian Snell, and the LaRoche brothers. I was there when they brought up Pedro Alvarez and watched him struggle. In six short years, I feel that I have paid my dues with this team. But it is so rewarding to see it start to “click.”
Last night was a record crowd in PNC for a non-holiday Monday night. The Pirates are 13 games above .500. Of their final 70 games, 31 will be against the lowly Cubs, Astros, and Padres. The pitching shows no signs of deteriorating. If every game I go to this year has to be pitcher’s duel, so be it. We’ll win our share.
Teams like the Diamondbacks and Marlins and Rays and Rockies and Astros and (shudder) White Sox know that small market teams can have these kinds of magical years. Enjoy it. Relish all the ups and downs and in-betweens, because, as Cub fans know all too well, who knows when it will happen again.
The Pirates will be in the playoffs this year, my friends. Mark it down. I say this knowingly before the baseball gods. I’m not messing with them. It is not bravado nor hubris on my part; it is faith in my team. The baseball gods can’t fault me for that.