2013 Nats at Pirates Q&A and guest prognostication with Sam, The Maryland Bureau Chief Emeritus

Congratulations, we made it to Friday and so did the Washington Nationals. They split hte series with the Atlanta Braves, winning the last two behind strong pitching from Jordan Zimmermann and Dan Haren. The former is expected at this point, the latter is still winning us over. He’s got twice thrice as many wins as Stephen Strasburg, right?

Now, the Nats are headed up US 19 (well, not really they flew and would have taken interstates if they used surface transportation) to the Steel City. The first Pittsburgh Pirates series of the season means another round of questions will repatriated Western Pennsylvania native, Sam, previously known as The Maryland Bureau Chief from his time in Columbia. His previous contributions: 2012, 2011 second series, 2011 first series, 2010 and 2012 for the Steelers.

WFY: Two consecutive August collapses for Pirates v- is that easier than say, 9th inning, Game 5 NLDS?

TMBCE: Prior to last year, the most painful Pirates experience would be Game 7 of the NLCS vs. Atlanta in 1992. I mean seriously, Barry Bonds took about a hour to try and throw out Sid Bream at home. Beyond ridiculous! Last year’s collapse was more painful overall. In 2011, we knew the team was held together with “chicken wire and duct tape” as Clint Hurdle likes to say. But in 2012, they were 16 FREAKING GAMES OVER .500 on AUGUST 6th! And they still managed to finish under.500. It was a disaster, but by Labor Day we could see it coming. But it was still painful.

WFY: Slow start, then good couple of weeks – can you figure out the 2013 Pirates yet?

TMBCE: Based on the last 20 years, I am not sold on this team yet. 3 of the 5 starters have been good, and the bullpen has been GREAT! I am worried about burnout of the bullpen, however. I just want them to maintain a good, steady pace right now.

WFY: How do you feel about the overall direction of the Pirates?

TMBCE: They are spending more money than in the past, but a lot of is for players who are stop gaps that won’t be here in 5 years (Burnett, Wandy, Grilli, Russell Martin, etc). They are quality major leaguers, but are probably on the wrong side of their primes. Drafting has been extremely spotty over the last 20 years. The current GM has been in place for a while, and hasn’t drafted well. Most fans expect a GM change if the team isn’t over .500 this year.

WFY: The Pirates had 2 million in attendance last year, has the fanbase been awakened?

TMBCE: Somewhat. The last 2 years have brought fans back to the fold; however, not everyone is back. The Pirates are still the #3 sports team in town. (Note: I know believe the Pens have passed the Steelers in terms of passion among the fan base and number of strong fans among the 20-30 something crowd).

WFY: Are you looking forward to a new Pirates logo ?

TMBCE: I am. I liked the first logo on the link, from the 80s and early 90s. I do not like current edition.

WFY: Would you take a zipline to a Pirates game if you could?

TMBCE: Absolutely! I’ve been reading about that zipline in the paper for a few weeks. It sounds awesome! (Although, I would probably chicken out and not do it).

WFY: We debated over email back in 2005 whether there was any potential for a Nats/Pirates rivalry, however minor. My theory was based on the large population of Western Pennsylvania natives in this area. Is there any buzz about playing the Nats in Western Pa.? There isn’t here – yet?

TMBCE: No buzz yet, but I believe that is partly due to the teams being separate divisions. I believe the Pirates and Braves should switch. The Pirates have natural rivals in the Phillies and Nats in the East, and the Mets are a historic rival.

WFY: Best Pirates memory? Worst?

TMBCE: This will sounds lame, but the “best” memory is in 2011, when the Buccos took 2 out of 3 from Boston at PNC Park in early summer. I had just moved back to the Burgh, the Pirates were starting to become relevant again, and I hate the Red Sox! I wasn’t at the games, but the crowds on TV looked ELECTRIC. It was the way baseball should be.

WFY: Greatest Pirate of your lifetime.

TMBCE: Hmmm….I guess we would still have to say Barry Bonds. (Based on the photos, he may not have been juicing that much while in Pittsburgh). If you want to remove him from consideration……it becomes a list of “good” players such as Andy Van Slyke, Bobby Bonilla, Doug Drabek, Aramis Ramierez and probably Andrew McCutchen. Given his age, I’ll vote for McCutchen.

WFY: Have you ever been a Pirates home game that was as electric as your first trip to Nationals Park?

TMBCE: The best “game” I’ve been to wasn’t even a game, it was the Home Run Derby in 1994 at Three Rivers Stadium. That was AWESOME. Ken Griffey Jr. hit a HR in the derby that made the upper-most deck in the stadium. It literally almost left the stadium!

WFY: For somebody visiting, would you suggest getting a Primanti Bros sammich downtown (dahntaun) instead of the ballpark?

TMBCE: If you’ve never been to a Primanti’s, I would recommend going to one dahntahn. It will be a little cheaper, and you will get a better menu selection.

WFY: Where does Pirates Parrot rank among the 3 Pittsburgh mascots? Has he ever been part of a terrorist plot? Are the racing pierogis a bigger deal than him?

TMBCE: I hate Steely McBeam, and he’s been “retired” anyway. I would rank the Parrot just ahead of Iceburg. The Pitt Panther is a DISTANT third among active mascots, for obvious reasons.

WFY: On the hockey front, the Penguins are a lock for the Stanley Cup finals, do you think they’ll have any series that even make it to six games? I will assume the Capitals get eliminated no later than the second round until proven otherwise.

TMBCE: Quit trying to jinx us. Pens fans are taking nothing for granted. Crosby still isn’t even playing. We have been so terrible the last 3 playoffs, so I don’t even assume the Islanders are an easy matchup. Getting to the finals would be a successful season, but is far from a lock. I am glad that we aren’t playing the Rangers–going up against Lundquist is never a good idea. And a Pens – Bruins or Pens- Caps matchup would be highly competitive.

WFY: Who will win this series and the season series?

TMBCE: I think the Pirates win tonight but lose the series. I think the Nats win the season series 4-3.

WFY: Quit trying to jinx us!

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