Nats vs. Pirates Q&A with Sam, The Maryland Bureau Chief Emeritus

Earlier in the season, I asked the outgoing Maryland Bureau Chief about the first Washington Nationals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates series. Since then, Sam became The Maryland Bureau Chief Emeritus by moving back to Western Pennsylvania and both teams reached mediocrity or better. Their third series of the year begins tomorrow at Nationals Park.

WFY: Since our last Q&A, you moved back to Western Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Pirates have at times had a winning record. The Washington Nationals have also been as high as 2 games above .500 (though they aren’t right now, grrrrr!). Is this all a coincidence or did your moving back lift both franchises?

TMBCE: It certainly appears that way, doesn’t it? I will say this: Pirates fever is starting to capture the city. At present, they are just 2 games over .500, but you’d think they are winning the division by 5 games. TV ratings are up and 3 of the biggest crowds in PNC Park history have been this season. To be fair, they’ve gotten a fair number of Phillies, Red Sox and Orioles fans for those respective series. And fans are still skeptical that the wheels will come off the wagon any day now. I think the Nats improvement is more sustained, and they could challenge for a division title next year.

WFY: Now that you are back in the Pittsburgh market, are you watching the Pirates and following them more closely? Did you find a Pirates cap to wear? Have you been to any games?

TMBCE: I am following them more closely, along with the Yanks. I’m much more into baseball this year. Sammy (my 5-year old son) is turning into a crazy baseball fan. We watch a portion of many of the games. I am trying to take him to his first game on July 9th against the Cubs-a fireworks night!

WFY: What is your take on Jim Riggleman resigning as manager of the Nats?

TMBCE: Overall, I think the GM did him wrong. And where is the ownership-are they weighing in on this ? I hope Riggleman isn’t interested in managing again, because he just committed career suicide. Plus, no one forced him to sign the contract, so I don’t feel too badly for him. But I would have tried to cash in on an extension too. The GM should have just fired him or extended him in the offseason. My long-distance view is a lack of leadership from ownership.

WFY: Thanks for taking 2 of 3 from the Baltimore Orioles last week — did We Are Family got a lot airplay? #theenemyofmyenemyismyfriend

TMBCE: Actually, it got none, because the Pirates (and I think wisely, for them) planned a series of events celebrating the 1971 championship team over that week. 40th anniversary and all. Who did they beat in the 1971 world series, you ask? The “unbeatable” Baltimore Orioles!!! So that was an enjoyable time for all.

WFY: Off topic, how do you feel about Jaomir Jagr’s decision?

TMBCE: I am in favor of him coming back, but will not be devastated if he does not. I cannot shake the “dying alive” comments he made right before getting shipped out to the Caps. Hopefully he has matured. Plus, the Pens power play sucks.

Surely I didn’t ask that previous question just to post this, did I?

WFY: Also, off topic, is a downtown rally for Hines Ward for winning Dancing With The Stars unbecoming of a city that has hosted 3 championship parades in the last 6 years?

TMBCE: It is. I have been a fan of Hines Ward long before it was “cool” to do so. Hines is probably my favorite all-time Steeler, but I will admit to being a bit disturbed to seeing so many “new” fans of Hines over the last 3-4 years. Most of them probably don’t realize he’s been playing for 13 seasons.

WFY: On a scale of “no chance” to “MORTAL LOCK” what are the chance that the Nats trip to Pittsburgh will be the same weekend as our mutual friend’s wedding next April?

TMBCE: Its a fair possibility. The Pirates seem to try and load up on summer weekend series against the big market teams, at least they did this season. I think the most likely scenario is the Nats come to Pittsburgh over Labor Day weekend. The 2nd most likely scenario is the last weekend in April.

One additional thought crossed my mind regarding the Nats-Pirates trade from a few years ago. Joel Hanrahan is exceeding expectations this season. He is tied for 2nd in the NL with 23 saves. He is perfect in saves opportunities this year with a 1.21 ERA. He is likely the Pirates All-Star, although with those numbers, I believe he has earned his ticket. I believe this tilts that trade slightly in the Pirates favor, for the moment.

WFY: Oh, how wonderful, I’m so happy that he is conquering his pyromania. Seriously, he killed the 2009 season with all of his early blown saves, this should have been his entrance music:

Lastly, TMBCE expects a split series but thinks the Nats have a better shot at taking 3. I think he’s trying to jinx me, so I’ll give the Buccos the edge in taking 3, though I expect a split.

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