Before the Phillies’ last series, I said that it wouldn’t make any sense for the Phillies to get swept by the awful Cubs and then win the series against the contender Braves. I also said that the Phillies don’t make much sense, so that’s probably exactly what would happen. And I was right!
The Phillies now face another bad team from the National League Central in the Pittsburgh Pirates. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Pirates are bad this year, because the Pirates seem to be bad every year. In the past 30 seasons, the Pirates have finished with a winning record only four times. Four out of thirty!
Of course, that recent and historical ineptitude means very little when it comes to how the Phillies will fare this weekend. Sometimes the Phillies play well against bad teams, and sometimes they don’t. (And the same can be said for good teams. The quality of opponent seems to have little correlation towards whether or not the Phillies will win a game.)
Record: 40-58 (Fourth place in National League Central, 14.5 games back)
The last time they met
Fighting for a playoff spot last September, a four-game series against the moribund Pirates seemed like a boon for the Phillies. And they did win the first three games of the series. But in the finale, a bullpen meltdown, and an inability to score runs off of some guy named Max Kranik kept them from completing the sweep.
Free Bryan Reynolds!
The Pirates are dead last in the National League in runs scored, mostly because they also rank last in the following categories: batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. They do rank sixth in triples, so they have that going for them.
The poor offense is a team effort, as there is one player on the roster with an OPS currently above .800: Backup catcher Jason Delay who has reached the lofty heights of .819 in his 42 plate appearances. Among the regulars, centerfielder Bryan Reynolds has the best mark at .789, but that’s a drop off from 2021 when he made the All-Star team and even earned MVP votes. Reynolds has been the subject of trade rumors, and that may just be teams looking to rescue the poor guy from this mess.
Ghosts of Phillies past
This transaction from earlier this season made a lot of Phillies fans cringe:
Pirates select the contract of Jerad Eickhoff. Heath Hembree DFA’d— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) June 22, 2022
Hembree was a disaster from the second the Phillies decided to trade for him, but I feel bad for Eickhoff. He looked like he was going to be a solid starter before he ran into injury problems. You know things are bad when you’re setting ignominious records for a franchise like the Pirates:
Jerad Eickhoff is the first player in Pirates history to give up 10 ER in his first start for the team. pic.twitter.com/kLnmsveviM— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 23, 2022
The Pirates also had Andrew Knapp on the roster earlier this season. So, remember Phillies fans: It could always be worse.
Should the Pirates exist?
I realize the Pirates have a tradition of success if you go back more than 30 years, but the team has been so poorly run since then, that I question if the franchise even deserves to exist anymore. I realize that Pittsburgh is on the smaller size when it comes to markets, so the team can’t outspend anyone, but other teams have dealt with similar issues and not been a dumpster fire every year.
Would Pittsburgh even miss the Pirates if they left town? They’re clearly a distant third behind the Steelers and Penguins when it comes to the city’s affections, and there’s an entire generation of fans whose only taste of success was a string of wild card appearances led by Andrew McCutchen.
Lean into the whole Pirate thing
As mentioned, other small market teams have found ways to succeed where the Pirates have not by being good at scouting, developing, and trading players at peak value. Since the Pirates haven’t proven able to do that, maybe they should instead get creative in how they build a team. Why not lean into the whole pirate thing and acquire actual pirates for the roster?
With that in mind, I’ll take a look at some famous pirates and determine if they’d be any good as baseball players.
Long John Silver - His defining physical characteristic is his peg leg, and I’ll be blunt: That’s got to affect his running speed a little. It would be hard for him to play the field, and even if he was given a DH role, his speed around the basepaths would be comically slow.
Captain Hook - Another pirate with a physical disability, but as Jim Abbott showed us, players missing a hand can succeed in the major leagues. I think his facial hair would play well if he was used out of the bullpen, so maybe the Pirates should give him a try out as a reliever.
Jean LaFoote - Writing these previews can sometimes prove educational, as before today, I did not realize that cereal mascot Cap’n Crunch had a pirate arch nemesis named Jean LaFoote. (Yet I did know that Crunch’s first name was Horatio.)
It’s a bit of a red flag how poorly LaFoote takes the L at the end of that clip. If he’s on the Pirates, he’d have to learn to lose more gracefully. Perhaps he’d fit in better with the Braves, since they tend to be whiny and humorless.
Jack Sparrow - I never understood why people love the Pirates of the Caribbean movies so much. I thought the first one dragged on too much (why did they keep trying to kill the zombie pirates? They’re already dead and can’t be killed!), was bored during the second one, and couldn’t even finish the third. I didn’t bother with any of them after that.
On the other hand, the movies did inspire this video:
As for Jack’s prowess on the baseball field, I have no idea. However, it seems that he is a fan of the game, so he might be able to perform at a respectable level.
Last series’ answer: Prior to last series, Max Fried had two wins as a starter at Citizens Bank Park (and that number hasn’t changed!) EbbyCalvinLaLoosh got it right.
This series’ question: Who is the Pirates’ franchise leader in home runs since their last playoff appearance following the 2015 season?
For some reason, I think the Phillies will actually take care of business against a Pirates team that’s likely more concerned with #HugWatch than winning games at this point. I’ll go out on a limb and say the Phillies take three of four.
Come the fifth inning of Saturday’s game and the Phillies have a combined three runs in the series, will I regret that optimism? Very likely.