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17 March 2009

I Have Seen the Future and it is Good

A few years back, Heinz created a popular ad campaign around the slogan “good things come to those who wait.” Unfortunately for long suffering Pirate fans, the good people at Heinz didn’t specify how long the wait would last. After attending the Pirates-Rays Spring Training game this past Sunday I will tell you the wait is almost over. The game will go down in the record books as a meaningless exhibition 7-7 tie after 11 innings. For the Pirates, however, it may go down as the moment we saw the future. All three of the Bucs’ top prospects contributed in the come-from-behind non-loss, with Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez playing a personal game of “can you top this?” with each other in the larger context of the game.

McCutchen in center and Tabata in left started and both made equally impressive plays in the field. McCutchen can fly and made a few nice catches and one spectacular diving put out that was reminiscent of Andy Van Slyke in his prime. Tabata can also cover some ground and turned an astonishing double play with a leaping catch and a cannon shot to nail Carl Crawford at the plate.

At the plate, McCutchen got two hits, including a stunning triple that showcased his speed on the bases. Tabata followed with a sacrifice fly to drive in the Bucs’ first run of the day. He also added a single, a double and drew an important walk in the ninth that brought Alvarez to the plate as a pinch hitter. With two on and two out Alvarez absolutely crushed the one-one offering from Joe Nelson high off the hitters’ background in dead center, a 450 foot shot. Manny Sanguillen raised some eyebrows earlier this spring when he compared Pedro’s swing to Willie Stargell’s, but if he can stay healthy Pedro may prove to be the Bucs’ most dangerous power hitter since Pops and a legitimate superstar, something we haven’t had for a long time.

The Pirates haven’t had a real impact prospect since Aramis Ramirez in 2001, passing up the chance to draft such young stars as BJ Upton, Prince Fielder and the top rated prospect in all of baseball, Matt Wieters. Now the organization can boast three. While the subpar talent evaluation skill of the previous front office no doubt led to the spectacular run of draft ineptitude, the sign-ability factor in each case led to the Pirates selecting below average players who could easily come to terms. With the front office now committed to rebuild the minors and vowing to draft the best player available no matter the cost, we may finally have turned the corner and be on our way out of the darkness we’ve been wandering in for the past 16 years.

For the first time in a long time there is hope for the Pirates’. We’ve waited, and in the not too distant future Heinz ketchup might not be the only high quality product on display at PNC Park.

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