Most of the time when people do their year-end remebrances, they have a decent amount of positive things to write about. As a Pirate fan, it’s hard to find positive things. Still, I’ve been thinking back about 2008 for a little while now, and there are at least a few good memories that the year has given me, so let’s take a minute to talk about those.
The Comeback- For the most part, Jason Michaels’ Pirate tenure will be forgettable. He was here for part of a year and for all the talk about veteran leadership and setting a good example and that kind of stuff, he just wasn’t that great and he won’t be that great in Houston. Still, no one that watched the game on July 12th this year will forget the game or Michaels for a long time. The Bucs were down 8-3 after six innings and 10-4 going into the bottom of the eight, but rallied back to tie the game at 10 thanks to big home runs by Jason Bay (in the eighth) and Nate McLouth (in the ninth). After they did that, Denny Bautista promptly served up a home run in the tenth to Troy Glaus and you could feel a collective, “Here we go again,” go up from Pirate fans all around the world. But then something different happened, Raul Chavez singled and with one out, Jason Michaels hit a walk-off, two-run homer. So shines a good deed in a weary world.
Pedro Alvarez- Remember draft day? Despite weeks or assurances, I don’t know anyone that truly believed the Pirates would draft Alvarez, who was the consensus best player available after it became clear that Tim Beckham would be picked first by the Rays. They said they would, but we’d all heard that before. Then on draft day, they came through. On August 15th, we all huddled around our computers late and night to hear if he was going to sign and we rejoiced when he did. And remember the relief you felt when the team re-negotiated the contract and made sure he’d be in the Pirates’ system for years to come?
For Pirate fans, Alvarez represents more than just a left-handed thumper and a true talent; he represents a new way of handling the draft. The Pirates picked and signed not only him, but guys like Robbie Grossman and Quinton Miller as well. They spent more than $9 million in bonuses this year. And as much as people dislike the way they re-negotiated his deal after the deadline, they forged a relationship with Scott Boras and proved to him that they’re willing to do business.
The trade deadline- Bear with me here and think back to deadline day. All day, the Jason Bay rumor we heard was Reid Brignac and Jeff Niemann for Bay. At one point, MLB.com reported it as a done deal. That was a hugely disappointing return for the guy that sure seemed to be the best player available at the deadline. The deadline then came and went without word of a deal and that was even more disappointing. Then word leaked out that something had happened. The Pirates managed to get Andy LaRoche (who I think still has more upside than Brignac, even after his hugely disappointing two months in black and gold) and three other potentially useful players for Bay. It wasn’t a perfect trade, but it was a huge improvement over the way that the Kris Benson deal was bungled and Huntington even managed to trade for guys that weren’t going to be placed on waivers the next day anyways (I’m looking at you, Shawn Chacon).
WHYGAVS had a great year, too. I got to Camden Yards, we had the first ever WHYGAVS Night, I got to talk to Rocco DeMaro, and the site got a new home and a facelift that gives it the baddest-ass Spiderman-inspired banner in the entire sports blogworld. Of course, all of this only happens because you guys keep reading and I can’t thank you enough for that.
Thanks for everything in 2008. All told, it wasn’t all that bad even though the Pirates were. They might not be much better in 2009, but when they are, we’re all going to seriously party.