Every Major League player starts out as a dream. This sounds overly sentimental, but it’s the truth; scouts watch amateur players and they try to project what those players will look like as big leaguers. They sell the general managers on those dreams and that’s how GMs build their drafts. Each fan looks at the prospects and projects his or her own dream on top of the prospect. Sure, some prospects are better than other prospects and some guys look like slam dunks from day one and some guys seem destined to bust from early on in their careers, but you never really know until they play.
Eventually prospects become big leaguers, and the dream ends. Sometimes reality is even better than your dreams and your toolsy centerfielder becomes a legitimate five-tool MVP candidate. Sometimes reality is much, much worse. It’s been a long time since Pedro Alvarez was a blank slate for Pirate fans and it’s easy to get so frustrated with El Toro that it’s hard to remember what it was like in 2008, when it seemed like Alvarez would be capable of anything. Every once in a while, though, Alvarez gets locked in and it’s impossible not to remember the high hopes we all used to have for him.
When Alvarez is cold, he’s frigid but when he’s hot, he’s molten; it was impossible not to see his two homers on Saturday afternoon and wonder if his bat was goig to start picking back up. And so Alvarez came to the plate with two runners on and a 2-0 deficit on Sunday afternoon and it was impossible to not remember what he did yesterday and all of those things we’ve all wanted to see from Pedro for so long. Jeanmar Gomez left a 1-0 fastball out over the plate, and Alvarez bashed it into the right field stands to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead. An inning later, after the Indians had briefly regained the lead, Alex Presley homered and Asdrubal Cabrera kicked the ball around and the Pirates found themselves back ahead 6-4 with two runners on and Alvarez back at the plate. Manny Acta decided he didn’t want Gomez to face Alvarez again, so he got Esmil Rogers out of the bullpen. Like Gomez in the fourth, Rogers threw a slider for ball one. Like Gomez in the fourth, Rogers went to his fastball on the 1-0 pitch. It was a good pitch; a 96 mph fastball down and in on Alvarez. It shouldn’t have been an easy pitch to hit, but Alvarez got way out ahead of it and just ripped it down the right field line for a laser-shot home run. His fourth home run in two days.
Ultimately, two games mean nothing in a player’s career. They’re one water molecule in a drop in a bucket. Maybe we’ll remember these two games as the point that Pedro turned it around, or maybe we’ll sadly shake our heads and say, “He had those weekends like he did in Cleveland, but it just never came together for him.” I just don’t know, and the reality is that Pedro’s one of those players that everyone has theories about but it’s impossible to be sure about him. All I know is that it’s nice to be able to dream again, even if it’s only for a couple of days.