The Times West Virginian

Sports

July 1, 2013

Some confessions of a two-timing sports fan

FAIRMONT — I have a confession.

Mom, Dad, Grandma, if you’re reading this, for your own sake, stop. I’m about to admit to committing the cardinal sports fan sin, an act so blasphemous some cities punish it by forcing offenders to drink Slurpees until they get a deadly brain freeze, dip you in molten-hot ballpark nacho cheese sauce, pine-tar and feather you.

Brace yourselves: I’ve been cheering for two teams this baseball season.

Now, before you rip up your newspaper and call the Times West Virginian to complain, hear me out for a second.

My first team is the Pirates, has been and always will be. I grew up in Latrobe, Pa., the home of Steelers training camp, rooting for all the Pittsburgh teams — Pirates, Steelers, Penguins, Pittsburgh Passion of the Women’s Football Alliance. I’ve often said my baby blanket was a Terrible Towel and my veins bleed Black and Gold (which might explain why they didn’t let me donate blood last time.)

Judging from the number of Pirates stories my editors ask me to put in the paper, not to mention the signs in Shop ’n Save that say “Home of a Pittsburgh Steelers dog,” I think I’m on the same page as you and your dog Sparky.

But the last time the Pirates had a winning season in 1992, I was 2 years old. While the Buccos were winning the first three NL East titles, I wasn’t watching. I was just trying to make sure that airplane spoon of Cheerios landed in my mouth.

By the time I went to college in 2008, the Pirates were working on their 17th consecutive losing season that spring. I was in Washington, D.C., so naturally I went to a couple Nationals games. At first, they were a lot like the Pirates. Cheap seats in a brand-spanking new empty ballpark. A roster filled with lousy misfits and castoffs. Heck, they even had president mascots race around the park between innings, not unlike the “Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Races,” (n’at).

But over the course of my five years in D.C., I watched the red, white and blue losers transform into the class of the National League. Last season I even got to cover a couple games and meet some of the players.

So how can you fault me for jumping on the bandwagon a little bit?

Before this season, I had expectations for how both my ball clubs would do. I figured one would be at the top of the National League, the other struggling around .500. One would dominate with solid starting pitching and a lock-down bullpen, the other would suffer through inconsistent outings. One would watch its young stars blossom, the other might see them regress.

Well, I was right. My two teams have matched my expectations, just the wrong ones.

Let me explain. In 2012, the Nationals made several significant roster moves including the signing of left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez and the debut of highly touted rookie Bryce Harper. It helped the Nationals to their first winning season since moving to Washington in 2005, the NL East crown and the best record in Major League Baseball (98-64.) So naturally, I thought, they would be the ones to turn in a similar performance this season.

Meanwhile, last season the Pirates ... OK, let’s not talk about it. You pretty much needed not one, but two Pirate eyepatches if you planned on watching the second half of the season.

But this year, the teams seem to have traded places (not to be confused with “Trading Spaces,” the hit home makeover show on TLC). Solid starting pitching? Chalk one up for the Buccos, who rank first in team ERA (3.17), saves (32) and shutouts (12) even while ace A.J. Burnett recovers from a torn calf and southpaw Wandy Rodriguez continues to suffer from forearm soreness.

Young stars? The Nationals have watched young pitching phenom Steven Strasburg go from inconsistent to injured while Bryce Harper, the baseball version of Justin Bieber, rehabs after running into a wall.

By contrast, the Pirates have seen Starling Marte become an anchor at the top of the lineup in just his first full season in the big leagues. McCutchen is starting to heat up. And Pedro Alvarez is hitting homers like it’s his job. Well. Come to think of it, he’s a professional baseball player. It is his job. But still! At 26 years old, “El Toro,” as he is called, has 20 bombs and it’s not even July yet.

Most importantly, the Nationals are the ones struggling to stay above the dreaded .500 mark with a 41-40 record. And the Pirates — yes, the 20-year losing streak Pirates — rattled off their ninth straight win Sunday. The 14th inning walk-off propelled the Buccos to 51-30. Last time I checked (and I just checked), that’s the best record in baseball.

Don’t look now (OK, look now), but I might have to dump my second team. Because before you know it, they just might be playing each other in the postseason.

That is, if the Nationals can make it.

Email Mike DeFabo at mdefabo@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • COLUMN: Extend summer practices without over-extending athletes

    Last week we told you about a proposal that would extend the summer practice period for West Virginia high schools.
    It’s already cleared the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Board of Control. Now it’s up to the West Virginia Board of Education to decide if the current three-week window should be expanded by five weeks.

    April 16, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball

    It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
    Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pirates finish off suspended game, fall in nightcap

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole’s winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • EFHS Softball - CB.jpg East can’t overcome No. 7 Lincoln, falls, 4-0

    Thunder clouds weren’t the only thing looming over the East Fairmont (6-6) softball team Monday when the Lady Bees hosed No. 7 Lincoln. Joining the ominous clouds was a sense of urgency for energy that never showed up as Lincoln was able to shut out East Fairmont, 4-0.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos