If old-school and new-school baseball fans ever had a class warfare, pretty clear where the battle lines would be drawn. Two things drive the traditional fan nuts:
- The DH
- The automatic removal of starting pitchers, regardless of how well they are doing or how many/few pitches they have thrown, when it’s closing time.
Take last night’s Pirates game … (please – to quote Henny Youngman). Francisco Liriano toyed with the Reds, right up to his last pitch — which was his 94th. In 13 of his prior 24 starts, he’d made more than that. But No. 94 ended the eighth, so here came Mark Melancon.
And there went the game, as an error and some more funny hits again caved in on him.
Which brings up the point that the Bucs, and their fans, have been spoiled by their bullpen’s season-long efficiency.
Some wags long-ago branded this the Season of Blown Saves. MLB-wide, 556 of them have been blown. But Pittsburgh has been exempt from that epidemic. Last night’s was only No. 14 for the Pirates [for context, Atlanta’s reputed lights-out crew has blown 15].
That said — twice in three games they have done something that happened only once all last season — lose a game they led after eight innings. In 2012, the Pirates were 71-1 in those circumstances.
Baseball is a lot like other businesses, where it’s not what you know but who you know. On the diamond, it’s not what you do but when you do it.
Blow two games in late September, and people roll their eyes. Factor in the last two Septembers, and they brace for the worst. There is only one way and one place to correct those impressions.
The Pirates have eight games left to change their reputation.