Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why .500 Matters

Recently, Clint Hurdle went on record decrying the significance of the Pirates managing to be a .500 team after the month of April or the early days of May. As quoted in Dejan Kovacevic's recently Post-Gazette article: ""I can't control what people think, but we're doing things here that are aimed at a championship, not .500." Of course, Hurdle has to say this, and most likely has to think it as well in order to be an effective manager. As Kovacevic mentions in the article, .500 seems to be a wholly unattainable goal for this team, regardless of its significance, and it's still very easy to ridicule a team for whom such an achievement is a big deal.

Make no mistake, however: for this team, managing to get back to .500, even for a game, is a very big deal. I believe I am actually paraphrasing ex-manager John Russell here, but the true goal behind reaching .500 is putting that period of a team's existence as far in the past as possible. It's far from a pennant, and if it's the only thing the Pirates achieve in the next five years, the result will still be disastrous.

But let's be honest: in the hearts of its fans and Pittsburgh-area sportswriters, the Pirates get evaluated based on a different sort of criteria as a result of the team's immensely-long losing streak.

Allow me to present an extended analogy: If you see someone drowning who manages to get their arm around a life preserver, it is a tremendous victory within this context; after all, they are no longer going to drown. They now stand a decent chance of living.

On the other hand, if this individual stays in the water clinging to a life preserver for the next ten years, this victory's significance largely dissipates. It ultimately becomes a wasted possibility; a glimmer of hope that never became anything more.

However, the possibility of rescue never even comes into existence if the drowning man, well, drowns.

.500 is significant for this team because reaching it goes a long ways towards vanquishing the atmosphere of defeat that Hurdle described as the team's biggest obstacle way back in February. It is a step that one hopes to move past, but it is a step nonetheless.

And now, onto the pictures. Due to the extended camera-killing downpour in the middle of the game, I have decided to skip doing the Five Minutes of Failure video this time.
Superstition will take you to some mighty strange places.

Hurdle argues a stolen base.
Maholm prepares for a rundown.
And Brandon Wood gets his man.
Searage and Snyder leave the pitching mound after a discussion with Maholm during one of several jams he got himself into.
He nevertheless managed to get out of it with one run. This game could have easily been 7-2.
McCutchen reacts to being left on second base. Many people complained about Hurdle's decision to have McCutchen bunt, but with his current batting average, I can understand Hurdle's decision far more readily than, say, having Pedro Alvarez attempt a sacrifice bunt.
The strike zone was in a seemingly-constant state of flux in this game. Snyder reacts to a called strike that very much looked like it was outside. Come on, ump; we don't need any more challenges.
The umpire attempts to field a foul ball.

Neil Walker continues to produce, in stark contrast to far too many others.

Verras may have a formidable pitching face, but this was his second consecutive bad appearance.
And last but not least: Brett Wallace's simply confounding photo.

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