Monday, April 10, 2006

Dodgers 8 Pirates 3- A typical Home Opener in Pittsburgh

Though I will admit that I am not entirely positive, I think the first Home Opener that I ever attended was in 1994. I know it wasn't the '93 Opener because the Pirates won that year, and I do think I have a memory of seeing Paul Wagner starting an Opener against the Rockies, so we'll say that the 1994 Home Opener was the first one that I attended. After seeing a 7-3 loss that year, I attended every Home Opener to the close of Three Rivers save for one, the final home opener at the stadium that was delayed a day by rain, pushing it to a day that I couldn't make the trip on (I think I had a HS baseball game that day). The Pirates lost every one of those games, with the highlight being the loss to the Expos in '95 which coincided with the Pirates unfortunate decision to hand out tiny aerodynamic flags before the game. After a bunt was turned into an inside the park homer, the field was covered in the flags by fans frustrated by the strike. Once PNC opened, tickets became tougher to get and I missed the first three Openers, before seeing Kip Wells beat the Philles 2-1 in '04, the first win I'd seen in 7 Home Openers. I was there last year as well for the 9-2 beatdown from the Brewers. That means coming into today, I'd seen 1 win and 7 losses in Pirates Home Openers, games in which the average final score was Opponent 7, Pirates 2. So what I'm saying here is that seeing the Pirates lose 8-3 on Opening Day isn't shocking or surprising, in fact it's the opposite. It's practically expected. Anyways, here are some observations from the ballpark on Opening Day 2006:

  • All of the banners of old players around the park are down, replaced by the current roster with "We Will" underneath them. Each player then has the phrase completed in a ridiculous manner like "Thrill" or "Compete" or "Celebrate." Missing of course, is that final "W"... win.
  • Biggest crowd I've ever seen at PNC Park (>39,000) and second largest ever. They were pumped too, for about 5 minutes.
  • Duke was definitely jumpy in the first two innings. His problem in the spring was that he was fooling around with pitches and throwing hittable strikes. He couldn't even find the strike zone today, so when he took something off the ball to get it there he got hit hard. He settled down a little in the 3rd and 4th, but it was an obvious mistake to put him back out there for the fifth, the inning that put us down 7-0 and put the game effectively out of reach.
  • Duke wasn't the only one pressing on Opening Day, Bay was doing the same thing by jumping at pitches early in the count he'd usually leave alone and ended up stranding a ton of runners today, included a bases loaded DP in the fourth that could've got us back into things.
  • To say that Humberto Cota has a hole in his swing would imply that the area in which he can't hit is smaller than the area in which he can hit. This is simply not true. Currently, he's taking the exact same swing on the exact same plane every time up, regardless of the pitch. If the ball crosses that plane, it's a hit. If it doesn't, he strikes out or pulls it weakly to the left side of the infield.
  • Scoreboard animations: More player artwork the first time around (highlight: Jeromy Burnitz and his liger), player faces on old looking "Pirate Scrolls" the second time around, crappy bobbleheads of each player that I would be insulted to recieve at the gate, stupid looking semi-anime looking drawings of each player, and really really stupid looking Lite Brite incarnations of each player.
  • They also wrote a song for the Hot Dog Shoot. It's awful, but it probably took more time to write than anything the team did that was baseball related in the offseason.
  • After a long discussion before the game about how no matter how bad Burnitz is he'll have to be better than brain dead Lawton, Burnitz pulled a Lawton special in the bottom of the first by turning a what could probably have been a flyout into a triple. He trailed a ball to the fence, decided it would be too high off the fence to make a play, stopped on the warning track, and watched the ball riccochet off the bottom of the fence and straight past him back towards second base.
  • It was nice to see Tracy double-switch Sanchez into the game in the bottom of the 5th. Of course it was pointless to put him at short and remove the bat of a guy that had actually been hitting.
  • After Duke's five runs through 2 innings start, the vibe in the ballpark calmed down to the point that my dad actually fell asleep in his seat in the third inning.
There's probably more that I'm forgetting, but it's way too depressing to think about at the moment.