1. The LaRoche Brothers
-My brother and I played on the same little league together for one season. He was the stud pitcher while I called the shots behind the plate. Hands down, the best year of baseball I have ever experienced. The Pirates have the unique opportunity of having both LaRoche brothers, Andy and Adam, playing integral roles for the Pirates this season at the corner infield positions. I'm sure for those two guys this is a dream come true, but will the honeymoon last if the Pirates start to lose? I doubt it.
It remains to be seen if two brothers can survive an entire baseball season playing on the same team with each other. I'm sure it's been done before, but in the youtube/blog era, this could get interesting.
2. I Love Nate (Nate who?)
-Ok, so Nate McLouth is not Mickey Mantle. But the blonde haired wonder is the best thing the Pirates have going for them. McLouth put up big numbers in 2008 by hitting 26 homers with an impressive 23 stolen bases in his first full big league season. McLouth's incredible performance was a revelation for Pirates management and should give Pirates fans at least some hope for the future...(new contract extension as well!). I look forward to seeing his progress in 2009.
3. The Ryan Doumit Experience
-Doumit quietly put up some of the best numbers of any catcher in the big leagues in 2008. Doumit hit .318 with 15 HR and 69 RBI in just 116 games. Did anyone outside of the greater Pittsburgh area know this? That's quite impressive. If not for a broken thumb in May, this guy could have put up some really gaudy numbers in 2008. Doumit looks to be a useful building block for the future for the Pirates, who locked up their stud catcher to a contract extension (a la Nate McLouth). While Doumit is long ways away from Mike Piazza or Pudge Rodriguez territory, there is ample reason for Pirates fans to expect Doumit to develop into one of the best hitting catchers in the majors.
4. Who's Next to go?
-One thing to remember with the Pirates is that this franchise is building towards the future. Their main goal this season is to accumulate as many potentially useful pieces as possible. We should expect the Pirates to be very active in the trade market come July. We saw the Pirates trade away two of their best players last July for young talent and a few prayers that one of the eight players they traded for would become something. I expect the Pirates to be active sellers in July, starting with these players:
Anything in the name of competing in the future...right Pirates fans?
5. Ramon "stache" Vazquez
-Hands down the best mustache in baseball right now...a close second if Jose Valentin comes back with the Mets.
Enjoy it while you can, Pirates fans!