The Pirates Are Still A Team And Playing The Cubs This Weekend

May 20, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes (12) third base coach Nick Leyva (16) and manager Clint Hurdle (13) during the national anthem before the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The Chicago Cubs are in the midst of nine game losing streak. Normally, the solution to this problem would be for the Cubs to play a series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But Clint Hurdle’s Pirates are not the same Pirates teams that Cubs fans have enjoyed seeing over the past decade. Instead, Hurdle’s Pirates are a team that is far more competitive.

During the 2011 season, the Pirates were a surprise team that managed to stay in contention for a majority of the 2011 season. The Pirates fell during the month of August last season, and the surprise was over. Nonetheless, the 2011 season did prove that Pirates may finally be trending in the right direction.

The Cubs have yet to play the Pirates this season as the team is making their first trip to PNC Park this weekend. The Pirates have fallen right in line with the rest of the mediocre level of play in the National League Central this season. The Pirates are 20 and 24 on the season, a mark that is good for fourth place in the National League Central. The Pirates are currently five game behind the division leading Cincinnati Reds.

We all know what the Cubs have been this season. The Cubs are the team that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer told us they would be. The Cubs, with a record of 15 and 29, are on pace for their worst season in the history of the organization. At 1o games behind the Reds in the division and currently the worst team in the Major League, the Cubs stand to have the first overall selection of the 2013 Amateur draft. Though to be completely honest, that does not sound like too bad of an idea.

Nonetheless, when the Cubs take the field against the Pirates on Friday night the team will hope to snap their nine game losing streak. Ryan Dempster will face AJ Burnett on Friday, Paul Maholms take the mound against his former team on Saturday to face Kevin Correia, and Matt Garza will close out the series on Sunday for the Cubs against Erik Bedard.

Rum Bunter is where one is able to find all the latest on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Considering the Cubs and Pirates have yet to face each other this season, Tom Smith and I discussed with one another how our perspective teams are doing. For my thoughts on where things stand with the Cubs, please click here.

Here is what Tom had to say about all things Pirates in addition to his view of Wrigley Field.

In the off-season, many Cubs were clamoring for the team to trade one of their highly paid veterans to the New York Yankees for AJ Burnett. I have my cautions about Burnett, but how has the starting pitcher been for the Pirates?

Burnett seems like he is in on vacation in Hawaii.  Energetic.  Encouraging.  But when the tide rolls in, he is having some fun in the waves.  He’s had one bad start.  The strikeouts are back which shows me that he can carry this solid pitching through the season.

It’s hard to imagine the Bucs pitching without him in the rotation.  And remember he broke his eye just a few weeks back in Spring Training.

When one is asked about the National League Central, the three teams that are mentioned are the Cardinals, Brewers, and Reds. The Pirates have closed the gap between the top three teams and themselves in recent seasons but have yet to reach the same status as the aforementioned teams. What would be one move that would make Pirates a true contender in the National League Central?

I don’t think there is one specific move the team could make that would thrust it into contender status in the NL Central.  The only thing that could help would be a patience and development pill.

Pitching help is on the way, but still needs fine tuning.  It’s exciting to see a strong rotation on a nightly basis, but the offense is downright bad.   We knew it would suck, but damn, this is a different level.  Holes exist throughout the lineup.  A long term first baseman can’t be found in the organization, perhaps it might be Alex Dickerson, but I have doubts on him.  The system hasn’t developed a catcher or shortstop in quite some time and with first round pick Tony Sanchez stalled behind the plate at AA it appears they don’t have one in the near future either.

The current and future offensive challenges will need to be addressed for the team to step up as a contender against the big three in the NL Central.  We think the Bucs move pitching for offense to attempt to fix the problem.

With the Houston Astros impending move to the American League, how do you think the Pirates will be affected by the shift?

It should hurt the Bucs.  However, the team has really played poorly against Houston in the past couple of years.   Good riddance!

I am a big fan of PNC Park. It is my hope that the Cubs renovate Wrigley Field to bring it up to standards of modern times. As someone outside of Chicago, what is your take on Wrigley Field?

PNC Park needs big time upgrades.  But I admit, there is nothing quite like the view.  I am a massive fan of Wrigley  My boy and I went a few years ago.  http://rumbunter.com/2010/05/17/top-10-reasons-why-wrigley-field-rules/

Pedro Alvarez has always given me an impression of Aramis Ramirez. Alvarez is 25 years old and has struggled in 2011 and now 2012. What is the current feeling on Alvarez around the Pirates’ organization?

I feel he will be ok.  He works so hard, and the struggles seem mostly mental.  Pedro has to find it for this team to survive.   His struggles since moving to the four hole really surprised us.  I think the Bucs need to move him down a bit and ride it out for the entire season.  He will find his stroke again, it’s only a matter of time.

Ahh,  Ramirez….God you just had to bring up his name didn’t you?  We miss him so much in Pittsburgh.

Fill in the blank. The Pirates will make the post-season in the year _2019….(maybe)_____.