This is by no means a scientific analysis but I think Pirates fans are starting to accept that this team is not going to crater on them and leave them sad for the 20 some-odth year in a row.
I base this on the fact that I wore my Pirates cap out in public last night and people got excited. It wasn’t for a long time. I only wore it to grab some food. But in that short amount of time out I had two people comment on it. Comment one was a long thing from the guy at the bar talking about how, finally, it’s “our” year and how “we” can finally wear Pirates gear with pride. The other one was just a thumbs up and a “go Pirates” from a guy who was entering the restaurant as I was leaving.
I didn’t have the heart to tell either of these guys that I wasn’t a Pirates fan and that I tend to wear caps from any of a half dozen different teams at any given time simply because I like caps.
As for these guys: I didn’t get a sense of bandwagoning here. I mean, I can’t be sure, as there are now all kinds of Steelers fans in Columbus that never existed here before they got good again in the 90s and 2000s, and perhaps there is just some local affinity for winning Pittsburgh teams at work. But I was here in the early 90s too and no one really got on the Pirates bandwagon then, so I sort of doubt this is what’s going on. These are people who probably always liked them but simply had nothing to cheer about for years and years. Now they do and, God, how good it must feel to finally be able to say something nice about their rooting interest.
But whether they’re bandwagon or genuine fans, I expect I’ll see a lot more of this over the next couple of months. I assume the Pirates will become a fashionable rooting interest among the otherwise non-aligned. And those who were always aligned, albeit silently, will finally be able to enjoy some October baseball. And we should enjoy that for their sake.
At least until they become insufferable like every other fan of every other winning team eventually does.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.
Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:
We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.
Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.