Like Matt, I have always loved the opening of spring training. For me it has always allowed for some spark of hope that the team may come out of nowhere and contend (such has been my dreams for the past 14 seasons, before that it was that we’d get back to the World Series). Although I harbor no such dreams this year. I do think that it will be interesting to watch not only how spring training goes, but the season as well and how that can possibly give us hope for the seasons ahead.
I don’t think that it is going out on a limb to say that the the PBC is lacking talent. In fact the only way that the Bucs would be able to contend is if we exchanged rosters with a team like the Mets. However, what I think is important are the building blocks that the new administration are looking to put into place. I really like the fact that the manager, John Russell, is preaching accountability on and off the field; especially on the field (and from what I understand this will be happening on the minor league level as well). I don’t think that we need to go too far in history to know that the fundamentals have not been there. An excellent example would be Ronny Paulino and all of the passed balls that he had last year. When asked about it, Jim Tracy said something along the lines of “Well he did this work in spring training, there is no reason for him to do work now”. If you ask me that is a serious WTF moment right there. If something like that happens this year I’d be very surprised.
And that brings us back to what I feel this season is about for the Pirates. I think that it’s about building from within and letting the players know what they are expected to do and be called out (more than likely not in public forums) when they don’t do their jobs. If the players buy into this now, we may surprise people this year. But I think that we’ll have to leave the surprising for 2009 and beyond.