The writer Charles Dickens once wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The Pittsburgh Pirates and the entire city have experienced both of these situations. The team experienced 20 straight losing seasons, but now are in a battle to win the NL Central Division and are competing for the NL Wild Card game.
Over the course of those terrible times, the Pirates drafted some good picks and some very bad picks. It truly was the worst of times. Since the start of the Neal Huntington era in Pittsburgh, the Pirates have changed the mentality of how they draft. Instead of drafting for “signability,” the Pirates have selected the best available players in the draft, no matter how difficult they could be to sign. Two of these players are a sign of what is to hopefully come in Pittsburgh: The best of times!
Garrett Cole made the start for the Pirates on Thursday against the San Diego Padres. Cole was selected first overall in the 2011 First Year Player Draft from UCLA. Cole was selected to be a centerpiece for the future Pirates’ rotation. After cruising through the minor league system, Cole is beginning to establish himself as a stopper in the Pirates rotation. In the last three games Cole has pitched, he has shown exactly why the Pirates selected him first overall. Cole is beginning to strike more people out with an overpowering fastball, and is showing a breaking ball that makes major league hitters look like little leaguers. Cole is pushing to not only be a starter the Pirates can depend on for the rest of the regular season, but to be a pitcher that the team can depend on if they can get into a playoff series.
Pedro Alvarez was another top draft pick for the Pirates in the Neal Huntington era. Alvarez was selected to be the power hitting corner infielder that the organization wanted and desperately needed to have ever since Bobby Bonilla left the team. Alvarez has been one of the most criticized players on this team. He will go stretches where he looks like the second coming of Willie “Pops” Stargell, where he hits towering home runs at an amazing pace. Then, as soon as you start thinking he is Pops, he goes on a 1-40 stretch where all he does is strike out or lazily grounds out in the infield. Alvarez has been riding one of these cold streaks the entire month of September. The one thing that he has been able to do is hit home runs during the day games, leading to the nickname “Day-dro.” If the Pirates can play all day playoff games, he will break every record ever set in the MLB playoffs.
These two draft picks have been night and day for the Pirates. Cole has been steady and consistent, and Alvarez has been anything but that. This “tale of two picks” has been a reason as to why this team is exciting and frustrating at the same time. For those of us in Pirates nation, hopefully the best of times are here to stay!