Opening act

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The 2010 baseball season has begun in Pittsburgh but if the Pirates aren’t careful, their heads may be the trophy hanging on the walls of a few MLB franchises.

The season had some pomp and ceremony happening prior to the Los Angeles Dodgers taking the field. Pregame festivities profiled the first home game of the season by honoring Pirate outfielder Andrew McCutchen as the 2009 Baseball America Rookie of the Year. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and Pirates manager John Russell presented McCutchen with a framed print to commemorate the event.

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In my opinion, McCutchen was brought up a year late. He should have been the 2008 ML Baseball America Rookie of the Year.

Although extremely talented, McCutchen still has an innocence about him. He says, “Just to be able to wake up and say I’m in Pittsburgh and I’m opening up at home is great. It’s a dream come true for me just because it’s something new. I really can’t map out my No. 1 moment because it’s all been great—from opening day to just being in a Pittsburgh Pirate uniform. It’s all been an honor. It’s all been a dream.” Well, let’s hope that the dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare for the Pirates or their fans.

Opening day is almost always a day of hope. Every team is 0-0, riding a no loss winning streak, tied for first place. At this embryonic point in the season every club is chasing a playoff spot and a imaginary world series ring.

But let’s get to the game, in the top of the first, Pirates’ starter Zack Duke gave up a walk and two hits and before you could say “Dave Littlefield,” the Pirates were down 2-0.

But in the bottom of the inning right fielder Garrett Jones went yard with a man on base and just like that it was a 2-2 ballgame. The Pirates triple outfield threat of McCutcheon, Milledge and Jones, if kept together and healthy, might cause a small bit of damage this season. There is always an air of optimism when the season begins. There is always a chance to do good things but eventually the cream rises to the top.

I watched the Pirates during pre-game batting practice. There was an air of hope surrounding the club. When I watched the Dodgers warm up they had an air of expectation. It was if they expected to win. The Pirates must forego keeping hope alive, they must keep winning alive. They must stop staggering and start swaggering. They must cease being the opening act for MLB competition and become the headliner. Pittsburgh must become more “lumber company” and less “slumber company.” Hey, in case you didn’t know the Pirates beat the Dodgers by the score of 11-5. Hooray, the Bucs are undefeated.

* * *

Late last week somewhere in La-La land the Washington Redskins went goo, goo, ga, ga and went and got themselves a quarterback. Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb was traded to the Skins for two unceremonious draft picks in 2010 and 2011. The 2009 starting QB for the Redskins, Jason Campbell, might as well begin to sing his final aria in the key of “S” because it is definitely soup time. Mr. Campbell was given many opportunities to lead Washington down the road to respectability but it seemed like he never really could grasp the complexities of an NFL offense nor could he adequately read NFL defenses. Now I know a few folks that have a color issue but that is asinine, to say the least. No I tell you McNabb just happened to ply his trade in a city that hates everyone and every team that does not deliver championships. This is a city that in the past had a sitting magistrate on site to deliver justice to the disenchanted rough- neck fans from the city of “brotherly love,” instantly and expeditiously.

McNabb, with all his talent, just could never muster up enough “uumph” to finish the job. Also, when McNabb was transformed from the Michael Vick-like QB that he was when he was drafted out of Syracuse and forced to become a “pocket-back” something changed. The fiery, artful dodger, like atmosphere that he brought to the huddle, was subsequently squashed. His play on the field and his attitude in the huddle became more cerebral and less spiritual and spontaneous.

That is what made McNabb exciting to watch. You could not figure out whether he was going to run or pass. Defensive coordinators were up all night with their acid reflux kicking in full gear not knowing which game plan to implement. The Eagles are going to miss Donovan. Head coach Andy Reid is going to miss Donovan. And if the one of the latest acquisitions for the “Skins” ex-Steelers running back “fast” Willie Parker sharpens up his pass catching skills, well Mr. McNabb may be just what the doctor ordered.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@gmail.com or 412.583.6741.)

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