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Andy, Pedro, And The Pirates On The Radio

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Pedro Alvarez's recent success has been sweet, but the Andy LaRoche era is over.

I'm in the process of moving to a new house. Like most men, I hate moving with a passion of the kind seen in... well, The Passion. I'm not saying the movie's depiction of torture inflicted on Jesus is really comparable to moving, but on the other hand, have you tried pushing three couches through a 30-inch door? Not fun, and the payoff isn't anywhere near as great as ruling over an eternal kingdom. Heck, I don't even get to rule over the living room.

That's largely my own fault. Like Mel Gibson, the director of The Passion whose girlfriend recently recorded him leaving a hateful message, I am currently at odds with my significant other. Unlike Mel, I didn't unleash a torrent of insults and racist comments. No, what I did was apparently far worse. See, we had narrowed our selection to two duplexes. I pushed for one place because, while inferior, it had two key moving advantages: Wide doors and no steps. Of course, I didn't tell her that was the real reason, and we ended up taking the other place. While wrenching my back, I snapped a comment about how we should have taken the first place for moving reasons. Since then, I've been punished with frequent Home Depot visits and return trips to get the rest of our stuff.

This has given me the opportunity to listen to a lot more Pirates games on the radio. Listening to a radio broadcast is a big part of baseball nostalgia, but I've always been a "TV or nothing" kind of guy. I think it's because the things associated with that nostalgia don't resonate with me. It seems every baseball fan of a certain age has a story of listening to a game on a transistor radio snuck into school or hidden under their pillow at night. Taking a transistor radio to school would have made my bespectacled self even more of a target for abuse, and rightfully so, because I tended to use words like "bespectacled." Unsurprisingly, that same tendency led to a lack of attention from girls, making nighttime radio sessions less appealing, as I had figured out far more interesting things to do in bed at night. Like reading by flashlight! (That's entirely consistent both with my tendencies as a kid and with what your perverted mind was thinking, depending on what type of book you think I'm discussing.)

I've enjoyed the experience far more than I expected. I've never really listened to any sports on the radio; I've listened to a few Steelers games over the years due to travel, which never bothered me because, with 22 players involved in every play, there's always a lot to talk about during breaks in the action. Plus, it seemed like every other driver was listening to the game, too. I'd smile or yell after a big play and see other drivers doing the same. On one occasion, I had a quick conversation with a guy next to me at a red light.

Listening to baseball isn't quite the same. That same joyous behavior - or, more likely when dealing with the Pirates, angry behavior - would only make other drivers think I was a lunatic. But more importantly, the game is much more slowly paced, and there's less to talk about in the downtime. I wasn't used to that. At home, there's always something in the house to distract me between pitches, and the HD TV broadcasts today give you something pretty to look at even when the action is stopped, at least when Jeff Karstens isn't pitching. But when you're driving, all you have to fill the gaps is the announcers and your own mind.

This has forced me to think about things a lot more during the game, because I'll be damned if I'm going to do something outrageous like pay attention to the road. Lately, most of my thoughts on my long drives have been about Pedro Alvarez and Andy LaRoche. I know that sounds like some kind of odd and athletically diverse sexual fantasy - I'll leave it to you to make your own joke about LaRoche choking and failing to live up to expectations even in that realm - but I've been thinking of them in terms of success and failure, and what that means for the future.

I was in the car for Pedro's multiple-homer games on July 20th and 21st. It's exciting to hear the calls, but I'm not watching the fans and players go crazy. I'm left to fill in the gaps, and unfortunately, my mind keeps turning to LaRoche. It was easy enough to forget about him with the Alvarez hype, but now he's all but a distant memory. Since Alvarez joined the team on June 16th, LaRoche has played in 18 games, starting in only five of them.

Like Alvarez, LaRoche received a fair amount of hype, which in LaRoche's case stemmed from him being a key part of the Jason Bay trade. As Dejan Kovacevic wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "[GM Neal] Huntington sounded plenty satisfied with the Pirates' take - and that was echoed by most national analysts, unlike with the Nady-Marte trade - but also expressed 'mixed emotions' in what he gave up" (emphasis mine). Other analysts had similar comments. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, for example, said, "LaRoche, the prize here, should step in immediately and be an above-average hitter at third base. LaRoche becomes the best truly young player the Pirates have." I'm ecstatic with Pedro's recent play, and seeing guys like him, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, and Lastings Milledge gives me hope for the future. But LaRoche's failures serve as a depressing reminder that success is far from guaranteed, and the Pirates have a long way to go, and need a good bit of luck.

I should probably quit listening to the games on the road, because I can't stop thinking about what can go wrong instead of focusing on what is going right. That's a recipe for a DUI, and I don't think "the Pirates made me do it" defense to drinking will hold up in court. I'll probably keep listening to games on the radio, but I think I'll do it on my porch, a cold one in hand. If I don't get finished on this moving, I won't have a choice.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.