Thursday, July 22, 2010


It's a rare pleasure to watch a bonafide slugger announce his arrival on the national scene with the kind of explosive impact Pedro Alvarez did this week. And it's only Thursday!

Alvarez blew up this week with back-to-back games featuring two home runs apiece, including a grand slam Tuesday night. He's slammed seven home runs over his past 14 games.

Finally, Pirates fans have a genuine slugger to call their own.

That means we can expect Alvarez to continue this two-homer-per-game pace for the rest of the season, right?

Actually, Pirates' fans would gladly take what Alvarez has been doing most of July: steady improvement with patience and a discerning eye at the plate, backed by a lightning-quick swing packed with power to all fields. His swing is so quick and powerful, in fact, it evokes memories of another left-handed slugger of Pirate yore, The Cobra. Only,
perhaps, with hints of more consistent power -- and Parker hit 339 home runs in his career -- but's it's way early in Alvarez's budding career, so let's not start making those comparisons just yet.

It's not too early for long-suffering Pirates fans, though. Now
this is something Pirates fans can get legitimately excited about. And in a good way.

Alvarez has hit well, extremely well, all month. Since June 27, he's gotten on base every game except one. All that good hitting, however, was done sort of quietly in the fog and miasma of continued Pirates' bungling, follies, ineptitude and, well, losing.

No more quiet. His two home runs for the grand slam among his two the previous night vaulted him inevitably into the national baseball consciousness. Now, media outlets across the country are leading their nominal coverage of games involving the Pirates with statements like the AP's, "Prized Pittsburgh rookie Pedro Alvarez ... " and
"Rookie slugging sensation Pedro Alvarez ... "

That's what a bonafide slugger will do for you.

Just as importantly, Alvarez's hitting this month appears to be contagious, as he seems to have sparked other Pirates bats to come alive, as improbable as that seemed only a couple of weeks ago. Last night, the Bucs tallied 18 hits, their third game in the last five with 17 hits or more. Also during the past five games, four of which they won, the Pirates are batting .372 as a team.

Fifteen runs scored last night, 11 runs the night before, nine runs last Saturday, 12 runs the night before ... what's going on here?

Pedro Alvarez, that's what. He's put this team on his shoulders, or at least provided a much-needed lift -- and a desperately needed spark of excitement and ray of hope for long-suffering Pirates' fans.

Baseball is fun again. Let's enjoy it while we can.