April 27, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburghh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Pirates Preview: Q&A With Tom Smith Of RumBunter

One of the benefits of being a part of the FanSided Network is the collection of talented and quality writers that we get to network and work with. With the Pittsburgh Pirates coming to town for a brief two-game series, RumBunter Senior Editor Tom Smith and I exchanged a few questions back and forth on our teams, the upcoming series, and the rest of the 2012 season.

Here are the questions I asked him and of course, his answers.

Q: What’s it going to take for the Pirates fans to get out to the games with regularity?

Tough question. If you look back at some of the attendance numbers, even back as far as the 70s, Pittsburgh hasn’t been a great baseball town. Even after the ballclub wins a world title the fans don’t seem to bust down the gates. To think that it has been 19 years since the city has seen winning baseball, we would say we are shocked everytime we see increased attendance like we’ve been seeing this season. Once school is out, PNC Park is pretty packed, but until an ownership change happens, don’t expect Pittsburgh to throw their 100 percent support behind the club. We can’t say we blame them.

Q: What’s your take on Bryce Harper?

We are huge Harper fans. Having a seven year old helps, but the guy is incredible. We hope he doesn’t change a bit. It’s refreshing to see … except when we think that with just a few more losses a few seasons back he would have been in black and gold.

Q: Who’s the Pirates’ next big prospect that will arrive? When?

The next big prospect … hmmm … Starling Marte is drawing some interest from fans. We don’t see him having the impact upon arrival that Andrew McCutchen has had, but Marte has shown us some serious tools. He is a better defender. He runs the bases better. But we can’t see his short term offensive potential having the impact that Cutch has had despite all the hype.

But using the term “big” as a defining adjective, we would have to say Jameson Taillon or Gerrit Cole. Both are over a year away based on their current pace. Bryan Morris isn’t a huge “prospect” per se, coming over in the Jason Bay trade a decade ago, but he has been pitching well in Triple-A. We could see Morris coming on the scene and helping this season.

Q: Perhaps it’s early, but will the Pirates be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

We can see them doing both. We could see Joel Hanrahan being sent out. The team should also make a move as they did last season for Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick. The unfortunate part of what they did at the deadline last season is they now have nothing to show for it. The Bucs were burned by Lee, who decided not to play this season rather than signing with Pittsburgh (or even Milwaukee, more recently). Having Lee’s bat in the lineup could have had the team a few games over .500 at this point after the stellar pitching numbers the club has put up.

The Pirates don’t have much choice but to buy. Clint Barmes has been the biggest free agent signing in Pirates history and he hasn’t produced. He wasn’t expected to put up big numbers, but the fact that he has regressed so badly has put even more pressure on the bench.

Speaking of the bench, Clint Hurdle and Jeff Banister have received ridiculously low production from those spots. Nate McClouth. Awful. Josh Harrison. Bad. Casey McGehee. Pathetic.

If the team continues to put up punchless offensive numbers, the Pirates could do a serious Black Friday at the MLB trade deadline.

Q: Your prediction for this series.

Unfortunately, I see a split. It pisses me off even thinking about it. Bedard has been great. We hope he can pitch well Wednesday night, but we are pretty sure the offense won’t be able to plate enough runs to give him the W. It’s been that way most of the season. I hope it’s 90 degrees in the asphalt jungle so his back stays loose.

On Thursday, the Bucs will grab a victory behind James McDonald. He has been off the charts. He’s confident in his pitches. He’s an A.J. Burnett-wannabe and has been a hive under A.J.’s armpit all season. It’s McDonald’s coming out party in 2012. The Nats will be lucky to get five hits off the right-hander Thursday night.

Q: Will the Pirates and Nationals have more than one player each in this year’s All Star Game?

Damn. Great question. We definitely think the Nats will – but it could be similar to last season as the team has a couple of representatives named late after the starters peel off due to injuries, divorce hearings, etc.

We can see McCutchen making the club, but it could be very difficult for a Pirates pitcher to get their due. For some reason wins and losses are a big part of the equation as we saw last year with Kevin Correia being named to the team. Ah, screw it … yeah, the Pirates will have two players. If Correia can get the nod then A.J., Hanrahan, or J-Mac will be there.

My thanks go out to Tom for taking the time to answer these questions for us before the upcoming series. Be sure to check out RumBunter for all the Pirates news and info you could possibly need.

Stay tuned to District on Deck and like our Facebook page for all of the latest on the Washington Nationals. You can follow Aaron Somers on Twitter @AaronJSomers.

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Tags: Andrew McCutchen Bryce Harper James McDonald Nationals Pirates Pittsburgh Pirates Starling Marte Washington Nationals

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