1. Which James McDonald will show up? The first half James McDonald or the second half James McDonald?
If the confident first half James McDonald takes the mount every fifth start, the Bucs have a shot at cracking the .500 mark. If the mentally disturbed second half James McDonald shows up, fans might need flak jackets. Sports psychologists generally agree that McDonald, despite his raw talent, lost his mental composure after the All-Star break in 2012. If this condition parlays itself into 2013 the results could be disastrous. “Mental imbalance worsens if left untreated,” said one expert. If McDonald gives up a few runs early in a game and is not pulled, some fear he may become completely unhinged. The result could be a full-blown psychotic episode. “He could explode like Bruce Banner being locked in a closet with Flo the redheaded chick from Progressive,” said one anonymous source. “The pierogies would be racing…for their god-forsaken lives.”
2. Will Bucs fan miss Rod Barajas?
Rod Barajas had such an unproductive year in 2012 the decision to let him walk was easy. Russell Martin was signed to provide competence at the catcher position. But will fans miss Barajas? Possibly under one condition: Martin loses his right leg in a wheat thrasher incident, wears a 65-pound medieval full plate suit of armor behind the plate, bats with his head stuffed in a bucket, and is a reanimated corpse.
3. Will Jeff Karstens survive the season?
How many times has it been said: Jeff Karstens is an effective pitcher when healthy. Unfortunately, he’s made out of crepe paper. Is this the year that a stiff breeze or a hearty slap on the ass literally kills Jeff Karstens?
4. Will Bucs’ batters be set aflame before stepping into the batter’s box?
The novelty of fireworks is abating. Fans are demanding more winning, and less post-game theatrics. Rumor is that Pirates owner Bob Nutting is contemplating dousing Bucs’ hitters in gasoline and setting them aflame whilst their name is announced as batter. During the at-bat, some shitty band like Creed or Blues Traveler will play a "Fan Jam" live set on a raised stage in center field. Meanwhile, a pack of starved rabid hyenas wearing retro ’71 Pirates jerseys will be released from both dugouts. “This should draw attention away from the scoreboard,” Nutting was overheard as saying.
5. Which fictional character will the Pirates summon amid a winning first half, who will turn against them after the break?
Remember early last year when a Pirates’ batter slid safely into second after a double and flashed the Zoltan Z (of Dude, Where’s My Car fame) to the bench? Zoltan got sick of being summoned and extracted revenge as the season wore on. If the Bucs string together a few wins in May, who will the player choose to conjure: Beebop or Rocksteady from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Balki from Perfect Strangers? Alfalfa? Maybe the bigger question is will any player slide safely into second base at any point in the season?
6. When will highly touted pitching prospect Garret Cole tank?
Cole was taken as the number one draft pick in 2011. He’s the Steven Strasburg of the Pirates organization. However, he isn’t Steven Strasburg. Scouts differ on exactly when Cole will tank? We can reasonably assume he will be called to the majors in June. Many scouts believe Cole will put together a few decent starts before hitters adjust, and then tank monumentally in mid-July. Others predict he won’t begin to tank until later in the season when the fan base predicts a playoff berth, when every other player tanks in unison. Either way, the Pirates front office is committed to giving Cole “every opportunity to tank royally in every conceivable way in excruciating fashion.”
7. Will PNC Park be bombed during the ceremonial opening day fighter jet flyover?
Each season of consecutive losing compounds the misery. After 20 losing seasons, perhaps a higher authority will authorize an end to the veritable hell that is Pirates baseball. Will a top US military commander order the fighter jets to unleash a payload of explosives on the long-suffering fans at PNC? I’m not asking readers if this will happen, I’m begging whoever can make this happen to please blow it up. Blow it all up.
Talk about a rebuilding effort for 2014.