LaRoche unable to handle pressure of playing in Pittsburgh
It was a disastrous debut week for Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche, whose 3-for-25 performance in his first six games already has fans wondering if the former Atlanta Brave can handle the pressure of playing in Pittsburgh.
"Some guys start to feel it a bit when they put on that storied Pirates uniform," said teammate Jack Wilson, a longtime Pirate whose career .306 On Base Percentage can likely be attributed to his comparable intimidation. "You have to prove to the fans that you can hit .250, or maybe make a diving catch once before they really welcome you."
The Pirates' rabid fanbase has a reputation for being unwelcoming to new acquisitions, informally requiring players to prove themselves by winning somewhere in the neighborhood of 72 games before they can be deemed "True Buccos."
"You have to remember," said former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, "these are the same fans that booed Mike Williams out of town after just five seasons of being the team's closer. Al Martin played on the team for seven years without having a winning season, and the fans were right on the verge of booing him too. So it can be pretty brutal."
"There's a mystique surrounding PNC Park," admitted former Pirate Jeromy Burnitz, who hit .230 in his only season with the Pirates in 2006. "When you think of all the great players that have sat in that opposing dugout - Roger Clemens, Albert Pujols, Greg Maddux - I know I had trouble concentrating on playing well."
Despite the admissions of his teammates, LaRoche shrugged off the idea that he is intimidated by playing in Pittsburgh.
"Um, no? Intimidated by what?" said a straight-faced LaRoche. "What do you mean by 'the aura of PNC Park?' I'm pretty sure there's a 1979 World Champions banner in the outfield somewhere, I guess maybe that could be a little intimidating. Sorry, I have to go take batting practice."