The Big Ten Conference has long been home to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Now Major League Baseball is home to the Pittsburgh Golden Ofers.
The Pirates are in a team-wide batting slump, having scored a total of 30 runs while losing 12 of their last 13 games. They have scored as many as four runs just three times in that span and have been held to two runs or fewer in six games.
What really stands out about for the Pirates is all their O-fers going into Tuesday night’s opener of a three-game series against the San Diego Padres at PNC Park.
Jack Suwinski is hitless in his last 29 at-bats.
Ji Hwan Bae doesn’t have a hit in his past 22 at-bats.
Rodolfo Castro is 0 for his last 18.
Austin Hedges is on a 0-for-17 slide.
Add them all up and that’s a combined 0 for 86, the equivalent of more than three no-hitters.
Every team goes through slumps over the course of a 162-game season. And it certainly is not unusual to have a couple of hitters in a lineup struggling at the same time.
I’m not saying it’s never happened before, but I don’t recall the Pirates having this many hitters in this deep of slumps all at the same time. And I’ve been covering the Pirates in some shape or form since 1988 and following them since I attended my first Major League Baseball game at Forbes Field in 1969.
That leads to the question of what can the Pirates do to snap out of their hitting funk? The short answer is not a whole lot.
The Pirates tried to infuse some new faces into the lineup last week when they called up catcher Henry Davis and infielder Nick Gonzales from Triple-A Indianapolis.
Davis is a respectable 6 for 24 (.250) through seven games with two doubles and a home run. Gonzales is 0 for 8 with a walk and four strikeouts in three games.
It’s not like either has supercharged the offense.
Suwinski, Bae and Castro have minor-league options left and all could be sent to Indianapolis. The problem is there aren’t many position players in Indy who merit a call-up to take their place.
Perhaps the Pirates could call up infielder Jared Triolo, who is hitting .293/.403/.436 with one home run and eight stolen bases in 37 games. Yet it is questionable whether Triolo is any more ready to contribute at the major-league level than Davis or Gonzales as he is still regaining his power stroke following wrist surgery in late March.
Maybe they could try Miguel Andujar yet again as he is hitting .355/.420/.595 with eight homers in 50 games. However, in 22 games with the Pirates over the last two seasons, the 28-year-old has slashed .209/.247/.368 with two homers.
Would anything be different another time around for Andujar? Maybe but the odds are against it.
The most logical move would be to bench Hedges, who is hitting .160/.213/.221. It is hard to believe many players could perform that poorly offensively and still be a starter in the big leagues.
However, the Pirates believe Hedges’ defensive acumen outweighs the bat seemingly made of balsa wood. General manager Ben Cherington and manager Derek Shelton have both dug in deeply on that belief so you can forget about Davis taking over as the starting catcher or backup Jason Delay getting a promotion.
Firing hitting coach Andy Haines might appease the fans, but Cherington and Shelton don’t seem to have any inclination to make that move. It has also been my experience that changing hitting coaches rarely makes a difference, with all due respect to the men who hold those positions.
More than anything, Cherington and Shelton are just going to have to wait for the law of averages to eventually transform the Golden Ofers back to the Pirates.