The Pittsburgh Pirates are back.
I am a year too late, you say? Not exactly. When I say back, I mean back to having a winning record in a baseball season for the first time since 1992.Or, to put it a different way, the last time the Pirates had a winning record, Barry Bonds’ head was still a normal size. 20 losing seasons in a row is somewhat hard to fathom-it is a record number of consecutive losing seasons for pro sports, at least here in North America. But enough about their dark days…
Yes, they showed promise last year, and the talent they have on the field has been exciting to watch, but they just weren’t there.
They are no longer a talented young team on the verge of great things. They are now putting it all together, not looking to settle for just incremental improvements. They’ve smashed through their own glass ceiling and are gunning for the playoffs. As of now, they are sitting pretty in a Wild Card spot.
I’ve managed to catch enough of their games to know this is a fun team to watch, but also one that I would love to watch on a much bigger stage in October.
Look at the young core of this team, and you can see why the city of Pittsburgh can finally get excited, and you can also see why this team may be having a coming out party soon, with the intent of staying in the upper echelon of National League teams for years to come. You have young studs like Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Gerritt Cole, just to name a few. These players are all young, all talented, and all putting it together at the right time.
To make their first playoff run in a generation, the Pirates front office also made some shrewd veteran additions along the way. Grabbing a catcher like Russell Martin was nothing short of a coup. Taking a flyer on a pitcher who at one point showed good stuff but became a reclamation project (Mark Melancon) has paid off thus far. Taking chances on someone like AJ Burnett or Francisco Liriano-pitchers who have shown ace-level stuff in years past, but have had issues in recent years-is a gamble that a team like Pittsburgh had to take, but it’s been paying off in spades this season. Adding veterans like Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau just before the deadline could pay tremendous dividends in a few weeks time.
Whether the Pirates end up winning the tight NL Central race (they currently trail St. Louis by a game as of Wednesday morning), or if they make it as one of the two Wild Cards, it seems quite likely that they will be among the participants in this years playoffs. When you consider the team makeup, how they’ve been playing and the fact that they haven’t seen this stage in 20 years, it’s hard not to root for them and its even harder to not be excited for them. It will be refreshing to see Pittsburgh back in the playoffs. Let’s hope it’s not another 20 years before we see them back in there again.