The Pittsburgh Pirates. Yes, our beloved Buccos. The team we watched get embarrassed and become one of the laughing stalks of the league the past two decades. The team we watched put together deals to trade away their best players for practically nothing. The team we watched play in front of home crowds featuring less than a thousand fans. The team we watched six hours of baseball for last year just to see our season collapse on the shoulders of Jerry Meals. The team we all of a sudden expect to march it’s way right into the playoffs. From the years 2005-2011 the Pirates averaged 66 wins the whole season. There’s still over a month of baseball left, and the Pirates have already passed that total with 67 wins to date. Does anyone else think the expectations of this fan base have gotten completely blown out of proportion these past couple months? I certainly do.
After giving the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals a push last season for the division, the Pirates faded away after home plate umpire Jerry Meals called Julio Lugo safe on a play at the plate in a 19-inning game in Atlanta. Fans were heartbroken at the time, and really hoped the team would bounce back from such a disappointing defeat. They did not. They proceeded to win one of their next twelve games which was capped off by a ten game losing streak, which featured three losses to the Philadelphia Phillies, four losses to the Chicago Cubs, and three losses to the San Diego Padres. Up until that game in Atlanta in which there season was torn apart by an incorrect call, the Pirates were right around the lead in the National League Central. The fans were absolutely loving it. Games were selling out, players were fired up, and the Pirates looked like a team that might have been able to play in October. They finished the season with a 72-90 record while posting a 19-42 record after the infamous Jerry Meals game.
So why am I telling you all this? The fans were able to accept the fact the Pirates were not going to make the playoffs after they lost ten straight. They sat back, watched the team have a boring August and September, and waited for the 2012 campaign. Nowadays in Pittsburgh, everyone is nuts about the Pirates. Why wouldn’t you be? They’ve struggled as of late but were at one point just a couple games out of the National League Central, in the month of August. They were in position for a playoff spot from June 27th all the way up until Tuesday night. And now it seems the fans are completely panicking.
After every loss since the All-Star break, I can remember reading at least one social media update along the lines of “This is the start of the collapse,” or “The Pirates are done.” Why panic? Think about all the awesome games we’ve watched this season. Think about how they have a potential MVP candidate, in Andrew McCutchen, on our team. Think about how they had Cincinnati with their backs up against the wall fighting to keep a division lead just two weeks ago. Think about how the wild card leaderboard had the Pittsburgh Pirates slotted in there for almost two months. The expectations of the fan base have blown up enormously, to the point where they expect this team to make the playoffs without a problem. When you see MLB analysts and MLB writers making tweets daily about how the Pittsburgh Pirates are the story of the year, how can you be disappointed?
In recent years when you see the Pirates being featured on MLB Network or ESPN it might have been because they traded away their top player for a group of minor leaguers. Maybe because they put together another losing season, adding to their professional sport record. There have even been times in which a group of guys will sit at a table and discuss how this franchise has gone completely downhill, and hasn’t done a positive thing since the early 90’s, when Barry Bonds and Jim Leyland were in uniform for them. Now you turn on ESPN and see their highlights leading off the show. Whether it’s a discussion about how McCutchen is the best player in baseball, James McDonald and how he came out of nowhere to be one of the best pitchers in baseball in the first half, or how A.J. Burnett has become one of the more dominant pitchers in the league at the age of 35, the Pirates are finally being recognized nationally.
Don’t forget how we even had one of the eight players in the league take part in the Home Run Derby, which has only been done three times in the last twenty years for the Pirates. Isn’t that what we all wanted? A successful team? A team that was actually talked about on a positive note? At the beginning of the season we would of loved to see this kind of stuff, but it seems like the majority of fans have given up hope since the team is no longer in position to make the playoffs. Some people are even saying how McCutchen has been awful this last month, despite the fact he has the best batting average in the world. Others are saying the team has stopped caring, which is absolutely ridiculous to buy into that nonsense.
The team has taken a massive step forward. They haven’t had a winning season since 1992 and have a fairly high chance of breaking the professional sports streak record of nineteen consecutive losing seasons. They have tons of young talent, in McCutchen, McDonald, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte, and others. They have veterans who have been part of playoff pushes, in Burnett, Clint Barmes, Rod Barajas, Jason Grilli and others. They have a manager that won the National League pennant just five seasons ago. The team is going to do well in years to come, and fans who stuck around through the rough times will finally be rewarded with a successful ball club. Even if they don’t make the playoffs this season, you should be proud of the team for the success they have been able to put together this season. You should think about how at one point in late July, they had the fourth best record in baseball. You should think about how they were the best offensive team in the months June and July, and how the pitching has been dominant throughout the majority of the season. Take into consideration that the team is still only two games out of a wildcard spot with September approaching us. Just think about it. Fans need to understand this team is going to do very well in years to come and that an October night in PNC Park may actually become a reality.
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