Applauding the Pirates’ improved fortunes
When Thursday morning dawned, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the best record in Major League Baseball, were 25 games over .500 and three games ahead of their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Yet, if you’ve encountered a Pirates enthusiast over the last couple of days – and a lot of them have been reborn thanks to the team’s vastly improved fortunes – you might have noted some jitters or some hand-wringing. That’s because Friday marked the first anniversary of the Pirates’ historic slide in the 2012 season, where they went from being 16 games over .500 and in playoff contention to epic losers. They ended up being clobbered by weak teams like the New York Mets, Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs in the final, excruciating weeks of last season, making dim-witted errors and swinging bats fruitlessly. The Pirates ended up finishing the season with a 79-83 record.
On the upside, it was the best season the Pirates mustered since 1997. On the downside, it was still a losing season, the 20th in a row.
There’s every reason to believe the Pirates will manage to do better when the end of September rolls around, almost assuredly managing their first winning season since George H.W. Bush was in the White House. Certainly no baseball prognosticators forecast at the season’s outset that the Pirates would be contenders this year – the consensus had it that 2013 was going to be the season dominated by the Washington Nationals. As of Thursday, however, the Nationals had an anemic .474 record and were 15 and a half games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East. So even if baseball is not played at PNC Park come October, the Pirates will have done better than many imagined if they just manage to get over .500.
Still, with the Steelers and the Penguins having won championships in recent memory, wouldn’t it be great if the Pirates joined them at long last?