The Pittsburgh Pirates are a cruel mistress.
And this has nothing to do with the last 18 seasons of futility. And it really has nothing to do with the previous management basically being inept with its plans. For all we know, those same management groups could very well be successful in any other setting than Pittsburgh. Why? Because rebuilding the Pirates is going to take more than simply hoping that the farm system “pans out.” Luckily, it would seem that the current management group understands that.
Though, don’t take that as me saying that going out and getting Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick were blockbuster moves. Because they weren’t. But they were at least a step in the right direction for a team that long suffered during the trade deadline.
My concern, obviously, stems from the 10-game slide the Pirates just recently endured. Yes, it is over. The city of Pittsburgh should be incredibly grateful for that. The losing streak dropped them to just over10 games back. Certainly not an impossible situation to be in, but highly improbable if anything. Especially for the Pirates.
I think it is quite safe to say that winning the division is no longer the surprise aspiration. Rather, finishing the season strong and securing a .500 record should become to the new status quo. That institutional belief surely changed with the 10-game losing streak – but I’m very surprised there was a streak at all.
I fell asleep before I was able to witness the horror film that was Jerry Meals’ blown call at home plate. There is no need for me to recap the scenario, as anybody reading this undoubtedly knows what happened.
My point in bringing it up is that I was absolutely certain, upon seeing the replay the next morning, that the Pirates would use the blown call as a rallying point. That the team would bond together over a common wrongdoing and unleash their vengeance upon the National League Central.
Unfortunately, all they did was simply remember they were the Pittsburgh Pirates. Owners of the longest losing season streak in North American history. Third-fiddle to the Steelers and Penguins. Maybe fourth-fiddle if you include the University of Pittsburgh.
I’m a tad too young to remember the latest “glory days” of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But, I’m a big enough fan of the Pittsburgh sports scene to appreciate those who remember and share their memories of the time. And, here, I thought it is my time. Time for a new generation of fans to relish a successful Pittsburgh Pirates season. Maybe asking for a pennant race was simply too much. If so, we were simply setting ourselves up for devastation. And lots of disappointment.
So now, all Pirates fans can do is sit back and wait for the improbable to happen and realize that the impossible is just that. After the excitement of “being in the hunt” has worn off, we are left with a couple thoughts – both of which are encouraging. First, Pittsburgh was indeed in the hunt with a team that most “experts” would say had no right being there. If the management can hold the team together, which I think they intend to do, the maturation factor of some of the younger players can only do good things. Second, it bought life back into the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise. And that is something that was so desperately needed. Seeing PNC Park packed to the brim is something usually reserved for Opening Day and nothing else.
Yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates are a cruel mistress. They gave a brief taste of what the broader audience wanted – and took it away (or let it get away) just as quickly. But, if anything, that brief taste of success will likely be enough to hold us over, even if the worst happens – another 18 years.