I know I said a couple of weeks ago that I didn't think we should get too excited about the Pirates and expect them to compete for the division, but here we are at the All Star break and the team is only a game out of the division lead.
With today's 9-1 win over the Cubs at PNC Park, the Pirates improved to 47-43--their best first half since 1992. I'll be honest, I never dreamed they would be this good this soon.
When you look at the starting lineup manager Clint Hurdle throws out there every day, you wonder how it's even possible that the Pirates are where they are. However, pitching has always been the great equalizer in baseball (ask the World Champion Giants) and it's been the backbone of Pittsburgh's success so far.
Even great teams like the Yankees and Red Sox strive to have 3 solid starters, the Pirates have an entire rotation of solid starting pitching. It's incredible. Maholm, Correia, Karstens, Mcdonald, and Morton. No stars, no real aces, but all solid starters.
I have the same feelings about this team that I had about the 1990 Pirates but for different reasons. The Pirates of the 80's spent the latter portion of the decade looking up at the evil New York Mets. By 1990, they were in a dog-fight with New York for the National League East. I spent the entire year waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the Mets to overtake the Buccos in the standings. It never happened. The Pirates stared the Mets in the eye in September and were the last team standing at the end.
This season, I'm not worried about whether or not Pittsburgh will be able to win the division, I'm more worried about whether or not they'll just collapse and spiral down to well below .500. See, in 1990, I knew the Pirates were a talented team that would finish well-above .500, I just saw the Mets as invincible. However, the current Pirates have been so bad for so long I just can't imagine them maintaining a winning record for the entire season.
But, screw it! I'm going to go all in and invest my emotions in the team. That's what being a fan is all about, right?
I know this sounds a bit cliched because every one's been saying it, but it's nice to finally be paying attention to the standings again. The last time I really paid attention, the Internet wasn't even in my thought process and I would look in the sports section of the newspaper, that's how long it's been since the Pirates were really relevant in this town.
Let's Go Bucs!