What defines success in 2015 for the Pittsburgh Pirates?


It will soon be that time of year where every sports outlet on earth, from ESPN to your local neighbor kid, will make their officially official predictions for the 2015 MLB season.  Some will be absolutely outrageous just for shock value.  Others will take chalk answers and somehow have the New York Yankees beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.  The more nuanced and accurate predictions will be lost in the shuffle, seen only by those knowing to search for them.

This is not going to be a prediction column.

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Rather, I want to speak in general terms about what the Pirates have to do to make this season a successful one in your eyes.  For me, answering that question is very difficult.  Last year stung and will continue to sting no matter how many times someone says “Well the Pittsburgh Pirates just had bad luck to run into Madison Bumgarner.”  I need Opening Day to get here so that I can wash myself of that disappointment and get back to watching Andrew McCutchen and company do what they do best.

The question remains:  What will make 2015 a successful year?  I’ll  give my answer below, but let’s hear from the fans first:

When baseball introduced the new playoff format in 2012, it was a double edged sword.  One more team would get in, yet chaos would rule the day as you never know what might happen in a one-game playoff.  Just ask the Pittsbugh Pirates who ran into Madison Bumgarner.  (See?  I did it again).  Kyle seems to have his pulse on the fan base though;

So you’re telling me you want a division title, from what i gather?  That’s cool.  And it’s definitely within reach.  The division is going to be tougher this year, and everyone got better except for the Brewers.  We know what happened with the Cubs, the Cards got Jason Heyward, and the Reds are better just by virtue of getting some pieces back.  Because of this parity in the NL Central, I expect teams to compete very well against opponents outside of the division, but be closer to .500 against their rivals.  For one team to distinguish itself above the others, I think it would take something like a hot start or a really hot stretch to get it done.  My point?  It’s going to be tough.

Some fans have bigger goals in mind:

Well alright then.  So this, I feel, is what it comes down to for most Pirate fans.  Certainly it’s the next logical step after taking the Cardinals to the limit in the 2013 NLDS.  But are we going to say that making the playoffs for a third straight year (yet not getting to the NLCS) would NOT make 2015 a success, or that it would signify a step back?  To me, the worst thing that one could say about that scenario, should it occur, is that the team is stagnant.  That could be considered valid.  We have seen an overall trend in major sports playoffs where unexpected teams can advance and often the favorites are ousted early.  This is especially true in Hockey and Baseball, as evidenced by last season’s World Series match-up.  Of course, it’s a long wait to see if the Pirates will be playing the role of favorites this year.  The steady build of the franchise has been thrilling to watch, but the measuring stick for success gets further out with each passing “successful” year.   New success breeds new goals.

Last year stung and will continue to sting no matter how many times someone says “Well the Pittsburgh Pirates just had bad luck to run into Madison Bumgarner.”  

Okay, so we’ve heard from other fans, now here’s my take:  The Pittsburgh Pirates must get to the NLDS for 2015 to be considered a successful year.  It makes no difference if they are the second wildcard or have the best record in baseball.   To me, getting a seat at the divisional round table is all that matters.

This team is too talented for anything less.