Despite postseason struggles, future bright for Pittsburgh Pirates


The 2015 World Series between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals is officially set. As both teams prepare for game one in Kansas City tonight, it is easy to think about what could have been when it comes to the Pittsburgh Pirates. After a couple of weeks of healing from the Pirates Wild Card loss, I see this as an opportunity to reflect on their 2015 campaign and on their postseason struggles within the last three years.

It was a year that was memorable in more ways than one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The teams finished with the second best record in baseball behind the St Louis Cardinals, but things just did not quite work out the way those in the organization had hoped. However, despite a disappointing one game exit from the postseason, there still is reason to be optimistic about the future of the Pirates franchise.

The 2015 Pirates team was the best Pirates team I have ever been able to physically witness take the field. I was born a year after the Pirates National League Championship Series loss to the Atlanta Braves in 1992, and we all know what transpired in the 20 years that followed. I’ve always been a fan of the game of baseball and the Pirates have always been an interesting franchise, struggling to find ways to win year in and year out.

Before the Pirates ended the long streak of losing seasons that occurred from 1993 to 2012, 79 wins were the most the franchise could compile in one season. The Pirates were able to compile this many victories on two occasions throughout the streak, however, this didn’t please the Pittsburgh fan base. Over the course of the streak, the Pirates seemed like an embarrassment to the city. In fact, when the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Steelers were dominating their respective sports in 2009, Pittsburgh was often referred to as the “City of Champions… and the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

Due to my young age, I may not have as much perspective on what it means to finally see winning Pirates baseball again in this city after years of success in the 70’s and early 90’s, but I am old enough to have seen the terrors that the long losing streak brought to the fan base. I witnessed the years of underperforming superstars and a lack of key role players, rotation arms and bullpen help. I remember going to plenty of games over the course of the losing seasons and sitting up high in the nose bleed seats, but getting the opportunity to move closer to the field due to low attendance numbers at PNC Park, otherwise known as the “Best ballpark in America.” During these losing ways, fans were still coming to the games, but for different reasons. Promotions, in-game entertainment and fireworks were what seemed to peak people’s interests at ball games, not the team’s performance on the field. There was nothing like going to a Pirates game at PNC Park, but the play on the field didn’t quite match the beauty of the ballpark.

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It is now 2015 and the Pirates are not one of the two teams set to battle for a World Championship, but I like to think that things are a little bit different in this city now. Pittsburgh Pirates baseball is fun to watch. Before the streak was broken in 2013, I wasn’t quite sure what that was like. That year was magical. Seeing them clinch a winning season, make the postseason and advance to the National League Division Series was an exciting time.

The team has continued the trend of winning baseball these last two seasons, but both have ended in disappointment. It’s easy to say that if the Pirates were in any other division they wouldn’t be put in the situation of being in the one game Wild Card playoff, but the reality is that the team just hasn’t been able to get the job done throughout the last two years. It’s not easy looking at the Kansas City Royals and seeing them win two consecutive American League Pennants because, in my mind at least, they are what the Pirates are supposed to be. They are a well put together team made up of former prospects and veteran leaders. The Royals organization also endured tough times throughout the last several years, losing 100 games four times in the last 23 years. Like the Pirates, the Royals have been one of the best teams in baseball over the past three seasons, however, the only difference is that Kansas City has taken advantage of their opportunities to shock the world in the postseason.

Due to my young age, I may not have as much perspective on what it means to finally see winning Pirates baseball again in this city after years of success in the 70’s and early 90’s, but I am old enough to have seen the terrors that the long losing streak brought to the fan base.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have always been one of the most popular franchises in Major League Baseball. It is an organization that has risen from being one of the worst to one of the best throughout the last couple of seasons. I know it’s easy to say that the team is underperforming due to two consecutive one game eliminations, but the future is bright for a team that just finished the season with 98 wins, the most for the franchise since 1991.

Whether it is the young crop of prospects that Pirates fans could be seeing in the next couple of years or the current group of young stars, the Pirates are going to be a good team for years to come. The days of 100 loss seasons and fans only looking forward to pierogi races and free bobbleheads is over. Despite three straight seasons that have ended in postseason disappointment, the organization is bound to continue improving towards the goal of winning that prestigious sixth World Series championship in franchise history. Let’s just hope that a division title and avoiding the one game Wild Card can also be a part of the team’s future as well.

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Next: What does the loss of Jim Benedict mean for the Pirates?

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