Reaction to the World Series from a Pittsburgh Pirates’ fan perspective
The Kansas City Royals officially won the World Series on Monday night in five games over the New York Mets. As Pittsburgh Pirates’ fans, we’ve had time now to recover from the Wild Card game loss to the Cubs, and we’ve had time to reflect on the 2015 season. Now, the rest of the baseball world will reflect on the season. They will surely speak to how the unique strengths the Royals showcased helped put them over the top, and how that emphasis could be a model for other teams. They’ll point to how dominant pitching is vitally important in the National League, yet maybe not so much so in the American League. They’ll write about the bright future for the Mets and the Cubs, and how maybe going all in at the trade deadline isn’t the right approach (sorry Blue Jays). Maybe someone will write about the Pirates, but not necessarily about their success, but rather their lack thereof in the postseason. Whether that’s fair or not, oh well. As a lifelong Pirates’ fan, this World Series pointed out a number of things to me, and I wonder if other Pirates’ fan feel the same way.
The Royals were the team the Pirates were supposed to be
I can’t help but feel bittersweet about the Royals’ World Series championship. They were arguably the first small market team to win it all since the 2003 Florida Marlins. But even the Marlins, despite a lack of attendance at their games, still played in the huge market of Miami. For all that baseball pundits preach that baseball is becoming more fair, I don’t buy it. While small market teams can and do make the playoffs, big market teams almost always take home the championship. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
So, on one hand, I’m happy that the Royals became the first small market team to win in 12 years. Essentially, they found a way to beat a system that heavily favors big market teams. Shouldn’t I feel nothing but happiness for a team that could give hope to the small market Pirates?
I probably should, but I don’t. The Pirates were supposed to be that team. They came out of their years of losing first, and they were the small market team that used new and creative strategies to try to “beat the system.” They got to the playoffs first, and they became the great story and, some would say, America’s team. But they bowed out early in three consecutive years, and the Royals took over the mantle.
Don’t get me wrong. If the Pirates win, it will still be a phenomenal accomplishment, a tremendous story, and nothing short of an amazing feeling. But they won’t be the trailblazers. They’ll be following in the Royals’ footsteps. So I do feel a little bittersweet, but part of that can be blamed on the Pirates themselves. And that brings me to my next point…
The Pirates have to win the division
The Royals won the AL Central. The Pirates have been in the Wild Card game three consecutive years now. We all know how dominant the Cardinals have been, always seemingly one step ahead of the Pirates. But that’s no excuse. To be the best you have to beat the best. The Pirates have had the talent for all three of those years to top the Cardinals in the division. Now they need to do that. The Wild Card game is a crap shoot. The Royals almost lost against the A’s in that game in 2014. The Pirates finished second in the NL Central each of the past three seasons by a combined seven games. That’s it. The division is very winnable for this squad, and they need to do that. The Wild Card game isn’t good enough anymore. You know who else won their division? The other team in the World Series, the Mets…
The Mets, and the Cubs, will be dangerous for years to come
This is rather obvious isn’t it? But it still needs to be said. More teams are rising to the top in the National League. We knew the Mets and the Cubs were stockpiling prospects. The Cubs stocked position prospects, while the Mets honed in on pitching. Both of their ascents just came much faster than most of us anticipated. Now, it looks like the Cubs have arguably the best young infield in the game while the Mets have the best young rotation in the game. The Pirates, on the other hand, have big question marks with the future of the right side of their infield and a lack of talent in the rotation after the top two. The Cubs will now be a threat to win the division for years to come, and we know the Cardinals never miss a beat. The division is getting tougher to win every year. But that brings me to my final thought…
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There’s no formula to building a championship team
The Royals won with defense and a great bullpen. The Giants did it with a phenomenal ace and overall great starting pitching. The Red Sox won with a powerful offense. Teams win it all with different formulas. Generally, small market teams have to work harder to win and to even get to the World Series in the first place. And pitching does tend to be emphasized and magnified in the post-season. As we look toward the future, great starting pitching and overall young talent seems to be prevalent among the best teams in the National League. Our Pittsburgh Pirates have a very interesting offseason ahead, one that could involve a lot of change in the rotation and in the infield. Or, it could involve much of the same. One thing is for certain, however: the rest of the NL is getting better. Neal Huntington and company have to keep that in mind moving forward.
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