It's hard to believe it's been 7 years since the Pittsburgh Pirates last made the MLB playoffs. The 2015 season marked the end of a three-year postseason run for the Pirates, but it seemed like the beginning of an even brighter future for the team.
Led by stars like Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, and Mark Melancon, the Pirates compiled a 98-64 record in 2015, finishing just two games behind the division-winning Cardinals. They seemed poised to continue their success for years to come.
McCutchen had another outstanding MVP-caliber season, batting .292 with 23 home runs and 96 RBIs. The perennial All-Star cemented himself as one of the faces of baseball. Cole emerged as a true ace, going 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts. Melancon locked down 51 saves, further establishing himself as an elite closer.
The Pirates were firing on all cylinders. They had depth, chemistry, and talent at every position. Even after losing in the Wild Card game three straight seasons, hopes were high that this core could lead Pittsburgh to its first World Series since 1979.
At the trade deadline, the Pirates went all in to try and put themselves in prime position for another playoff run. They acquired veteran starter J.A. Happ from the Mariners to add rotation depth. They traded for power-hitting first baseman Mike Morse from the Dodgers to add pop to their lineup. They bolstered their bullpen by picking up Joakim Soria from the Tigers. And they dealt for veteran third baseman Aramis Ramirez and pitcher Joe Blanton to further strengthen the roster. It was a flurry of deadline activity, bringing in tested major league talent to supplement an already strong roster. The additions spoke to the Pirates' win-now mentality in 2015. They thought this talented core was ready to bring a championship back to Pittsburgh, and the trade deadline moves showed they were willing to go the extra mile to make it happen.
Alas, it was not to be. The Pirates failed to build on their 2015 campaign. Instead of taking the next step forward, the team began to take steps backward. Stars like Cole and McCutchen were traded away. Melancon and Walker were dealt with as well. It did not all happen in 2016 but that was the start of the regression. The biggest issue was the minor league pipeline ran dry.
While the baseball Gods can be fickle, Pirates fans will always remember 2015 fondly. It was the last time the Bucs played October baseball. It was the end of a great three-year run that promised more success. And it was the last time this era of Pittsburgh Pirates came together and shined bright.