Originally written on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 6/29/13

I am 21-year-old college student, and I was six months old the last time the Pirates had a winning season. So technically I was alive last time the Pirates had a winning season, but for argument’s sake I have never seen a winning season.  I have witnessed the likes of Brian Giles, Jason Kendall, Jason Bay, Kris Benson, Aramis Ramirez, and plenty of others come and go while showing some signs of promise before being shipped out for prospects that never panned out.  I’ve seen the team collapse, whether it was at the end or within the first quarter of the season. To say the least I have had a very disappointing life as a baseball fan. 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However, the past few years have been brighter and some prospects have finally started to pan out.  Namely, Andrew McCutchen, who is arguably the best center fielder in baseball.  The 2011 and 2012 seasons were both the most exciting and disappointing baseball seasons I have experienced.  2011 was the first year we showed signs of life in a long time before fading down the stretch in the second half.  Last season, 2012, may have been the biggest tease I have ever experienced in sports. The Pirates were in first place for most of the year, and on my last day interning for the team they were 16 games over .500.  They were in good shape to make the playoffs and were almost assuredly going to snap the 20 straight seasons of losing baseball, but they had an enormous collapse as Cutch couldn’t keep up his torrid .350 average and the team ultimately finished under .500 again.  “Luckily” the long history of losing prepared me. But there’s hope. This year’s team is just as exciting as last year’s, if not more.  Currently the Pirates stand at 49-30 and have the best record in all of Major League Baseball.  This comes with a grain of salt because the in-division Cardinals (1 GB) and Reds (4.5 GB) continue to put more pressure on them.  With that being said, this team seems fit to keep it up and go the distance. McCutchen has been very good this year, but isn’t forced to have to completely carry the team like he did last year, which is a positive sign.  In the past month, Pedro Alvarez seems to have figured it out while hitting over .300 and bringing his home run total to 19 well before the All-Star break.  Starling Marte has far exceeded expectations and while he has fallen off a bit recently, his 2-homer game the other night could be a sign that he is coming back around.  The Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez platoon seems to be strong enough production, and Russell Martin has been a huge addition behind the plate for limiting steals and providing some needed offense.  Overall while the lineup could use a potential boost at the trade deadline in right field or at shortstop, this lineup has shown it is strong enough to put up numbers and win games. Photo Credit: Peter Diana/Post-Gazette Even with a better lineup than the past, the pitching has been the reason that the Pirates are where they are.  Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon could be the best 8th and 9th inning combo in baseball, and are both pitching the best they have in their lives.  Grilli has only one blown save on the year in 27 attempts.  Another surprise this year has been the emergence of Jeff Locke, the kid can flat-out pitch.  He is 7-1 with a 2.06 ERA, and has been nothing short of dominant in his recent trips to the mound. AJ Burnett and Wandy Rodriquez were solid up until their current stints on the DL, but should be back soon enough.  Jenemar Gomez has been a welcome boost that may not last, but was needed as James McDonald has been plain awful this year and is on the DL. The most promising young arm to date has been Gerrit Cole. The rookie has been outstanding in his 4-0  start, he even posted a 2-RBI hit in his first ever at-bat. He is the type of pitcher that has the potential to be dominant for years and has shown flashes of brilliance so far. He already reached 101 MPH this season, and if the Pirates are smart they will bite the bullet in regards to possible future money, and keep Cole in the majors for the rest of the season. Overall the pitching for the Pirates has been phenomenal, and if it can keep up the Pirates will surely be in contention all year. Even with all that was just pointed out about how good the Pirates have been so far this season, I must tread carefully. The Pirates, this team even, have burned me before. While this team does look a lot different from even last year’s team, until a winning season happens the doubt of a collapse will always be in the back of the mind of any Pirates fan due to over 20 years of failure.  I hope those doubts can finally be silenced this year with not only a winning season, but with potentially a playoff appearance or hopefully a division title. This young team genuinely seems to have the best chance of any Pirates team in the past two decades.  Even if they do collapse, I’m going to enjoy their success as much as possible because there are few sights as beautiful as watching Starling Marte flying around the bases, Cutch making an amazing catch in center field, or Pedro Alvarez bombing one over the 21-foot Clemente Wall into the Allegheny River. -Childs

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