Twenty years ago this season the Pittsburgh Pirates were the team to beat. With two straight seasons (’90-’91) of winning at least 95 games, the Pirates entered the 1992 season with the hopes of continuing their dominance and hopefully a World Series championship. What they didn’t expect was that the ’92 season would be their last season as one of the top teams in Major League Baseball.
The Pirates of the early 90′s had speed, power, pitching and chemistry. In 1992, the Pirates had what they needed to finally get over the hump when they fielded one of the prolific hitters in the game in Barry Bonds (.311, 34 Home runs, 103 Runs Batted In, 39 Stolen Bases), Pitchers Doug Drabek (15-11, 2.77 ERA) and a young Tim Wakefield (8-1, 2.15 ERA). They had a cast of players that would lead Pittsburgh to a 96-66 record and a National League East Division Crown, but once again they would come up short in the National League Championship Series and lose to the Atlanta Braves 4-3 in the best of seven series.
The next 19 seasons would put the Pirates in the Major League Baseball history books, but not a record that Pirates fans would be proud of. The Pirates would go on to have 19 straight losing seasons. This would be after losing Barry Bonds to the San Francisco Giants and almost every member of the team that helped to bring glory to Pittsburgh. For the 19 years of suffering little did the Pittsburgh fans know that the Pirates were just building up their farm system to be able to compete in the future. But tell a baseball fan that they would have to endure such a long streak of losing just to be able to finally have a winning season and those die-hard fans would drive you out of town. But a true fan of a team goes through all the ups and downs with an organization so that when they finally find glory days again, they can truly appreciate the ride.
Turn now to 2012 and it is a totally a different story for the Pirates. They are fun again, they are fast again, they have power, pitching and best of all they are in second place at 63-47, 2.5 games back of first place Cincinnati Reds, first place in the second Wild Card spot and steaming right towards their first playoff berth in 19 seasons. The Pirates are enjoying their first winning season in a very long time and dreaming of getting back to the World Series. And one of the best things about this season is their payroll, which is only $62.4 million dollars. They have a better record than other teams with higher payrolls; so once again, a young team is stealing the show in the Majors.
One of the reasons for the sudden turnaround is the emergence of super star Andrew McCutchen. He is a stud, he is an All Star, and he is God’s gift to the city of Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen, who was born in 1986 and was only 6 years old the last time the Pirates meant anything to the sport of baseball, is enjoying one of his best seasons in his young Major League Career. McCutchen leads Major League Baseball in batting with a .370 Batting Average, has 23 Home Runs, which he totaled all of last season and also 67 Runs Batted In, with 52 games to go. McCutchen is locked up to play in Pittsburgh for another 4 seasons and if the Pirates play their cards right and keep adding pieces to their puzzle, they should be very good team for the remainder of his contract in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates are in a position to be one of the teams in the playoffs this year. With the addition of the second Wild Card spot, they are sitting very good now, but with first place in the Central Division within reach, you have to believe that the Pirates have every intention to fight for another division crown and put themselves in a better position going into the playoffs. This has been a great season so far of watching the emergence of a franchise that has been dead for so many years and for all the fans that have suffered through it all. Their time has finally come and their team can finally erase a record that has stood the test of time and looked to never be broken. Now at least the Pirates can start on a new streak, Winning Seasons.