Last night’s game was heart-breaking. Fortunately, this was not like the loss in ’92. When that game ended, there was sort of a gloomy outlook because folks knew that Barry Bonds would be gone and that the Pirates could not keep the team together.
This is not the case at the end of this season. This feels like the beginning. I do not know if the Pirates will win a World Series or anything like that, but I can see them competing each year and giving us playoff baseball for many years to come. After the darkness of the past, it feels great to actually be able to look forward to next season.
After the collapse last season, it was hard to tell how good the Pirates would be this year. Most people agreed that they were not nearly as good as their first half, but not as bad as their second. So it seemed reasonable that they could be around a .500 team. Here is what I said in my 2013 MLB Predictions Post:
The Reds proved that even without Joey Votto for a portion of the season that they were the best team in the division. The Cardinals always seem to find a way to win, so I will not discount them. The Brewers will most likely not start out as bad as last year. I have very mixed feelings about the Pirates. After the collapse of last season, I do not think they are nearly as good as that first half made them seem. I also do not think they will be as bad as they were in the final few months. If they can be consistent, they could contend again. The Cubs are not there yet, but they seem to be making the right moves.
In that same post I predicted that the Pirates would go 82-80. I was right that they would have a winning season, but I would have never thought in a million years that they would finish with 94 wins and that they would be playing the Cardinals in game five of the NLDS.
The first game I went to this year was the April 17th game versus the Cardinals. That game was a beautiful display of pitching from Burnett, who took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. It is funny that looking at Baseball-Reference, it says there were only 9,570 people at the game. Hard to imagine PNC being empty after the crowds we have seen these past few weeks.
We went to a game a few days later and saw the Buccos beat the Braves. Going into that game, the Pirates were 8-8 on the season. After beating the Braves, they never went back to .500 again all season. They took three out four that series and it really felt like this team was a bit different than the previous seasons.
By the end of May the Pirates were 34-21. People were already talking about when the collapse would happen. Many people felt like it would be the west coast/inter-league road trip. For some reason the Pirates have no success against the American League. Instead they swept the Angels and Mariners, then came home to sweep the Brewers.
That was the moment where I knew this team was for real. They were not going to collapse and contending in the division was a possibility. It always seemed kind of improbable that the Pirates could win the division, but with two wildcards, there was definitely a chance to grab one. Yet, for much of the summer, the Pirates either led the division (sometimes with the best record in baseball), or were only a game back.
The series everyone talks about was the one against the Cardinals where the Pirates took four out of five at home around the trade deadline. Then came a losing stretch, which caused the Buccos to finish 14-14 in the month of August. I started to get scared. Not that they would collapse and finish below .500, that seemed like an impossibility. Instead, I was afraid that the Reds and Nationals would get hot and pass them for the wild card.
Wait a second? This team that I thought at the beginning of the year could have a chance to break .500, but was probably still one year away from really contending, had forced me to change my outlook on the season. Every fan had to reevaluate what a successful season would mean. Missing the playoffs was no longer an option.
They did not collapse, the other teams did get hot and almost made a run, but the Pirates kept them at bay. In fact, they ended up sweeping the Rangers, which probably killed their playoff chances. Then they finished out the season by sweeping the Reds before playing them in the Wild Card game, which was the greatest game I have ever had the chance to attend.
They lost a tough game last night. I am sad about it. However, that does not mean I am going to sit here and cry about how it was such a let down. This was a great season. It blew away all expectations. I am confident that I will be experiencing winning baseball for a few years in Pittsburgh. That is something I never thought would happen again.
Some random thoughts about last night:
-Here is a great post from my friend James. He wrote this back in 2006, when the Mets lost in the NLCS. Oddly enough it was Adam Wainwright who struck out Carlos Beltran. He sent me a few messages last night saying how he was pulling for the Pirates. Thanks man!
-It is amazing to me how much people wanted Pedro gone at the beginning of the year. He got off to such a slow start and I remember fans saying they should trade him/cut him/demote him. At the Braves game we went to, the Pirates actually started Russell Martin at third base. Funny how Pedro became the guy that everyone wanted to come up with that final at-bat. That is a turn-around.
-Okay people of Philipsburg, you can stop posting on Facebook about how “it is sad the Pirates lost, but great that Matt Adams hit the game winner.” He did not hit the game-winning home run. He hit a meaningless home run that made it 5-1. The Cardinals would go on to score another run. I am not trying to take anything away from him, he has had a very good season and come arbitration time (is he eligible, I have no clue…) he should be due for a hefty raise.
When I wrote about Matt Adams back when he was in AA, only one person commented about the post. We joked how it was crazy that he had made it further than anyone in Philipsburg history. In AA! I reposted this like 20 times to Facebook, and yet none of the people from my town seemed to notice. Now though, every post on there is about how they always knew he would be great and blah blah blah. No one knew that.
-Also, for next season can someone please get Greg Brown a map of Pennsylvania. Whenever he talks about Matt Adams, he always mentions that he is from the State College area in central Pennsylvania. Very rarely does he say that he went to Philipsburg-Osceola High School. I know this should not be a big deal, but he will mention what high school a player attended in Florida.
While I am on the subject of maps…HARRISBURG IS NOT CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA! Greg Brown is from Mechanicsburg. During a game against the Brewers, Greg mentioned that Jeff Bianchi was from central Pennsylvania. I looked it up. He went to Lampeter-Strasburg HS in Lampeter, PA.
Do you see that red dot? That is approximately where Lampeter is located. You see the blue dot? That is Mechanicsburg. Do those look even remotely like the center of the state? NO! Knock that shit off Mr. Brown.
-People on Twitter need to stop having a contest to try and prove who is the biggest fan. I have seen way too many tweets saying “my _______(insert family member) had to call me at ______ (insert time) to make sure I was still alive after that game.” No one should be on suicide watch after a baseball game. It is especially infuriating when you realize that most of these people do not even remember the ’92 game.
I think I feel better now that I have all that off my chest.