Remember when all we talked about over the off-season was whether the Pirates would improve on their win total from 2011 season? Here we are on September 6th, and they’ve matched that win total. They’re a lock for improvement from the 2011 record. Yet Pirates fans aren’t talking about the improvement.
Remember when the only thing people focused on was breaking the losing streak? It reached irrational levels, to the point where people wanted to make trades just to get to 82 wins. The Pirates only need to go 10-16 over their remaining games to finish above .500. And that seems to be an afterthought.
Coming in to the year, the expectations were on lesser “goals”. I use that word loosely because improving over a previous year’s record or finishing over .500 aren’t goals. They’re just checkpoints on the way to the real goal: contending. Most Pirates fans didn’t expect the team to contend until top prospects like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon arrived. But now they are contenders, maybe a year earlier than expected, and the expectations have changed.
The only thing Pirates fans are focused on right now is the playoff race (well, a playoff race and the home attendance). And that’s how it should be. That’s how it should have been all along. The goal was always to be a contender. I think Pirates fans were so beaten down by the constant losing that it made it seem impossible for the team to ever compete again.
There still may be some hesitation to think that the team can contend in future years — a feeling that this year is a fluke and the only real shot the team has to contend. But I think that’s just left over feelings that everything will go wrong for the Pirates. I can’t imagine this is their best chance to contend. Not when Cole and Taillon will arrive in the next few years with most of the key players on this team still around. Not once Starling Marte gets more experience under his belt. Not with other prospects arriving, and other younger players continuing to progress. There’s a reason we didn’t expect the team to contend this soon. We were counting on all of those aspects for the team to contend. Their chances in future years will only improve.
For this year, they’re definitely still in it. A series win over the Astros shouldn’t be celebrated. It should be expected. And following the series the Pirates are 1.5 games back from the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot, and tied with the Dodgers. And the best part is we can ignore whether the team will improve, and we can ignore the losing streak, and just focus on what matters: a playoff race.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates beat the Astros 6-3.