Opening Day is near and the Pittsburgh Pirates are finally making some moves to put a winning team on the field.
I was born in Pittsburgh in November of 1991. I was technically alive (though probably not conscious) when the Pirates finished the 1992 season with 96 wins and 66 losses and lost to the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.
Since then, the Pirates have failed to win more games than they lost every season. My 17-year-old sister has never been alive for a winning season for the Pirates.
With one of the nicest ballparks in MLB, the Pirates still attract thousands of fans to home games despite poor performance on the field. Poor ownership, management and team chemistry have led to the longest winning season drought in ANY major professional league.
However, this year, the Pirates might finally hit the .500 mark. It is 2012 after all.
Maybe this was part of the Mayans prediction.
The pitching is...not terrible. Kevin Correia was selected as an All-Star last year along with closer Joel Hanrahan. The Pirates actually made a big splash in the offseason for the first time in a long time by acquiring A.J. Burnett, a starting pitcher in the 2009 World Series Champion New York Yankees' starting rotation. He is expected to be the team's ace once he returns from an injury to his eye.
The Buccos showed a lot of potential last year.
At the end of July, they were in first place in the NL Central and showing they could win. The season started to fall apart (as usual) after a blown call led to a Pirates' loss to the Braves in a 19-inning game.
The Pirates are fairly young and still developing.
Outfielders Andrew McCutchen (25), Jose Tabata (23), and Alex Presley (26), third basemen Pedro Alvarez (25), second baseman Neil Walker (26) are emerging as leaders for the Pirates and have a drive to win.
Lastly, the NL Central is a weak division.
Albert Puljos no longer powers the Cardinals and Prince Fielder left Milwaukee—both of the NL Central's playoff representatives in last year's postseason. Both St. Louis and Milwaukee are still great teams, but maybe not quite as good as last season.
A few wins here and there against the division leaders, and the Pirates might be able to pull off a winning record.
Picking the Pirates as a playoff contender is a stretch, but an above .500 season is not.
There are 162 games in an MLB season, and for the first time in almost 20 years, the Pirates have a chance to contend (contend being the key word) for a playoff slot and finally end the depressing days for Pirates' fans.