5 Reasons Pittsburgh Pirates Will Make Noise in NL Central
For baseball fans everywhere, remembering a season where the Pirates finished with a winning record is quickly becoming impossible.
The last time the Pirates won more games than they lost in a regular season was 1992.
Current Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who still lives in Pittsburgh with his family during the offseason, managed the Pirates to a 96-66 record and an NL Central Championship.
Tim Wakefield, who retired from major league baseball at the age of 45 after last season, won the Rookie Pitcher of the Year award.
Barry Bonds hit 34 home runs and 103 RBIs in his seventh MLB season.
The Pirates played at Three Rivers Stadium—a venue they shared with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
George H.W. Bush, the nation's 41st president held office.
The U.S. military intervened in Somalia to end a bloody civil war.
Aladdin, Wayne's World and A Few Good Men were some of the year's most popular movies.
Nirvana and Pearl Jam were putting Seattle on the musical map.
Needless to say, it's been a while since the Pirates "raised the Jolly Roger" on an above .500 season.
Finishing at the bottom of the standings year after year allowed Pittsburgh to draft several highly-touted prospects, who they hope can emerge as leaders for the struggling organization.
The Buccos' outfield is occupied by Alex Presley, Andrew McCutchen and José Tabata. Presley is the oldest member of the trio at 26.
25-year-old McCutchen hit 23 home runs and 89 RBIs last season, while Presley and Tabata split time between the Pirates, showing they have major league ability.
Pedro Alvarez, the team's starting third baseman, only 25 years old. He's dealt with several lingering injuries, but the team hopes he can finally become an impact player after selecting him with the second overall draft pick in 2008.
Hometown-hero Neil Walker plays second base and is only 26 years old. Walker had 83 RBIs last season and a .273 batting average.
Joining the youthful positional players: The Pirates' pitching staff, which include only five players over the age of 30.
It's time for these young Pirates to start blossoming into top-end players in Pittsburgh.
Last season, the Pirates played relatively well through May, June and July. The team battled for the top spot in the NL Central until an 8-22 August. Much of the team was still intact.
The success electrified the city, and attending games at the gorgeous PNC Park became a popular event.
The Pirates hope to build off a fairly successful 2011 season.
Much of the 2012 team played together last season, developing crucial chemistry in the clubhouse. If the team can channel that chemistry into quality play, the Pirates stand a good chance in the NL Central.
For the first time in a long time, Pittsburgh's pitching staff is actually...pretty good.
The team signed veteran A.J. Burnett, a member of the 2009 New York Yankees World Series Championship-winning rotation, who hopes to come back from injury soon. The Buccos' bullpen also employs two 2011 All-Star selections: Starting pitcher Kevin Corriea and closer Joel Hanrahan.
Hanrahan finished with 40 saves last season, a Top 10 performer in the league, and sports some of the game's most interesting facial hair styles.
The Pirates also hope 29-year-old, one-time Yankee Jeff Karstens can build off his strong 9-9, 3.38 ERA 2011 season.
There are still several questions regarding the Pirates' bullpen, but a decent rotation and high-end closer should be enough to at least contend in the division.
Weaker NL Central
The Pirates should be able to at least compete with all the teams in the NL Central.
The St. Louis Cardinals, winners of the 2011 World Series Championship, still boast veteran players like Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran, but aren't the same team after the departure of former NL MVP Albert Pujols.
The Milwaukee Brewers, who won the NL Central in 2011, still have Ryan Braun and a solid pitching staff, but will miss the services of power-hitting first baseman Prince Fielder.
The Reds look strong with first baseman Joey Votto and ace Johnny Cueto on the mound, but the Pirates should be able to challenge Cincinnati.
There are numerous supernatural ties to baseball. "The Curse of the Bambino" in Boston and "the Curse of the Billy Goat" in Chicago are two of the most notable. There is even said to be a "Curse of Barry Bonds" already dooming Pittsburgh baseball.
If some sort of otherworldly entity has control over America's past time, it must realize the Pirates are due.
Perhaps ghosts of Pirates' past are tired of seeing the reputation they built in the Steel City being further tarnished year after year.
Defying elementary statistics and basic laws of nature, the Pirates are sole possessor's of the longest losing streak of any professional sports team in ANY professional sport.
Surely, some force of nature has to restore order to the world and allow the Pirates to finish above .500 eventually.
Pittsburgh fans are used to winning sports teams—with two recent Super Bowl victories by the Steelers and a 2009 Stanley Cup victory by the Penguins. They hope some magic from these two franchises will find its way to PNC Park.
Pittsburgh is ready to contend in the NL Central, supernatural forces or not, and definitely has the ability to make some noise in the division this season.