It has been 20 years since the last time the Pittsburgh Pirates tasted the sweetness of October baseball, much less had a winning season. That 1992 team had a strong core of players that included stars like Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, Doug Drabek, and skinny, toolsy outfielder named Barry Bonds.
Since that glorious year Pirates fans have watched as first-round picks and heralded prospects have turned into disappointments on the field. Players like Chad Hermansen, Bobby Bradley, J.R. House, and Bryan Bullington were supposed to turn into the second coming of that '92 team that came one out away from a World Series.
When a player came up and actually succeeded at the major league level, we were forced to watch as the front office cursed our franchise by trading away our young stars (think Aramis Ramirez and Jason Schmidt) for disproportionately small returns.
So here we are in 2012 and wouldn't you know it, our Pittsburgh Pirates are actually giving us a glimmer of hope. After 53 games the Buccos are 27-26 in second place all by themselves and just three games behind the division leading Reds. Will the Pirates be able to sustain this success over the long-term or will they just revert back to the losing ways the world has come to associate with Pittsburgh baseball?
Here is a look at eight players who could help turn the Pirates into perennial contenders.