At the end of the 2008 regular season, the Pirates became the first team in MLB history to have 16 consecutive losing seasons; a feat that many Pirates said would not happen.
You would think after the Penguins made the Stanley Cup run, and the Steelers won their sixth Superbowl title, and even the Pittsburgh Passion, the women's football team, has raked in their fair share of titles, that the Pirates would have some motivation to win a game or two.
After Neal Huntington's many surprising mid-season moves last season, the Pirates have acquired some fresh new talent, if not a reason to come see the MLB's youngest team play.
With the addition of such prospects of Jose Tabata, Brandon Moss, Andy LaRoche, and Pedro Alvarez, the Pittsburgh faithful have come to see the 2009 Pirates as something similar to the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.
Now I'm not saying World Series, or even playoffs, but a winning season sure would lift the spirits.
Not only has the organization sparked interest in the young players, but in the veterans as well. Adam LaRoche has "tweaked" his swing so that he'll play the full year instead of only the second half.
Pitcher Tom Gorzellanny has also regained focus after losing it last year due to a hangover from his 14 win season.
Obviously the main struggle last year was the withered pitching staff where a nine-win Paul Maholm was the ace.
Huntington has already done some renovating, hiring pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.
Left hander Phil Dumatrait will remain out of camp due to the arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, but still has a run at a bullpen spot - a deep wound in the Pirates game.
Now that Craig Hansen has big league experience and Sean Burnett gave the organization a little confidence in the bullpen, there is only a little more tweaking to do. If Matt Capps can stay healthy, and Tyler Yates consistent, the Pirates' bullpen should be in decent shape.
Competing for the four open spots in the rotation are now Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, and Jimmy Barthmeir.
Of course with Doug Mientkiewicz gone, someone else will have to cool down Ian Snell and step up to lead this team.
Nate McLouth seems the ideal player to fill the leadership role after being the only Pirate selected to the MLB all-star game last season. He also led the team in average and homeruns.
McLouth is also predicted to yet again be the leader of the offense, hoping to have another season where he hits over .280 and 20 homeruns. However, he isn't the only one.
If Adam LaRoche stays true to his word, he would definitely help out the offense, complemented by a blooming Brandon Moss, a speedy Nyjer Morgan, and a hopefully consistent Freddy Sanchez. With Jack Wilson, and Ryan Doumit, who hit just under .325 last season, in between, the offense should be one of baseball's best.
But, this is the Pittsburgh Pirates; a team where this same kind of prediction has been written sixteen years in a row hoping for the best, but definitely expecting nothing but the worse.
Can the Pirates be the '08 Rays?
Pray Pittsburgh, pray, because it will take nothing less to get this team a winning season.
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