Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Pirates, Historically Bad: Is the end in sight?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have not made the playoffs since 1992. I was not even born yet! My mom was born
and raised in Pittsburgh and she was able to watch the days of Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Manny Sanguillen, Dave Parker, and World Series titles in 1971 and 1979. In my lifetime I have never seen the Pirates have a winning season! They have been the epitome of bad over the last two decades. They’ve had their great players though, Barry Bonds, pre steroids, Jason Bay, and now Andrew McCutchen who is an MVP caliber player. The Pirates have been turning it around in recent seasons, the 2011 season saw them in first place as late as July 25 before falling off and ending 18 games below .500. However General Manager Neal Huntington has been doing an excellent job building the farm system and making smart deals to help get this organization back on track.

It started with the 2008 MLB draft when he took Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez with the second overall and pick and this was met with a good amount of criticism and rightfully so. Three picks later at number 5 overall the San Francisco Giants took Florida State catcher Buster Posey who was widely regarded as the best player in the draft. In 2009 he took Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez who has yet to make a major impact on the club but is widely regarded as the future behind the plate for the Pirates and is said to be a great defensive catcher which is one thing Huntington has stated that he wants. Since then, he has taken high risk/reward pitchers like Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie who will eventually have profound impacts on the pitching at the MLB level along with 2011 first overall pick Gerrit Cole who is expected to make his debut sometime this season and pack that with Taillon, you can have one of the most potent 1-2 punches in the league. It’s not just those guys though, as the Pirates have a multitude of talented prospects including Dominican shortstop Alen Hanson, speedster Gregory Polanco, and the big young Mexican Luis Heredia just to name a few. These players are anywhere from one to three years away still but it does show that help is on the way for the Pirates.
There's a lot of hype surrounding Gerrit Cole. 

This year though they still have to go on with what they have but Huntington has done a nice job with this year’s team which boasts a good amount of experience, youth, and talent. Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano are the two big names to join the team this season and hopefully propel them to a winning season. As a Yankee fan I have watched Russell the last two seasons and while his high usage while in Los Angeles has prevented him from becoming the star he was on track to become, he is still a very serviceable catcher, something the Pirates have lacked since the heyday of Jason Kendall. Liriano, as we all know, hasn’t been the same since Tommy John surgery in 2006. However he has shown some flashes that he can be that same pitcher if he keeps his walks down. We all know about the super talent that is Andrew McCutchen, and Starling Marte showed last season that he can and will be an effective player at the big league level. The signing of Jonathan Sanchez could prove to be a big one as well. When I do season outlooks for each team I’ll get into more depth about the roster for this season.

20 seasons since a winning year for the Pirates and fans are certainly anxious. Neal Huntington has been doing a nice job in recent years of bringing this team closer and this season may be the season they finally break the .500 barrier. Even if they don’t though, Pirates fans can be sure, it is coming soon!

--Kenny Celelli

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