After 18 consecutive losing seasons, the formerly hapless Pittsburgh Pirates are heading into the All-Star break four games over .500 and exactly ONE game out of the division lead. The TV commentators were speculating this afternoon about a possible run for the division during the second half of the season, or at least the wildcard. Just getting to .500 used to be the elusive dream and now we’re talking playoffs!
The statistics are staggering for this 2011 edition of the Buccos.
Last year, win #45 came on September 3. This year? July 6. They matched last year’s road win total (17) on June 1.
The last time they sent three players to the All-Star game? 1990.
Closer Joel Hanrahan gives a whole new meaning to HammerTime. He’s 26 for 26 in save opportunities this season. Only one reliever in the majors, Craig Kimbrel, has more saves and he’s only got one more than Hanrahan.
Despite a high number of injuries, resulting in a roster heavy with rookies, the team is playing better than it has in years. Both starting catchers went down the same week, and the top minor-league prospect was also injured. The team went shopping and snagged the Red Sox AAA catcher, Mike McKenry. Make that “Fort McKenry.” He’s a wall behind the plate, and finally got the bat going on Friday night with his first major league home run, a game winner. (Someone really needs to get on making a Fort McKenry shirt. I’ll be first in line to buy one.)
I’m not even afraid to buy a shirt with a player’s name and number on it. Just a couple of years ago the Pirates were sure to sell or trade their best players, usually the guy on the shirt I just bought. Eleanor is still sporting a Freddie Sanchez shirt.
Most of all, and if you’ve ever seen Bull Durham or Major League you know what I’m talking about, the players and coaches are having an absolute blast. Anyone who saw the Pirates’ dugout under John Russell’s leadership saw a team having absolutely.no.fun.at.all.
I’m gushing, I know, but these Pirates are totally gush-worthy. I’m wishing I could be at the ballpark every night. (It’s always been a really beautiful park, even when the team sucked.) The city is responding and sell-outs are regular happenings, rather than noteworthy events.
Raise the jolly roger, dammit. LET’S GO BUCS!
If you’re thinking about catching a little bit of the magic in person, follow this link and use the code “clumberkim” for ticket discounts.
[Disclaimer: The Pirates are kicking me a tiny commission on tickets sold with my code. Really tiny. I'm in it for the chance to win a piece of signed memorabilia for Oliver.]