The Pittsburgh Pirates are eight games above 500. The Pirates have not been eight games above 500 since 1992. For Pirates fans it has been a long time coming.
Fans have suffered through 19 consecutive losing seasons, the longest such streak of any professional franchise in the four major sports.
Halfway through the 2012 season and the Pirates find themselves tied for first place in the National League Central division. There is talk about adding players at the trade deadline rather than the customary subtraction.
So how did the Pittsburgh Pirates get to this point?
The Clint Hurdle Factor
On November 14, 2010, Clint Hurdle was hired as the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hurdle then agreed to a 3 year contract, keeping him with the team through the 2013 and a culture shift began.
At the 2011 All-Star break, Hurdle had led the Pirates to a 47–43 record, one game out of first place in the NL Central. The turnaround has continued into 2012. There will be talk of Hurdle being manager of the year in the National League. That’s what happens when you transform a laughingstock into a contender.
Andrew McCutchen for MVP
Any manager will tell you that good players make managers look good, and the Pirates have some good players. Andrew McCutchen is establishing himself as one of the game’s elite players. He’s leading the NL with a .360 average, ranks among the top 10 in homers (16) and RBIs (54), and is pacing his team with 14 stolen bases.
McCutchen is a legitimate MVP candidate. Pedro Alvarez has 15 home runs and 46 RBI. Neil Walker and Garret Jones have become everyday contributors. like most winning teams, the Pirates are finding different heroes every day and sometimes in places where you would least expect it.
Drew Sutton is the latest example. Sutton has been on three teams this year.
The Pirates purchased him from Atlanta in May, sold him to Tampa Bay the very next day, then claimed him back from the Rays off waivers last week. Tuesday night Sutton hit a walk-off homer to center field to give the Pirates an improbable win.
Currently the Pirates have had a 10 game stretch with at least one home run, the longest streak since 2005. Everyone kids an opportunity to contribute and they do.
Pirates Pitching Making a Difference
Off-season acquisition A.J .Burnett has found a home in Pittsburgh that seems to fit his personality. Burnett has nine wins. James McDonald is not far behind with eight wins and leads the team with a 2.45 ERA. Erik Bedard, Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens round out the staff.
Can The Pirates Continue to Contend ?
Hurdle thinks so. “A group of men committed to one goal, (when) nobody cares who gets the credit, can do some pretty exciting things,” Hurdle said. “So far, three-and-a-half months into the season, that’s kind of the direction we’re headed right now. But we know how hard it is as well.” “Right now, the way we’re playing, it’s nice. We’re earning our way,” Hurdle said.
The long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fans would have to agree.