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Season Preview: The Pittsburgh Pirates Tell Me I Should Believe

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Seventeen. Seventeen losing seasons are what Pirates fans have had to endure.

In the ’70s the Pittsburgh Pirates were a dynasty with the “We Are Family” era alive and well. Winning baseball was something that was expected in that time, and now as I am typing this article, I realize that even one winning season to break the losing streak would be cause for a parade.

Going from a World Series team to the laughingstock of the league is what the Pirates did. Yet, in 2007, the Pirates hired a new general manager in Neal Huntington after firing what some call the destroyer of the franchise, Dave Littlefield. This move was supposed to turn the tide for the team, and so far, the case is still out.

In his three years with the team, Huntington has basically imploded the Pirates roster. The team at the end of the 2009 season had only a few players remaining from the Opening Day lineup of that year. Instead of doing this only halfway, Huntington has completely gutted the team. This is difference between Huntington and Littlefield and is what makes me have some hope, even though that hope might be all for nothing.

I tend to side with the fans that are optimists when they say “why keep the players that you can’t win with?” If you think about it, that’s a great point. A good amount of fans though have grumbled about the trades of All-Star caliber players like Jason Bay and Nate McLouth.

On July 31, 2008, Bay was traded to the Boston Red Sox in a three-team deal that sent Manny Ramírez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris to the Pirates from the Dodgers and Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen to the Pirates from the Red Sox. On June 3, 2009, McLouth, the team’s only 2008 All-Star, was traded to the Atlanta Braves for prospects Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, and Gorkys Hernández. These trades are often questioned still today, but the case is still out.

Through these trades and others, the team has fielded one of the best minor league systems in baseball, which is something Pirates fans can be happy about. This is the plan that Huntington has proposed, building the team from the bottom up.

Recently, team president Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington have promised that the trading away of players is basically done, unless they are using a trade to build for the current team. They believe that they now have a winning team in Pittsburgh and claim that the roster they have now will be the one to bring the Pirates back to their glory days.

This year, Pirates fans will be excited to see center fielder Andrew McCutchen play his second season in the majors. This man is one of the bright spots on the team and had a stellar rookie season to say the least. The status of McCutchen will end up showing if the president and GM are actually trying to win. If he is traded a few years from now, it is obvious that the team is in it for the money, and not for winning baseball.

The team is now extremely young and all of the prospects that were traded for over the past three years are now ready to make their move to go to the majors this year or next. According to the plan, by 2012 the Pirates should be able to win the NL Central. I for one am not sure if this will really happen, but to say I am not excited for the team would be a lie. This team is young and is believed to be staying in Pittsburgh. Gaining chemistry is something the Pirates aren’t used to, and it could help a great deal. The future is here Pirates fans, so let’s see if they can win.

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About Matt Presto