The city of Pittsburgh is crazy about their baseball team once again. It’s the middle of July and the Pirates are actually buying at the trade deadline. The latest rumors indicate that the Pirates are interested in Astros outfielder Hunter Pence.
Anyone familiar with baseball in Pittsburgh knows that the Pirates are a sure bet to be sellers at the MLB trading deadline. Pirates fans are used to misery, so this season has been a pleasant surprise. At the start of play today, the Pirates are 49-44 and 1/2 game out of first place behind the Milwaukee Brewers.
For the first time since 1992, the Pirates finished the first half of the season with a winning record. The Pirates haven’t generated buzz like this since the Barry Bonds days. If I am part of the Pirates’ front office, I would go ahead and trade for Hunter Pence and/or any other player that is available simply because it’s been so long since they’ve been competitive.
The success of the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates has been fueled by the strong pitching of players such as Jeff Karstens, Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, and Joel Hanrahan. On the offensive side, All-Star Andrew McCutchen has been the catalyst and leader of a Pittsburgh team that is forcing their way back to relevancy.
Andrew McCutchen made his debut in June 2009 after the Pirates made a bold decision to trade All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves. At the time, the trade was very unpopular in Pittsburgh. Fans felt as if management had given up on them early in the season. After all, the Pirates just saw their No.3 hitter shipped to Atlanta for prospects that wouldn’t make an impact till later. The trade did allow McCutchen to be promoted from Triple-A to become the new starting centerfielder for the Pirates. While McLouth became a colossal disappointment in Atlanta, It wouldn’t be long until McCutchen made an impact in Pittsburgh.
He wowed fans with his speed, defense, and ability to hit for power at times. In one game against the Nationals his rookie year, McCutchen hit 3 home runs and drove in 6 runs, becoming the first Pirates player to hit three home runs in a single game. He went on to win Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year award and became an instant fan favorite.
Fast forward two years later. McCutchen is an All-Star himself and midway through the season, he is already hitting .282 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs. If he keeps up his spectacular play, he may go for 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.
With the NFL Lockout still on, the city of Pittsburgh can rely on their Pirates to carry on the winning ways of the Steelers. As weird as it may seem, the Pirates have a very good shot at the playoffs this year and if McCutchen and Co. can catch fire at the right time, we might be seeing Black and Yellow in October — and not from the Steelers.