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Fall is the best time of the year for any sports fan. There is so much going on with football, hockey, basketball and baseball. While football dominates Saturday and Sunday, baseball’s playoffs can be a great substitute during the week if hockey and basketball aren’t your thing.
The one team that everyone keeps mentioning is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last year, everyone said, “They’re out again,” after they failed to clinch the National League Central or a wild card spot. It was the 20th consecutive year that they had failed to reach the playoffs. Everyone just said, “Wait until next year,” after they played game No. 162. The last playoff appearance was in 1992, under manager Jim Leyland when they lost to the Atlanta Braves 4-3 in the National League Championship Series. But this year, the drought ended.
Pittsburgh posted a solid 94-68 record, securing a wild card spot, while the St. Louis Cardinals grabbed the division title. They proceeded to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in a one-game playoff, thereby securing their first postseason victory since 1992. Next up, they play the fundamentally sound Cardinals, which they have beaten 10 out of 19 times this season, excluding the postseason. This is the most talent the Pirates have had with their star outfielder Andrew McCutchen and central New York native closer Jason Grilli. Add in veterans Justin Morneau and Russell Martin, and this team has a very solid lineup with the inclusion of their starting pitching. This team has revived a fan base that has seen some mediocre teams. The Pirates have won no more than 79 games in the last 20 years. However, this team has thrown a monkey wrench into the 2013 season because most people, including myself, had them in the 2014 postseason. Coincidentally, the Pittsburgh Steelers are winless this year, so the city needs something to cheer about.
Imagine how long 20 years is for a franchise to rebuild. Consider how the culture of baseball and America has changed in that time span. In 1992, George H. Bush was president, action figures dominated the store shelves, a gallon of gas cost $1.13 on average, and the Dream Team dominated the Olympic games in Barcelona, Spain. During that drought, baseball experienced its fair share of changes, including the strike of 1994, Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s streak of consecutive games played in 1997, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s home run battle in 1998 (McGwire won 70-66), the infamous argument about the All-Star Game determining home field advantage in the World Series in 2003 and the expansion of instant replay set for next season.
Who will be the next team to make resurgence in the world of baseball? My guess is the Kansas City Royals because they started off the season rough, but made a furious attempt at a wild card spot in the second half and fell short. We’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, enjoy the wide selection of sports that autumn offers.