If a local bookie would have set odds on the NL Central standings through 86 games, anyone bold enough to lay money on the Pittsburgh Pirates sitting just 1.5 games off the pace would have a nice payday coming.
Even with a loss last night, the Pirates remain right in thick of the race, own the fourth best record in the NL since mid-May and will likely have a winning record at the All Star Break for the first time since 1992. For those having trouble putting that timeline into perspective, just know that at this point of the ’92 season, they notched their 47th win thanks to a shutout by Doug Drabek during a time when it was trendy to wrap a “No Fear” bandana around ones curly mullet.
(Okay, so the picture was from ’95 when he played for the Astros. But don’t act like it wouldn’t have been cool in ’92)
Since the wheels came off after that season, the Pirates have, on average, gone into the second half 10 games under .500 and fans have justifiably lost interest to start mentally prepping for Steelers training camp.
Over that time, they have engaged in an annual battle with the Royals for the prestigious title of “Team that would have been relegated if this was the English Premier League”.
But here they are on July 7, just a good weekend away from first place. And even though we’re rooting for the team ahead of them, it’s tough to root against the Pirates. Any measure of success they achieve makes them more and more like the Hollywood version of the Cleveland Indians (although we’re hoping they aren’t removing pieces of clothing from a cardboard cutout of this guy in the locker room).
While the Pirates have been fun to mock, should the Cardinals tumble out of the race like they did last year, it would be a lot easier to swallow if the team they’re looking up at is not the Reds or Brewers.
I guess that means we’re sort of rooting for the Pirates. All that’s left to do is go buy a stove pipe cap.