The Pirates traded an aging Brian Giles in 2003 to the Padres in order to obtain Bay, who promptly won the Rookie of the Year in 2004, and between 04-07 averaged 28 HRs and 94 RBI a season. The Pirates decided they weren't going to spend the money to sign him after the 2008 season, and sent him to the Red Sox as part of a 3 team deal with the Red Sox and the Dodgers. In return the Pirates got Andy LaRoche (currently at AAA Columbus, not a Pirates farm team BTW), Bryan Morris (who actually is having a good season in AAA Indianapolis), Brandon Moss (spent 3 seasons with Pittsburgh and now is in Oakland), and Craig Hansen (who spent parts of 2 seasons with the Pirates, and hasn't pitched since 2010).
The fans stayed away in droves after that. Media was all over management and ownership, because nobody believed that the Pirates cared anything about winning.
It seems that the times are changing for the better in Pittsburgh. Naturally after many losing seasons, the Pirates have built up a stock of young talent, including local boy Neil Walker
|Now that's a rookie cup!|
Drafted as a catcher, the Pirates quickly recognized that he'd have a more productive career in the field, and converted him to 2nd base. Walker actually led NL 2nd basemen in RBI's last year with 83.
Last season was the turning point for the franchise. Yes, they finished the season under .500 for the 20th straight year, but they sent 3 players to the All Star Game, and did something in July that hadn't been seen in Pittsburgh since the Bonds/Bonilla era.
They were buyers.
They recognized the need for some power in the lineup, and picked up two of the bigger names that were on the market.
|Kind of ironic that both players the Pirates picked up are on the same card|
Even though Ryan Ludwick was a bust, and Derrek Lee's time was shortened by a broken hand when hit by a pitch, their acquisition was something that gave Pirates fans something that they hadn't had in quite a long time.
The Pirates went out and bolstered their pitching staff in the off season, picking up AJ Burnett and Erik Bedard, who have turned out to be leaders on the staff. James McDonald, who the Pirates picked up from the Dodgers in 2010 for Octavio Dotel (who has pitched for 4 teams since then), has also been lights out this season, with a WHIP less than 1 and an ERA at 2.39. What this pitching staff has done for them so far is keep them in the NL Central race, for which they may be tied for first place if the Reds lose tonight to the Tigers.
The excitement is back for baseball in Pittsburgh...75,000 fans for the first two games against the Royals proves that.
If the Pirates can prove that they can get their bats going (only Walker and McCutchen are doing anything worth a damn so far), they just might write a chapter in baseball history this year that could be talked about for a long time.
Winning the division after going 20 years without a winning record? That would bring the whole city of Pittsburgh to their knees.
It may even make me a convert....who knows??
Thanks for reading, Robert