Two years ago I introduced the Pittsburgh Pirates Care-O-Meter. Back then, the Pirates had just hired a brand new coach. The roster was still pretty abysmal but we had been promised that there were some hidden prospects lurking under the surface. After (at the time) eighteen consecutive losing seasons fans were, to understate things a bit, skeptical. The joke was (and, I suppose, still is) that fans will only care about the Pirates if they are winning; the era of the devoted hardcore fan was long gone.
It's two years later, and we now have twenty consecutive losing seasons.
Still, last year things were...close. Right up until the last fifth of the season or so* the Pirates were--well, they weren't exactly in playoff contention, but they were poised to have the first winning season in two decades. Of course, in true Pirate fashion, they managed to collapse and still end up losing for the year.
Which brings us up to today. Mirsculously--perhaps unbelievably--the Pirates are doing well. I mean really well. They are ten games over .500. They are tied to be the third best baseball team in the league. Their Power Ranking--for those who make, and follow such things--places them sixth. Pitching is doing pretty well. Everything seems to be going their way.
And yet, we've seen it all before.
Gone are the days when the Pirates stank up the clubhouse from day one. Now, the Pirates are masters of doing very, very well for a while, then making everyone nervous, then pulling off a string of awesome wins against good teams, and then finally collapsing like a cheap tent. So even though the Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the hottest teams in the game right now, the reception in Pittsburgh has been noticeably cool. A lot of this probably has to do with the fact that everyone's focus is actually on the Penguins, who are on the verge of making it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but there's been scant attention played to baseball in this city except for scared sports writers who know they are going to be laid off if they don't get enthusiastic for the Bucs.
Still, while it may take some time, I suspect the Pirates will get their appropriate level of attention here soon. Either the Stanley Cup victory will eventually fade (or a cathartic why-did-we-lose if they don't make it) and given the current state of the Steelers players (it's Ben and Troy and maybe Heath Miller and then the backup squad from St Andrews School Of Mediocre Football Players), this finally may be the Pirate's year.
But probably not.
*Which, to be fair, in modern baseball still means about 200 games.