Two years removed from the Pittsburgh Pirates last postseason appearance, and though it may not seem like it, the team sits in a familiar spot.
Flashback. On August 5, 2015, exactly two years ago, the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates sat five and a half games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for an NL Central division lead. Ultimately, the team finished with the most wins for a Wild Card team since the two-team inception. Fast-forward to present times, despite being three games under .500, the Pirates are merely four and a half behind the now-division leader Chicago Cubs and in a more desirable standing.
— Pitt Sports Castle (@pitsportscastle) August 5, 2017
Things are different now within the fan base, however.
Take a gander at these attendance figures:
|Year||Average PNC Park Game Day Attendance|
*Attendance figures from Baseball Reference*
Fans aren’t showing up. But why?
Yes, there’s inconsistency. And sure, expectations of the franchise rose after a three-year playoff run from 2013 to 2015, but fans need to realize just how close this team is to winning its first division title since 1992 — a gnat’s eyelash away.
Could you imagine the city’s excitement if this were the case in 2013? Every seat would be filled up. Crazy how times and mindsets change.
It’s no secret the teams in the NL Central, which early projections suggested would be the gold standard of baseball, have been nothing short of mediocre. From the Cubs, America’s darling last season, to the Cardinals, nobody ran away with the division — Cardinals, Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and the Pirates all had chances, too.
So here we sit, about two months worth of games left and still in the thick of things. No reason to not be excited.
No reason to not be excited.
The team is looking for its third straight win tonight, and pieces are beginning to fall into place to make a run.
Starling Marte returned from his 80-game suspension, Gregory Polanco hit a clutch three-run pinch-hit homer yesterday after returning from the disabled-list a few nights ago. Say Gerrit Cole continues pitching well, Jameson Taillon can figure it out after a small stretch of poor starts and the bullpen continues its turnaround, a unit will begin to form.
Oh, and the big one: Andrew McCutchen continues performing at his once MVP-caliber level — slashing .367/.466/.667 since May 27.
And there’s no lack of energy. Watch a game. From Francisco Cervelli to Ivan Nova, the dugout stays lively throughout games, picking up teammates when necessary.
Tag team that energy with raw talent presented and enough might be in the tank to make a playoff push.
Don’t forget about how everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Playing well over .500 against winning teams and well under .500 against bad teams doesn’t equate.
We’ve heard it time and time again in all major sports, the “12th man” in basketball, “12th man” in football, etc., it’s time Pirates fans do the same. Getting behind this team and being the 10th man can only help invigorate play on the field.
At the very least, with every game having playoff implications on the line, people need to fill up seats at PNC Park until virtually no chance exists. It’s embarrassing for a city who considers itself a “sports town” to barely put 20,000 people into the stands without a T-shirt giveaway or fireworks.
Joe Cinello covers Pirates material for Pittsburgh Sports Castle. Connect with him on Facebook (Joey Cinello), Linkedin (Joseph Cinello) and Twitter (@JCinello).