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5 Reasons for Pittsburgh Pirates Fans to Be Thankful Heading into 2014

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5 Reasons for Pittsburgh Pirates Fans to Be Thankful Heading into 2014

Pirates
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

If you were to ask any fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates what they expected to see from the Pirates at the beginning of the 2013 MLB season, they would have told you, “I just want to see the team play .500 baseball for the entire season!” This would not have been a terrible thing to ask from a team that did not have a winning record since George H.W. Bush was President and Barry Bonds still wore a Pirates jersey.

Then, the season that no Pirates’ fan (except for those who were alive during the 1979 World Series) could ever forget. The team that was expected to just compete for a .500 record not only ended the longest losing streak in North American sports history, but came within a game of going to the NLCS.

Pirates’ fans all over had so much to be thankful for at the end of the season. The fans will forever have the memories of closer Jason Grilli hugging catcher Russell Martin after the final out was made to guarantee the Pirates a winning season. The fans can also recall this winter the huge moment when Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto dropped the ball on the mound when the Pirates’ fans were chanting “CUETO” all throughout PNC Park in that stadium's first postseason game ever.

Going into the start of the 2014 season, the team has some questions that need to be addressed at particular positions as well as their pitching staff. However, there will be time to worry about those things throughout the offseason. What I want to do is list my five reasons why Pittsburgh Pirates’ fans need to be thankful heading into this upcoming baseball season. It is finally nice to be thankful of the thought of an upcoming Pirates’ season rather than worry about who will be traded or lost to teams like the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees. With winter coming up, instead of asking Santa Claus for new players, let’s first give thanks to what has been given to us and what we will get from this Pirates team that is taking their city and fan base by storm.

Dom DeCarlo is a Fantasy blogger for RantSports.com. Follow him @DomDecarlo1, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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Pirates have core players intact

core players
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Pirates began to rebuild their team in the mid-to-late 90s, the team and its fan base have been looking to build their organization around skilled players to create a strong core foundation that could win championships. They would have to build the team through drafting top players and developing them as well as striking gold when it comes to low-end free agents. After several attempts to build a strong core, the Pirates look to have finally established one. The team has home-grown outfielders like Starling Marte and All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen. The team has their power at one corner infield position with Pedro Alvarez and solid second base play from hometown kid Neil Walker. The biggest core of talent comes from their pitching staff and begins with players like Charlie Morton and Francisco Liriano, who were brought in as players that the Pirates took a chance on. The real core of this staff are their young talented arms that are in the big leagues as well as the ones that will be making an impact in 2014.

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Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon are one step away from the MLB

Polanco and Taillon
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the Pirates began to rebuild this franchise, GM Neal Huntington had a lot of work to do to get rid of the garbage left over by the Dave Littlefield administration. He began the rebuilding process by focusing on getting young and very talented arms through the draft. Pirates’ fans have already seen some of the fruits of this labor in Gerrit Cole this season. The next of the big arms that fans will enjoy watching is the young hard-throwing Jameson Taillon. He has been rated as one of the top prospects by Baseball America since he was drafted by the Pirates. Look for the very talented Taillon to come up and make a major impact on this already strong pitching staff.

Huntington then began to upgrade the bats that the Pirates would need to be successful at the plate. Players like Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte have already made an impact on the major league team. The next in line is highly-rated prospect Gregory Polanco. He signed as an international free-agent with the Pirates and has been tearing up the minor leagues ever since he arrived in the Pirates’ organization. I see both of these players joining the team by June and having serious impact on the team in a positive way in 2014 and for years to come.

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Andrew McCutchen is a Pittsburgh Pirate

McCutchen
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For the past four seasons, there has been one player that Pirates’ fans have been thankful for heading into every new season and that player is Andrew McCutchen. Since joining the team in 2009, McCutchen has been the everyday starter in center field and has never looked back. “Cutch” has taken the role as one of the leaders on this team and not only leads by example, but has awards and award nominations to prove his worth. The Bucco offense goes where McCutchen leads them. The Pirates have not been this steady at a position since Barry Lamar Bonds left to play for the San Francisco Giants. Pirates’ fans enjoy your time with McCutchen and be thankful that he wears the black and gold going into this exciting 2014 season.

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The emergence of Gerrit Cole

Cole
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Does anyone reading this remember what Doug Drabek was the last Pirates pitcher to do? He was the last to win a Cy Young Award as a Pirate. The Bucs have had good starting pitchers in recent history like Denny Neagle, Jason Schmidt and most recently Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett. However, Gerrit Cole is just something more than these guys. Cole is one of those pitchers that comes through every once in a generation. He is a guy who throws very hard, has great stuff and can hit. Cole always looks cool and calm on the mound and has all the makings of an ace, which is why he was drafted first overall in the 2011 draft. Cole has shown the ability to pitch in big games on the road, big games in the playoffs and win these games! When you all are carving your turkeys on Thanksgiving and making wishes on New Year’s Eve, after you said your wishes and thanks for all you have in your life, say a little thanks for Gerrit Cole and all those wins he will bring to the Bucs in 2014.

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The longest losing streak in North American sports is finally over

longest losing streak
H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY

Raise the Jolly Roger! This phrase is what is said by Pittsburgh Pirates’ broadcaster Greg Brown after the Pirates win a ballgame. For 20 years, this saying was not said more than, “another loss for the Pirates.” This losing streak, which became the longest losing streak for any major sports team in North American history, really took a toll on Pirates’ fans as well as the team itself. Through great drafting, smart free-agent signings, and the hiring of Bucs’ coach Clint Hurdle, this team now has a mentality that it can and will win. The 2014 MLB season is going to be another fun-filled season for the Pirates. Before another season starts, all fans of the Buccos need to rejoice and be thankful that the Pirates played into “Buctober” and hope to return there again.