That’s right, the Buccos have arrived. We finally have a team to be proud of and I can’t be happier. There has been plenty of downs in my 31 years with the exception of 2013-2015. It’s been a hell of a journey but believe me, the suffering is over.
Your 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates currently hold the best record in the National League at 16-7. They’ve done it in a multitude of ways winning in late inning games, offensive outbursts, timely hitting, but most importantly on the backs of the starting rotation. They’ve had quality starts (6 innings by a starter) in 11 of their last 12 games. To see the club perform like this after the injury to emerging superstar Oneil Cruz is a massive credit to Derek Shelton, and the veteran presence in the clubhouse. We’re going to find out a lot about this ball club as 9 out of the next 12 games are against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays. For now, there’s credit to be dished out to the organization for the turnaround.
Let’s start by acknowledging the success of GM Ben Cherington. GM BC was able to make some deals to bring back some of the key pieces we see today. The FA vet signings of Vince Velasquez, Rich Hill, Connor Joe, Carlos Santana, and especially Andrew McCutchen. When he took over as GM of this team, he was tasked with assessing the roster and farm system at that time. Over the years, he has capitalized on the trade market acquiring guys like David Bednar, Colin Holderman, Jack Suwinski, Roansy Contreras, and Johan Oviedo through trade. We yet to see the draft impact at the Major League level, but those guys are coming. The farm system has been completely revamped and now sits near the top of baseball.
We have to acknowledge Derek Shelton and that coaching staff. It’s been a rough road for them having to suffer with poor roster construction during the rebuild. The credit comes into play staying patient and developing the young core that currently stands out on this roster. Mitch Keller has looked like a different guy on the mound since opening day 1. Velasquez has always had stuff, but they’ve harnessed it and has turned him into a dominant pitcher thus far. There is still work to be done, but seeing Shelton rewarded with an extension after going through hell signifies he has earned the trust of this organization to usher the Pirates forward into contention for years to come.
And unfortunately, Bob Nutting deserves credit. If it wasn’t for him, Cutch would not be back in a Pirates uniform as him and Cutch had a conversation to see if that was something that could happen. By all accounts, it wasn’t a choice to say no by Bob. Some may have saw this as a money grab and rightfully so. The owner hasn’t given us a reason to trust him. When this man signed Ke’Bryan Hayes to his extension which was the highest in Pirates history at the time, that was the signal saying that these will not be the same cheap Pirates I grew up with. Today, Nutting furthered his belief in the direction of the organization by signing Bryan Reynolds to an 8 year and $106 million dollar extension which is now the largest contract in team history.
The years of 2013-2015 were nothing short of magical for baseball in Pittsburgh. The entire city was buzzing more than I’ve ever seen it buzz for its sports teams. If you don’t believe me, just watch the 2013 Wild Card game vs the Cincinnati Reds. When the team was dismantled in 2016, even I lost faith because I saw a rebuild coming down the line if they couldn’t bounce back. As a diehard fan, my entire stance was to not mess this up again. Develop the farm but most importantly, KEEP GUYS AROUND. After the Reynolds extension, the window is officially all the way open for this team to contend now and years to come. All aboard as the Bucco train has officially left the station. The destination is bringing a World Series to Pittsburgh.