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BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 THE FAN) — We have all heard so many times that action speaks louder than words. That seems to be the case with the Pirates players and coaches this spring. There are no slogans or printed t-shirts with “finish” on them in the clubhouse, it just seems to be understood that this is a very important year. A year when winning is expected.
The last two years have given the fans a taste of what post-season baseball could be like, but still are dealing with a losing streak of 20 straight years.
The players say going through what happened down the stretch last year was a learning experience and that this year will be different.
I know what you are thinking… we have heard this all before, but there really seems to be a belief to it after getting a taste of it last year. So why will this year be different?
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett says because there were a number of younger players on the team that had to learn about winning and how to deal with the pressure, and going through that was a learning experience.
“As bad as it was last year, guys learned,” Burnett said.
This is a new year with a more experienced group that will benefit from last year. Burnett knows the fans want to see it sooner than later, but for a young team, learning to win takes time.
“There is a buzz on this team, but it’s a more serious buzz,” Burnett said.
He thinks this year will be the year they take that next step.
There is no secret that the Pirates have been the subject of jokes over the years, and nobody buys in to it. And nobody knows that better than Pirates 2B Neil Walker who has grown up in Pittsburgh and has been through the hard times as a fan. But as a player, he thinks that a change will come.
“It’s time to find a way to get it done and we have the group here to do it,” Walker said.
He might be right because who wasn’t buying it up until Aug. 6 of last year. Maybe this year could be the year.
“We felt what it was like to be on top last year and what it was liked to be kicked in the teeth,” Walker says.
That is what drives them this year.
He admits that until they do it, “We will hear about it everywhere, on the radio in the papers, everywhere.”
He says even his own friends give him a hard time about it, so he bites his tongue and moves on, but will let them back on the train when they return to winning ways.
Will this be the year?
“That streak will be long in the past soon,” Walker said.
Although, ending the streak is not enough.
He says, “.500 is not going to win us the NL Central.”
Let’s hope the words being said mean everything. But it’s the actions that will make the difference.
Spring brings hope, and I leave Bradenton today with a sense from the guys on this team that this year will be different, that this might be the year. I hope they are right because if not, the streak will be old enough to buy a drink.
We have had a wonderful time bringing you The Fan Morning Show LIVE from Bradenton this week.