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Pirates Players, Management Reflect Upon End Of Ignominious Era

By Matt Popchock
Pirates celebrate a win

(Photo Credit: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — For the Pittsburgh Pirates, “The Streak” is effectively over. It’s no longer a matter of “if.” It’s a matter of “when” and “where.” But the question of “how” does not have an easy answer.

With the Pirates beginning this week just a couple victories away from their milestone 82nd, Tyler Kepner, a baseball writer for The New York Times, examined their journey to a first year of winning baseball in two decades.

Kepner, with help from ROOT Sports Pirates studio analyst Kent Tekulve, begins by setting the scene for the waiver-wire deal that brought first baseman and former American League MVP Justin Morneau to Pittsburgh:

“Clint Hurdle, the Pirates’ manager, saw tailgaters outside the ballpark when he arrived six hours early for Saturday’s 7 p.m. game. Morneau came later, checking the score when his flight landed, listening to the broadcast in the car and, finally, emerging through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, where he could see the lights from the sold-out stadium. He scrambled to find the clubhouse and reported to the dugout by the sixth inning.

‘You’re trying to get out there as quick as you can,’ Morneau said, ‘because you want to be a part of this.’”

Native son Neil Walker and face-of-the-franchise Andrew McCutchen go on to share their own Pirate memories with Kepner:

“McCutchen, the Pirates’ star center fielder, who could win the N.L. Most Valuable Player award, wore a shirt in the clubhouse for the campaign to retire [Roberto] Clemente’s number throughout the majors.

‘I think I’m here for a reason,’ McCutchen said, tapping the 21 on his chest. ‘To be wearing Clemente, to wear the same uniform, to represent the same town he did, definitely means a lot to me. It’s great to be a part of this team.’”

Kepner also speaks with team owner Bob Nutting about the trials and tribulations of the front-office strategy he put in place beginning in 2007:

“There was a lot of talk about small market: can you compete; how does it work?” Nutting told him. “I think we made a commitment right from the beginning that we would never use any of those kinds of excuses. We came in with the confidence that we were going to find a way to make it work, because if you can’t, there’s no reason to be in this game.”

“The Pirates had a franchise-record $66 million payroll this season,” Kepner continues to write, “and Nutting added to it by absorbing more than $2 million left on Morneau’s contract. Frank Coonelly, the team president, said the Pirates expected the payroll to rise again in 2014.”

Click here to read the full story by Kepner.

The Pirates entered Tuesday with a one-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central Division with 25 left to play, including a forthcoming weekend series in St. Louis that will conclude the season series. Pittsburgh has taken 10 of its first 16 from the Cards.

If the Bucs make the playoffs but fall short in the divisional race, it would put them in the second annual NL Wild Card Game. Today Major League Baseball announced that game will take place Tue., Oct. 1, and it will be seen nationally on TBS.

If they do win the division, the Pirates will play Game 1 of the National League Division Series two days later, also seen on TBS.

Meanwhile, the Pirates continue their road trip in Milwaukee tonight at 8:10, with “Pirates Preview” hosted by Dan Zangrilli and Kevin Orie beginning just before 6:40, on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan, your flagship home for Pirates baseball.

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