PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pirates were in this same position one year ago. In fact, they took the Central Division lead late into July.

Then, a complete collapse. They went 19-43 the rest of the way to ensure their 19th straight losing season, a North American record.

But Pirates’ owner Bob Nutting says this season – to him at least – has a much different feel.

“It’s definitely different. I think what we saw last year was the beginning of the same energy coalescing, the same talent level pulling together; but so many of the players, for the first time getting an understanding of just how long a 162 game season is,” said Nutting. “We are deeper, we are stronger, we have more maturity and all of those put us in a much better position to finish the season.”

Adding a second Wild Card in each league certainly helps make that more possible. And so does a second season of Clint Hurdle as manager.

“Clint Hurdle’s leadership, focus and relentless expectations of excellence of every one of these players – whether it’s a veteran who has just come in or a player who is moving up through our organization – and pulling all of those pieces together into a team who believes they can win baseball games, that’s what has been so exciting for me to see,” Nutting said.

But for Nutting, the most exciting thing for him to see is the infusion of top level talent into their minor league system.

The Pirates have spent more money on draft picks than anyone in baseball the last two years, and he credits general manager Neal Huntington with good decisions

“Neal walked into a very difficult situation, and [it’s] a stronger organization that he has built and deserves the opportunity to continue to craft it and tune it and make us better every year,” said Nutting.

With that comes bigger decisions, especially at the trade deadline, where Nutting expects the Pirates to be buyers once again.

When you win and compete, the decisions can get much more difficult to make.

“I do believe that we’ve been making good decisions to get ourselves in a position to be here,” he added. “It’s been a long path and it will continue to be easy and hard decisions, but the commitment that I have, that Neal has, that the organization has to continue to grow, to continue to get better and focus on that championship as the soul goal, that’s what you’re going to continue to see this year and have that focus as we move forward into 2013, 2014, 2015. We’re moving forward.”

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