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Image from mlb.com

Image from mlb.com

December 21, 2012; that was the day the Earth was to cease to exist.  Well, according to the Mayan calendar, anyways.  As we are all aware of by now, that date has come and passed, and we are all still dealing with the decline in humanity.

Now, this isn’t to say the world still won’t end at the hands of something of biblical proportions.  And before you think I am about to type out some sermon, please continue to read further.  Trust me; you will be glad you did.

Signs are pointing to the end of the world more and more with every passing day.  Just last night, there were three Kansas City Royals in the Major League Baseball All Star Game.  I know, right?

Oh, but the signs don’t stop there.  No, no.  Quick, guess which team has the 2nd best record in all of baseball?  *Tick tock, tick tock*

Nothing?  Raise your hand if you said the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Yes, those Pittsburgh Pirates.  The same Pirates that have not had a winning season since the Atlanta Braves’ Francisco Cabrera hit a 2-RBI single in the bottom of the 9th in the 1992 National League Championship Series to keep the Pirates from the World Series.

Not only do the Pirates hold the 2nd best record in baseball, they have the best record at this point in the season for the franchise since 1979.  Oh the irony behind that year.  I’ll go into greater detail on that in a bit.

This Pirates pitching staff is being led to this point in the season by Francisco Liriano, who has compiled a 9-3 record with a 2.00 ERA.  Right behind Liriano is lefty Jeff Locke, who has an 8-2 record, with a 2.15 ERA.  Jason Grilli, the closer, has converted 29 of 30 save opportunities.

All Star Andrew McCutchen leads the Pirates on offense.  He currently has a .302 average, with 10 HR and 49 RBI.  3B Pedro Alverez, who is hitting only .250, leads the team with 24 HR and 62 RBI.

This is not a team of big name stars.  So, how is it Manager Clint Hurdle has been able to keep this team relevant so deep into the season?  It’s not as if the National League Central Division is any weaker than previous years.

The St. Louis Cardinals, also in the NL Central, currently hold the best record in baseball.  The Cincinnati Reds are right there at the top of the division.  Is the entire Pittsburgh roster on some sort of PED?  I’m just kidding folks.  Maybe.

Statistics don’t lie.  The Pirates currently have the longest continuous streak of losing seasons in baseball.  Even longer than the Kansas City Royals.  And we all know that team hasn’t done a whole lot since winning the 1985 World Series (I’m still bitter).

It will be interesting to see if Clint Hurdle can keep this squad of Pirates relevant through the end of the season.  Since baseball expanded the playoffs last season, adding an extra wild card team to each league, the chances are better than ever for the Pirates to get back to the postseason.

My guess, even if they don’t make the playoffs, is team management is probably hoping to break the dubious distinction of being on the longest current streak of losing seasons in baseball.  After all, you never want to be beaten by the Royals in anything.

*           *           *

As you may have heard, Major League Baseball held their annual All Star Game last night.  The great “Mid-Summer Classic.”  How classic has it become you ask?  Well, ever since 2003, the MLB All Star Game determines which league gets home field advantage during the World Series.

It’s not so much the All Star Game determines home field advantage that is relevant here, as much as how much home field advantage means to teams that play on the grandest stage of them all every fall.

Since 2003, only three “visiting” teams have won the World Series; the Florida Marlins in 2003, the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, and the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.  None of those three instances went all 7 games.

Why do you bring that up, some may ask?  Can anyone name the team and the year that a Game 7 was won in the World Series by a visiting team?  Hint, go back a while.

The Pirates celebrate winning the 1979 World Series over the Orioles.

The Pirates celebrate winning the 1979 World Series over the Orioles.

The last visiting team to win a World Series on the road in Game 7 was the, wait for it, 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.  34 YEARS AGO!  But why even mention that?  Well, last night, the American League beat the National League in the All Star Game, giving them home field advantage in the World Series this year.

Again, why does one care?

Just take a gander and scroll back up through this column.  That’s right.  The Pirates are relevant.  They could very well be in this year’s World Series (let’s be honest, probably not).  They could be the “away” team during the Series.  It could come down to Game 7.  On the road.

See where this is going?  That’s right.  Maybe the Mayans were correct.  Maybe the world is ending.  Maybe they were just a few months too soon.  Earth may soon be conquered…by Pirates.