Blowing leads of 6-1 and 9-5 to the Cubs while only 2 games back in the wild card chase on September 16 may go down as one of the biggest gut-punches over the past 2 decades of gut-punch-filled losses. Since the Pirates blew that 7-1 lead to the Padres on August 10 (the one that Hurdle left a clearly fatigued J-Mac in to face Chase Headley with 2 men on and 2 outs in the top of the 5th - only to see Headley go yard and tie the game) - they have gone 10 - 24. This is not "natural regression" - it's an absolute collapse by the entire organization, top to bottom.
Despite the loss yesterday, was I the only one who felt a real sense of hope and excitement for the very near future watching not only Pedro hit those majestic bombs, but also Starling Marte slash the ball with authority to all fields and show off that tantalizing speed?
Pedro and Marte are legit, highly-touted, all-star potential talents. Yesterday we saw those talents on full display, and have seen glimpses of their potential on and off over the course of the year - Pedro obviously to a much larger extent. Both look like they may always flirt with dangerously high K-rates, but also seem to have skill sets that may enable them to strike out at above-average rates and still be highly productive over the long haul.
Next year - and hell for the rest of this year for that matter - having Marte and Pedro in the same line-up as Cutch and Neil Walker is reason for legit optimism. Is it not? Am I letting yesterday cloud my mind, or does that foursome represent a core group that a true contender can be built around? If someone said "I bet within 3 years all of the Core4 will have made an all-star team," would you take that bet?
Now, add a Gaby Sanchez - Garrett Jones platoon to that group, and all the sudden 5 of your 8 spots seem to be in good hands. SS and C are huge holes (though Barmes and McKenry both are serviceable next year as glove guys with some occasional pop). That leaves one more hole at 1B / RF depending on where you play Jones - and Travis Snider's pedigree tells me that he at least deserves a shot at that spot - assuming of course he commits to getting in shape this off-season and strengthens his core/legs so he can generate some torque and start driving the ball like he apparently has done before.
Am I just forever going to be a rose-colored-glasses-wearing optimist, or do you think that with this Core4, being a true contender - from an offensive perspective at least - could happen as early as next year?
Obviously I left out the pitching side of the equation, but with Cole- Taillon - Holmes - McPherson - Heredia - there seems to be enough legit arms to have real hope, though admittedly some are more than a year away.