If the playoffs started today, well, everyone would be angry, but the Pirates would be taking on Cincinnati in the NL Wildcard game for the right to go to the NLDS. Of course, the postseason does not begin today, but that doesn't mean it's not acceptable to be excited about the fact that Pittsburgh is right now tied for the third best record in all of Major League Baseball, with a mark of 31-19.
Unfortunately (if you really need something to complain about), the team the Pirates are tied with and the team they're 1.5 games back of are both in the NL Central--the best division in baseball (go figure).
Some people are still shocked by the success, but I'm not one of those people. Don't get me wrong, I didn't expect the team to do THIS well, THIS early, but I wasn't expecting a Marlins-like 50-game start to the season, either.
Fact is, the Pirates, as they're currently constructed, are probably going to win anywhere from 75-90 games. Where their record eventually settles at depends on many things, obviously, such as starting pitching, relief pitching, injuries, and the now dreaded trade-deadline.
But no matter where Pittsburgh finishes, face it, it's simply not a baseball laughingstock anymore. Oh sure, the Bucs could give people ammo with another historic collapse, but historic collapses don't happen to horrific teams. They might happen to teams that stop believing in themselves. They may happen to teams with injuries. They may happen to teams lacking in pitching depth. But, teams with 60-win talent aren't good enough to even put themselves in position to suffer note-worthy collapses.
The Pirates do not have 60-win talent--those days are over--so please, it's absolutely unnecessary for you to tweet something like: "The Pirates won and the Penguins lost? OMFG!"
Pittsburgh may have been playing over its head the last two seasons (mostly in 2011), but it's now pretty clear that Neal Huntington and Co. have done a good job of raising the talent-level to the point of respectability, because we're heading for a third straight summer of flirting with first place.
Winning doesn't surprise me anymore. I'm almost beginning to have the same expectations that I started having for the Pitt Panthers basketball team in the early 00's. While I do realize the Pirates have one massive obstacle to hurdle in finally breaking that long losing-streak( for the Panthers, it's the Final Four), I'm kind of getting used to this whole "respectability" thing.
If, come September, you feel the urge to tweet: "The Pirates won 90 games and clinched a playoff spot, and I've never been happier!", you'd certainly have that right.
Having said that, the days of the Pirates being doormats are over.