October 1st, 2013 was the most consequential date in 21st century Pittsburgh Pirates’ history.
Erasing a streak of 20 losing seasons by making the National League Wild Card game, the Pirates went on to beat the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park in front of a standing-room only, sold out crowd on a cool autumn evening. The win was testament to former general manager Neal Huntington’s years-long rebuild and marked the city’s happy reunion with its oldest sports franchise. The team’s first playoff win in 20 years was a hopeful sign of good things coming on the horizon.
Those good things, those good times and more happy moments? They never came.
In my estimation, what makes that date and that game the most consequential game in Pirates history is the fallout that came in 2014 and beyond; two Wild Card losses followed by four years of missing the playoffs and just one winning season in those four years. The 2013 game gave Huntington reason to maintain the status quo of his strategy until that strategy no longer worked. It motivated owner Bob Nutting to give Huntington a vote of confidence that overstayed its welcome in Pittsburgh. Perhaps most importantly, it gave Pirates’ fans reason to expect more from their baseball organization only to be disappointed in the years to come.
Calling all this to mind isn’t meant to put blame on the owner, management, or the team in general; it’s just interesting to note that the Pirates did not have a bigger nor weightier moment in the first two decades of the 21st century than an early October Wild Card matchup with a division rival. Yes, maybe there could have been a better moment or moments had the pieces fallen into place differently; it’s a game of balls and strikes after all.
Sometimes it’s nice to reminisce and think back to the moments where everything, every possibility good and bad was outstretched in front of this team. Got a better moment in mind, perhaps a more niche moment? Let me know below!