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Pirates should be in NL East

     The Pirates series against the Phillies just shows the need to have Pittsburgh in the National League East Division.  While fans shouldn’t expect exciting games like that all of the time, the atmosphere was electric, a reminder of the inter-state rivalry of the ‘70s.  It’s a shame that Philadelphia only comes to Pittsburgh once a year.  The Pirates organization used “Pride. Passion. Pirates” for its marketing campaign, which emphasizes the tradition of baseball in Pittsburgh.

     The Phillies are a big part of that tradition.  From 1970 to 1980, the two Pennsylvania teams combined to win 10 NL East Division titles.  After the Pirates won three straight division titles to start the ‘90s, the Phillies won the next division crown.

     Other rivals now in the NL East are the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves.  The late ‘80s and early ‘90s saw the Pirates and Mets battle it out on the field and through the media.  Dwight Gooden called the Bucs Little Leaguers.  It was so sweet when the Mets could not overtake Pittsburgh down the stretch in September 1990.

     Then came Ted Turners’ Braves who twice prevented the Pirates from a trip to the World Series. Two Game Sevens, two heartbreaking losses.  How could Sid Bream do that to us?

    Throw in small-market teams Florida and Washington and Pittsburgh fits right in.  The Bucs aren’t winning the Central anytime soon, so why not put them in the East where they belong.  Other than playing former NL East teams St. Louis and Chicago, the Central doesn’t fit the Pirates. The only other team in the Eastern Time Zone is Cincinnati.  The Cubs and Cards are longtime rivals.  They could care less about Pittsburgh.  Cub fans fill PNC Park because they can’t get tickets to Wrigley. The Cubs are lovable losers.  How can we hate them?  St. Louis never challenged Pittsburgh for first place, so they don’t strike a bad nerve with Pirate fans.

     Milwaukee and Houston?  Please.  Other than the “freak show” in 1997 that ended with Houston winning the division, the Pirates don’t have a strong bond with the Astros.  And Pierogi and Sausage races don’t count for a rivalry.

     The Pittsburgh-Philadelphia rivalry is not the only one in the East Division, but it is the foundation to keep fans passionate about the Pirates.

By Jim Spezialetti