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Countdown to Spring

With Spring Training less than five days away, 3 days, 22 hours, 27 minutes, to be exact for some teams, it looks nothing like spring from where I am sitting. Much like how the recent blizzard, that covered the whole Northeast region of the country, has kept people dormant and quiet, the Pirates have kept quiet leading into this upcoming season as well.
The front office is under the impression that they have the guys in place to compete and surprise a lot of teams this season. I would say that this feat would be attainable only if every single piece of this rebuild falls into place. I am optimistic heading into the season that barring injuries to any of the key players, the Pirates might just have a fighting chance to be competitive.
This is the year for the current Pirates to take ownership of their team and let the rest of the league know that they aren't a AAA farm team, which is how many analysts rate the 2010 version of the Pirates. There is no marquee name on the roster, no player that will likely hit 40 or more home runs, no player that will compete for the end of year awards, no pitcher that will win 18 games, and no player that has been on a winning team in Pittsburgh.
With this said, there is a team of players that want to compete, that have the desire to be better, that are tired of being the joke of baseball, this is the new Pirates. Led by speedy Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones on offense, the team has just enough talent to compete in most games. Are they going to blow anyone out? Probably not, but if the pitching staff can give them solid work, then they should have a chance in a lot more games.
What I like about this tea, is that most of the team is playing in their full second season together. This helps build consistency and ownership. The outfield is set heading into the spring, the infield has some depth, and the pitching staff is all a year more experienced. In my opinion, the pitching staff is where the biggest question will be. There is no doubt that all five starters have showed flashes of brilliance at times, but it is the consistency that each of the starters lack. The difference between a number one starter and say a three or four, is that consistency to go out and perform every game. Too often during this losing streak, have Pirates pitchers been great one game, and horrible the next one or few.
Many question the talent of the starting staff and assume that the Pirates starters would only be a third or fourth spot guys in the rotation on many other teams. This is their year to prove these critics wrong and take that next step towards being a respectable franchise again.
Being a Pittsburgh sports fan for all of my life (excluding the Steelers), it is difficult to see the city succeeding so well in every sport except baseball. It is time to quit living with just memories of the great teams from the seventies and prior, and start making new history with the current team. The past is the past and this isn't your childhood Pirates, (if you grew up through the nineties and beyond).
As spring training starts and the Pirates are becoming more active on a daily basis, I will be discussing the team more in-depth and more frequently.