By now, everyone who knows an inkling of baseball knows of the ineptitude of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They are the posterchild of a dysfunctional organization mainly because they haven't had a winning record since Barry Bonds was sporting a mustache and was as thin as a bed post (that's 1992 for those not in the know).
They have had talent over the years, it would be next to impossible not to have talent with as many high draft picks as they've had, but they just never seemed to be able to come together and click in such a way as to be a factor in their division.
That is, until this year?
Yes, the question mark is very intentional because it's really early in the season and things could change for the Bucs as quick as a drop in the hat BUT (and it's a big but as you can see) for the moment, the Pirates are an astounding 3-1 and looking good doing it. And these amazing (?) Bucs aren't just a pedestrian 3-1, they are a 3-1 in four road games against two of the top teams in their division, the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals.
"It's great to get off to a start like this on the road, especially with the teams in our division," Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen said. "To be able to do this is showing that we're growing as a team and we're getting better."
If you want to look at why these Pirates are having very early season success, then look no further than the new skipper of the club, Clint Hurdle. Hurdle, who previously had success in Colorado with the Rockies, has brought a firm voice and an unorthodox style to the struggling Bucs that has captured the attention of fans and players alike.
Hurdle replaces the anemic John Russell, whose quiet laid-back manner didn't work with the Pirates ball club. He has brought a 'win at all cost' philosophy that has been readily apparent in the early going. This philosophy has called for players to get out of their comfort zones and do whatever it takes to get the win.
A good example of this happened this past weekend when Hurdle had the Pirates clean-up hitter, Lyle Overbay, bunt a runner to second base, setting up a situation where the next batter, Pedro Alvarez, could get the winning run in with a single.
Which he did.
"That's why those guys worked on it all spring," Hurdle said. "We're not going to be conventional. I wanted to get the winning run to second base. I wouldn't have bunted Walker with one on, and two runs down, it's a completely different story. I definitely wanted to play to win on the road in that situation, but you've got to pick your spots."
Like I've said, it's pretty early in the season to start waving the pennant around but if this early indication is anywhere close to the Bucs team we are going to see this season, then it's going to be a pretty fun ride.
And one sorely needed.