Pirates brought fun to our area

When Adam Wainwright delivered a strike at 10:48 p.m. Wednesday to Pedro Alvarez, 2013 for the Pittsburgh Pirates came to an end.

But what a year it has been.

While it is natural to hurt after a playoff loss, the Pirates will enjoy basking in the adulation of a fan base that, by and large, would have been happy just to end the season at 82-80, let alone concluding with 97 wins and a playoff run that lasted into the second week of October.

The Pirates’ playoff run brought record crowds into PNC Park and put that beautiful stadium and the city on the national stage in a positive light.

And, more important, it completed the restoration of pride and dignity to the game of baseball in Pittsburgh. The Bucs weren’t a team that tripped and fell into the playoffs and then were swept offstage rapidly. They proved they belonged there.

Pittsburgh sports fans often turn on their home teams when they fall apart in the playoffs, but this ending for the Pirates’ magical 2013 cannot be one of those times. This isn’t a team that imploded, lack of hits in the St. Louis series from the top of the order notwithstanding. It is a team that exceeded expectations, surprised the pundits and made the national commentators sit up and take notice.

The 2013 Pirates won’t be remembered for collapse, losses, a porous defense, a lack of offense, bad pitching, bad base running and bad decisions and deals, all of which were hallmarks of the past 20 years. Nor will the team be remembered for being nailed by two stellar pitching performances from St. Louis.

The 2013 Pirates did so much more than end a playoff run after winning two games in a best-of-five series.

The team laid to rest the concept that the Bucs will swoon in August or September and fall completely apart. The season also laid to rest the jeers for every move made by the front office. A good team was put together and a good team was allowed to play.

So, though they were eliminated Wednesday – and, thank goodness it was by a true loss to a team with a stronger set of bats and tight pitching instead of some flukey play or a blown late-game lead – there is a kind of golden glow about the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates.

If there is a problem for the team it will be this: Expectations now have been raised. A golden glow will carry on only for so long. Just getting 81 wins no longer will be a satisfying fantasy thought in the spring.

But for now, thanks to the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates for baseball dignity, fun and the return of playoff excitement.

See you in Bradenton, Fla., in February.