On Baseball in 2013.

MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers
Baseball in 2013 was crazy. It was explosive, it was dramatic, it was long (setting the record for most extra-inning games in a season)… and it is over.

I somehow miss baseball, even though the season only just left me. I know we now get to see who stays and who goes, who will sign a ridiculous contract, which players – if any – accept a qualifying offer, but it just doesn’t compare to the drama of actual games.

And of course, if you know me at all, the games I miss most are those of the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates. Baseball’s Cinderella team, the Pirates registered a winning season after a multi-decade drought, reached the playoffs via the Wild Card, and advanced to the NLDS before eventually falling to 2013’s silver medalists, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pittsburgh guts on display this year were both remarkable and refreshing to a longtime fan accustomed to witnessing a general lack of perseverance. You just couldn’t count them out, no matter the inning or the score.

Another gutsy squad – perhaps the gutsiest of all – was undoubtedly the Boston Red Sox. Coming from the depths of last place in 2012 to ascend to World Series Champions in 2013 was no small task, and the heart that emerged in that bearded platoon was something you couldn’t ignore, regardless of who you root for. Following the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, the city needed a win, and their beloved Red Sox gave them many, including the Game 6 victory over the Cardinals that put a bow on 2013.

Beyond the Pirates and the Red Sox, we saw another remarkable year from Miguel Cabrera, who remained the most dangerous hitter in baseball, as only he can despite injury. We saw a nearly untouchable Clayton Kershaw stay as dominant as ever until his very last start. Another Dodger, rookie Yasiel Puig, exploded onto baseball consciousness in a way few ever have. And though improbable at the outset, we saw Chris Davis crank 53 home runs, eclipsing his previous season-best by 20.

As I write this, the above feel like broad-stroke bullet points after following baseball every single day this season. It’s impossible to cover everything notable, intriguing, or awe-inspiring that happened, and it’s certainly not my intention to do so. I guess my brain just needs some sort of peace with how I spent the last eight months of my life.

This offseason, I’ll be turning my attentions to the broader world of sports (a less cryptic update likely to come soon). And I guess the hirings, firings, money and movement on the baseball front are going to have to cut it for me until the first bats crack and pants get dirty on February 21, 2014.

Buctober – Still in Shock

I didn’t write immediately before or after the NL Wild Card game (in which the Pirates defeated the Reds 6-2), because simply, I was in shock. I think that I am still in shock. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, a town that expects its teams to win and is often rewarded (by the Steelers of years past and the Penguins) – but never by the Pirates. And when I say “never” I mean to say that over two decades of crushed expectations, bar-lowering, pity, and pain feels like forever. Sure, the franchise has multiple World Series wins! But that was a lifetime ago.

NLDS Pirates Cardinals Baseball.JPEG-0e59e

This year, I felt in my bones the Buccos would finish above .500, and that is truly all I wanted to take away from this season. The fact that they not only finished well above .500 and clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 1992 but WON the Wild Card game to stay alive and advance to the NLDS is all icing.

I root like hell for the Black and Gold (or Black and Yellow per Wiz Khalifa), but I haven’t felt connected to a season or a team like this in a very long time, possibly ever. This has been an incredibly special year to be a Pirates fan.

Tonight kicks off the NLDS – the Pirates at the Cardinals (5 PM ET), and the Dodgers at the Braves (8:30 PM ET).

Let’s go Bucs.