There is a 60% chance the NL pennant winner will come from the Central Division. On Sunday, the St. Louis Cardinals clinched a playoff berth and both the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates followed suit on Monday night.
As of this writing, the Cardinals have a two game lead over the Reds and Pirates in the NL Central. Since the Reds and Pirates play each other on the weekend, the Cards have the advantage. Assuming the Cardinals win the NL Central, the Reds and Pirates will play in the NL Wild Card Game. But as St. Louis native Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” It isn’t inconceivable that we could have a three way tie next Sunday.
However it sorts itself out this will be the Cardinals third consecutive playoff appearance (they won the World Series in 2011) and fourth in five years. Meanwhile, the Reds make their third playoff appearance in four years. But this is the Pirates first playoff appearance since the Bush Administration – the first Bush Administration.
The last time the Pirates played baseball in October, Sinead O’Connor ripped a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live, Madonna released her coffee table book Sex, the Catholic Church reinstated Galileo while Canadians rejected the Charlottetown Accord. Since October 1992, a lot of water has passed under the bridge and the Pirates have lost a lot of games. The Pirates might not have had as long a wait as Galileo, but 21 years sure felt like an eternity to a lot of people in Pittsburgh despite two Super Bowls for the Steelers and a Stanley Cup for the Penguins.
When I was a very young baseball fan and rooting for the Montreal Expos, I feared the Pittsburgh Pirates which featured the likes of Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Bill Madlock and Jim Bibby. I was even scared of skinny Kent Tekulve and his dark glasses. But if 1992 was a lifetime ago, 1979 seems like a century. “Pops” Stargell is gone, the Expos are in D.C. and Tekulve isn’t so skinny anymore. But the Pirates are back and I will be rooting for them this post-season.