The Pittsburgh Pirates’ magical 2013 season is over now, and yes, there were a lot of reminders of last year’s fun Orioles ride.
The Pirates and Orioles are linked by the 1971 and 1979 World Series, both ending with heartbreaking seven-game losses in Baltimore. They’re further linked because Pittsburgh trains 20 minutes from the Orioles in Bradenton and are their most frequent spring training opponent.
Next year, the clubs will play four games—two in Baltimore in April, and two at PNC Park in May.
The greatest similarity between the teams was their failure to make the postseason. The Orioles had 14 losing seasons between postseason appearances, and the Pirates had 20.
As Pittsburgh was ending its run, there were the familiar comments about how it wouldn’t be another 20 years without a playoff berth. The Orioles found out that a second consecutive winning season doesn’t guarantee a postseason appearance.
Pirates fans made PNC Park a true home field, winning 50 of 81 at home as well as the wild-card game before splitting two NLDS games with St. Louis.
Attendance picked up at the end of the season, and as in the Orioles’ case, a bigger bump can be expected next year.
As for the Cardinals, the Orioles would rather be compared with them than Pittsburgh. St. Louis has made 11 postseason appearances under Tony LaRussa and Mike Matheny and hasn’t lost more than 90 games since 1990.
The Cardinals don’t play in a large market. St. Louis is the 21st largest television market, Baltimore the 27th. According to Baseballreference.com, the Cardinals’ payroll is $116.4 million, about $13 million more than the Orioles’ $103, which grew with the acquisitions of Scott Feldman, Bud Norris and Francisco Rodriguez.
When Albert Pujols left two years ago, St. Louis looked shaky, but now they look prescient for not matching the Angels’ astronomical 10-year deal.
Realistically, the Cardinals’ payroll is about the highest the Orioles can pay in this market, and they drew 1 million more.
Compare the feel good Pirates with the Orioles, sure, but it’s the Redbirds that these Birds want to be like.