Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Leyland: Pirates Are Contenders; Team's Former Manager Says Bucs, Reds and Cards Will Fight It out ; MLB INSIDER; BASEBALL INSIDERS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Leyland: Pirates Are Contenders; Team's Former Manager Says Bucs, Reds and Cards Will Fight It out ; MLB INSIDER; BASEBALL INSIDERS

Article excerpt

Jim Leyland sat glumly, and alone, in the small visitors' manager's office at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The date was Oct. 14, 1992 and Atlanta baserunner Sid Bream about a half hour prior had slid in safely at home, slightly ahead of Barry Bonds' slightly off-line throw from left field.

Bream had scored the second of two runs driven in with two out in the ninth inning on a single by pinch hitter Francisco Cabrera and the Braves had beaten the Pirates, 3-2, winning the National League Championship Series in seven games and a trip to the World Series.

Afterward, Leyland mulled not only the present but the future. He had managed Atlanta's Bobby Cox out of players in nine innings and still lost the game. That was his more immediate disappointment.

But Leyland also knew that Bonds and that night's starting pitcher, Doug Drabek, were gone to free agency after the season. The small-market Pirates were continuing a downsize they had begun the year before and Leyland knew that they probably weren't going to be a winning team again for a while.

It was improbable that "a while" would be the next 19 seasons, but in Year 20 after the Pirates' last postseason appearance, Leyland sees that brighter days are ahead and, in fact, are here for the Pirates.

Leyland still lives in Pittsburgh but he doesn't run the Pirates anymore. He had 11 seasons there before moving on to Florida, Colorado, the Cardinals (as a scout) and now he manages the Detroit Tigers, who are finishing up the interleague schedule in Pittsburgh this weekend.

The Tigers beat the Pirates two of three games recently in Detroit. But the Pirates rallied after that and entered this weekend four games over .500 at 36-32.

The Pirates were seven games over .500 later in the season last year - they were 51-44 on July 19 before losing 46 of their final 67 games to fall well out of contention. …

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