By the time they finished with the Mets on Sunday, the Pirates had won 19 since that meeting and had 13 left to play.
"I think the fact that we're breaking in together this way, with an eye on next year, keeps us motivated and forgetting that some of us could have been in races," says LaValliere.
"We can't get carried away thinking we're a great team yet," says Leyland, perhaps thinking about last year's Cleveland Indians. "But the progress is unbelievable."
Too bad the fans of Pittsburgh have yet to notice. "We were all upset when we came off a 7-2 road trip that followed an 8-1 home stand, and we drew 5,000," says LaValliere. Says Van Slyke, "If we get lucky and draw ten thousand, nine thousand come to boo and the other thousand are Steelers fans who thought there was an intrasquad scrimmage."
"Winning is all that we have to concern ourselves with," says Leyland. In their own private pennant race, the Pirates are in first place and messing up that other race involving the Cardinals, the Mets and the Expos.