PITTSBURGH — As the owner of the locker just to the right of the main entrance to the common area of the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse, Garrett Jones arguably has the best panoramic view among his teammates as he sits at his stall.
Since first establishing himself as a major-league regular with Pittsburgh three years ago, the players he sees when he surveys the clubhouse has changed dramatically.
So have the results.
The Pirates are the toast of baseball, owners of the majors’ best record at their precise midpoint of their season (51-30).
Should they maintain that pace over the next three months, they would win 108 games just three seasons after the desultory 2010 Pirates lost 105.
Jones says the faces he encounters aren’t the only thing that have changed over the course of that turnaround.
More importantly, so has the attitude.
“There’s absolutely been a huge difference in confidence,” Jones said before a 2-1 Pittsburgh victory over the Milwaukee Brewers extended its winning streak to nine games Sunday. “When you’re losing, you kind of get caught up in it and it gets ingrained in your head and sometimes it’s tough to get it out. Now, everything and everybody is positive. We just focus on, ‘We’re going to win, we can win, we will win.’ We just had to change that mind-set around and be confident in ourselves.
“And it’s shown on the field.”
Has it ever. The Pirates hold a two-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals not only in the National League Central, but also in the race for the best record in baseball. Saturday, they became the first team to reach 50 wins — doing it before July 1 for the first time in the 127-year history of the franchise.
That’s heady stuff for an organization — and a fan base — that has suffered through 20 consecutive losing seasons, a record for any North American major professional sports league.