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Wasn't all bad for reeling Pirates this season

The 2011 Pirates season will end just as the 18 before it did — with a losing record.

Yet despite the continuation of the streak, the season wasn't entirely a collection of failures, blunders and embarrassment. Some good things happened, too, not the least of which was the fact that the Pirates were competitive for the first four months of the season.

Even if it didn't last as long as anyone hoped, the team was in first place in the division July 19. They hadn't been on top that late in a season since 1992. Along the way, they captured not only the attention of the city but also the nation, which found compelling, feel-good storylines in the team's dramatic first-half turnaround, in new manager Clint Hurdle, in the overachieving pitching staff and the rebound of Charlie Morton.

Yes, it all fell apart after the All-Star break.

But a team full of guys who hadn't won at this level before learned what it felt like to compete and have success, and how tough it is to maintain that over the course of the season. If they can use that to their advantage and sustain success even longer in 2012, that will be the greatest positive of 2011.

"You look around this room and you see, what, three guys who've been on a winning team before?" said closer Joel Hanrahan, who was the first of three players named to the All-Star team this year. "Guys know what it takes to play in games like that now, big games. It takes a little more out of you, and we know what it takes to do that and how to prepare in the winter to be able to handle that."

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