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Last year's ranking: 52
Title track: 82
Fan relations: 45
Stadium experience: 8
Bang for the buck: 7
The on-the-field product in Pittsburgh has finally caught up with all the nice things we've been saying about PNC Park. In 2013, the Pirates finally had a winning record after 20 straight losing seasons, and the club was still in wild-card contention in September. The Bucs vaulted 30 points in our overall standings to 22nd, their best finish since we began our poll in 2003. The key reason was a 33-point leap in the players category and a 38-point climb in coaching: Fans love the work ethic of reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, and manager Clint Hurdle has made them forget the John Russell era (2008-10), when the Pirates ranked in triple digits in coaching in each of Russell's seasons at the helm.
The one constant is pristine PNC, where average attendance has risen for the fifth straight season (29,295 as of early September). The Pirates have never ranked lower than 21st in stadium experience, and this is the eighth time they landed in the top 10. The view of the Pittsburgh skyline from inside the stadium is among the prettiest in MLB, and finally, the players on the field are almost as good. At PNC, you can't skip out on a sandwich from Primanti Bros. -- where the fries and coleslaw go right on top and not on the side -- which you can wash down with a Coke, not a Pepsi, after a new multiyear partnership with the Coca-Cola Co. The average ticket price of $18.32 is the third lowest in the majors, contributing to the club's third straight top 10 ranking in bang for the buck.
But after so much heartbreak, you can't blame Bucs fans for remaining a little skeptical when it comes to title track: Memories of that 20-year playoff drought are still fresh.