Kovacevic: A handful of reasons for hope

There was precious little moping to be seen in the moments after the Pirates' 2014 season finally ran out of comebacks late Wednesday night. Certainly not in PNC Park's home clubhouse.

That's because this team's true leader, as is the case with all winning baseball teams, is its manager. And this is what Clint Hurdle, per his recollection, told his players before they'd pulled off the first uniform: "Feel what you need to feel. We all feel disappointment. There should not be any shame. You walk out of this clubhouse head held high. You look people in the eye. We created something here that's becoming special."

Tough as these past 24 hours have been for the franchise's faithful, that's a tough point to dispute. And the back-to-back playoff appearances, while rightly grabbing all the headlines and now the angst, are only part of that.

Here are five very real reasons to look ahead to Bradenton next spring and all that could follow:

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