After Game 5 of the National League Division Series there was no agony in the Busch Stadium visitors' clubhouse. Pirates players said the night marked not an end but a beginning of a franchise renaissance. This was not 1992 when the club lost in devastating fashion and braced for the break-up of the last great Pirates team.

Neil Walker looked around the quiet clubhouse and noted many players would return. He motioned to the locker of Gerrit Cole who dominated after Sept. 1 and is under contract until 2020. To Walker's left was MVP favorite Andrew McCutchen signed through 2018. Soon to join them are prospects from a rich farm system. There are many encouraging indicators within the organization.

Still there are challenges. A number of key veterans are not under contract beyond 2014. The Pirates are in the bottom third of revenues making it difficult to retain talent and fill voids through free agency. The NL Central is loaded with young talent.

So are the Pirates entering a golden age of sustained winning or was 2013 an outlier? “We've said from Day 1: It's going to be one thing to build it” general manager Neal Huntington said. “It's going to be even harder to sustain it.”