The Pittsburgh Pirates won their third straight game, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight 4-1. This puts them exactly one game over .500.
The Pirates haven’t been over .500 past the first week of the season in seven years, when they last topped .500 on May 29, 2004.
That’s how bad it’s been for the Pirates, whose fans have had nothing to cheer about since Francisco Cabrera’s two-RBI single in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. No winning seasons, just life as an also-ran for 19 seasons. In the 21 seasons prior, Pittsburgh won two World Series and six division titles. Pittsburgh’s a football town, sure, but baseball ran a close second.
These days, it’s not so much a baseball town unless locals are discussing Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente or Bill Mazeroski. It’s a shame, and I HATED the Pirates in their heyday of the early 1990s.
Baseball has some problems, and as tough as it is for small-to-medium market teams to be competitive, it’s not unheard of. Kansas City and Cleveland are enjoying a nice start, and Cleveland, Minnesota, Detroit, Atlanta, San Diego, Oakland, Seattle, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Milwaukee have all enjoyed runs of at least a little sustained success.
It’s management that screws it up in Pittsburgh. They haven’t had a good ownership situation in some time, and while they have developed some of the league’s better players, they don’t hold onto them long enough to get any dividends out of them.
Improvement is incremental, but decline seems to be exponential until you hit bottom. One thing cascades into another into another, and soon you are the Pittsburgh Pirates. Or the KC Royals. Or the Cubs.
19 seasons of futility is pretty bad, though.