Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Like a broken record

Bengals fans, are you sick of your team's futility? Wizards fans, are you fed up with your team's struggles? Royals fans, are you sick and tired of the losses piling up?

Try this mantra: At least I'm not a Pirates fan.

With their 4-2 loss to the Cubs on Monday, the Pirates guaranteed that they will finish the season under .500. This will be the 17th consecutive losing season for the once proud franchise, a record for any major sport.

While the cross-state rival Phillies once suffered through 16 straight losing seasons, the Kansas City/Sacramento Kings failed to have a winning season for 15 straight years (even changing cities couldn't change their fate), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dealt with 14 consecutive failed campaigns, the Pittsburgh Pirates will soon stand alone when it comes to franchise futility.

It wasn't always this way, of course. In 1992, the Pirates roster featured Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke, Doug Drabek, Randy Tomlin, Tim Wakefield, and a host of other talented players who helped lead them to a 96-66 record, a third consecutive NL East title, and an NLCS matchup with the Braves. But, alas, Barry Bonds left for San Francisco in the offseason, and a 75-87 finish in 1993 would portend a streak of failure never before seen in professional sports. It remains to be seen whether it will ever end, and if it does, whether any team will ever again sink to the depths of their misery.

So what was the world like way back in 1992, the last time Pirates fans had something to cheer about?
  • George Bush was president. The first George Bush.
  • Jay Leno became the host of the Tonight Show.
  • Brett Favre made his first start for the Packers.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced to life in prison.
  • Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture.
  • Race riots took place in L.A. after a jury acquitted LAPD officers in the Rodney King case.
  • Dr. Dre released his first solo album.
Yup, 1992 was a long-ass time ago. And the length of time between then and now has seemed even longer for those who follow the Pirates. In the 16 season from 1993 through 2008, the Pirates finished in last place seven times, won fewer than 70 games nine times, and scored more runs than their opponents ... um ... never. (They came ever so close in 1999 when they scored just seven fewer runs.) By the way, the Pirates are indeed in last place at the moment, 8.5 games behind the 5th place Reds, and are on pace to win just 64 games.

Seventeen straight losing seasons. Wow. Since 1993, the Bengals have had four .500 seasons and one winning one; the Wizards have had five winning seasons and one .500 one; and the Royals have had two winning seasons. So if those teams are punching bags of their respective leagues, the Pirates are the freakin' nuclear test site of Major League Baseball.

On July 24 of last year, the Pirates were 48-54. But then they traded Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, lost 41 of their last 60 games, and found themselves in a familiar place in the standings when the season ended. On June 2 of this year, the Pirates were a respectable 24-28. But since then, they've traded Nate McLouth, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, John Grabow, Tom Gorzelanny, Adam LaRoche, and Nyjer Morgan. Now they have the third worst record in the majors and don't exactly seem primed for a run in 2010.

So Pirates fans, as you endure the conclusion to another chapter of the Pirates' frustrating, forgettable attempt to escape their unfortunate fate, try this mantra: Go Steelers.

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