On Sunday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Pirates made history of the wrong kind by not only assuring their 20th consecutive losing season, but by completing arguably the biggest collapse in MLB history.
No team in history has been more than 16 games over .500 in August and collapsed far enough to finish the season under .500. The Pirates were 16 games over on Aug. 6 but have lost 18 of 23 to fall to 77-82.
It was almost fitting how current losing streak continued as the Bucs have found way after way to lose games since their slide started. The one thing that hadn’t happened to them all season was losing via a blown save in the ninth. Entering the game, the Pirates were 69-0 on the season when leading after eight innings.
Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle hasn’t had any answers as of late and appeared at a loss with his post-game comments.
“I’m disappointed,” second-year manager Clint Hurdle said. “One of my goals when I got here was to re-bond this city with this baseball team and to be a group of men who do that collectively. So it’s definitely disappointing — especially when we were able to get to a certain point of the year where we were talking playoffs… and ultimately it all got away from us.”
However, looking back at all 20 losing seasons, this has to be viewed as the worst one yet.
It comes with good signs as the Bucs are getting better all around the diamond and have already won five more games than they did a season ago, 20 more than in 2010.
But that doesn’t take away the sting from this season, which makes it the most painful for Pirates’ fans.
By Pirates’ fans, I’m talking about the people that have been there for all 20 years. The fans that have suffered through it all. Not the fans that jump on and off the bandwagon on a weekly, or in some cases daily, basis.
I’m talking about the fans who have been loyal for two decades of bad baseball, not the fans who suddenly took an interest in this team last year or even this season.
For those fans that have been there for the duration or most of it, I feel your pain. This team got your hopes up and they repaid you for all of these years with pain and misery.
The hope is what makes this most recent Pirates failure the worst one of all 20.
Early on in the streak, there was no hope. The teams in the ’90s were bad and other than the 1997 team that competed until September (they were bad, too), there was no hope. The lack of hope continued into the early part of this decade as well. This Pirates franchise didn’t have the talent and didn’t spend the money to offer their fan base even a glimpse of hope.
But as fans we knew that going in.
Eighteen years of playing the game of baseball without hope can frustrate a fan base.
Then came last season’s collapse.
While that was sure frustrating, it was a whole lot easier to take than this season’s sequel. That team was never close to being 16 games over .500 and looking back, maybe wasn’t that good in the first place.
That wasn’t the case this year. To get to the point where you are 16 games over .500 in August, it means you are a good baseball team, with good talent. The Pirates have good talent and can compete in the National League Central, but for some reason, the pressure got to them and this team collapsed once again.
This team gave us hope. None of the others did. That’s why it’s so hard to take.
Their collapse, parlayed with the announcement that the entire front office will return have sent another collection of fans hoping off the bandwagon.
For the rest of us that are left, I will say the same thing I have said for the last 20 seasons.
Maybe next year.