by T.J. McAloon
Wake up Pittsburgh Pirates fans, the bad dream is over.
For 20 years this fan base has been in a dark place that would resemble something you’d see in a scene from “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” But now, with a roster full of promise and talent, the losing is over.
However, this streak was about more than just a team losing.
This was about a once proud franchise that made their fans sit through year after year after year of bad slogans (“We Will” and “Let’s Go To Work”), bad players (Derek Bell, Matt Morris and others), and managers that would either steal bases during arguments (Lloyd McClendon), allegedly fall asleep during games (Gene Lamont) or were just a bad fit for the club (Jim Tracy and John Russell).
But now that it’s over, with win No. 81 coming on Tuesday and 82 on the horizon, it’s time to take a look at whom breaking this streak is really for.
The end of the streak is for those of us who remember sitting, as a young child, with their parents or in their rooms as Sid Bream came rounding third in Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series.
The end of the streak is for those parents who had to try to stop our crying when the Pirates lost, all while holding back their own tears.
The end of the streak is for those of us who bought into players that would turn the franchise around, guys like Oliver Perez, Jason Kendall, Jack Wilson, Craig Wilson, Al Martin, Kevin Young, Mike Williams, Mike Gonzalez, Todd Ritchie, Francisco Córdova, Denny Neagle, Jason Schmidt, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Aramis Ramirez, Jose Guillen, Jason Bay and Brian Giles.
The end of the streak is for those players above, who tried hard but came up short.
The end of the streak is for those of us who bought into free agents that didn’t pan out, like Derek Bell, Jeromy Burnitz, Matt Morris, Bobby Crosby, Benito Santiago, Matt Stairs and Rod Barajas, just to name a few.
The end of the streak is for Steve Blass, Bob Walk, Greg Brown, Lanny Frattare and John Wehner. They called countless games during seasons where the on-field product was poor and they had to find positive ways to describe the ball club.
The end of the streak is for the workers in the Pirates front office. Not the baseball decision makers. They’ll get enough credit in awards, bonuses and other admiration.
No, the end of the streak is for those employees who sell tickets, work in marketing, and have to sell advertising. Nothing was harder, and I would know, than trying to sell tickets for this team.
Let me ask you a question: Who wants to come to a meaningless game on a Monday or Tuesday to watch a team that’s 15 games out of first place and on pace to lose 90-plus games? I’ll give you the answer, no one.
The end of the streak is for Kevin McClatchy. He won’t be remembered as a great owner. However, if not for him, then the Pirates may be playing in San Antonio, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Portland, or wherever else another ownership group may have moved the franchise.
Sure, he didn’t bring home a winner, but he helped assure the Pirates wouldn’t move when he got the permission – and the money – to build one of the best ballparks in the majors, PNC Park. He tried, boy did he try, but he couldn’t bring home a winning season.
The end of the streak is for the 1992 team. The iconic shot of the Pirates’ last playoff game is Andy Van Slyke sitting in the outfield, crushed. However, the end of the streak is for Jose Lind, whose error kept the ninth inning alive for the Braves. For Stan Belinda, who couldn’t end the game. And for Doug Drabek, who pitched a great game for the Pirates.
My buddy Bob Healy, who’s the managing editor at Baldwin-WhiteHall.patch.com, said it best in regards to Van Slyke, “You can get up now Andy, it’s over.”
There are plenty of others who the end of this streak is for. But, in large part, the end of this streak is for every Pirates fan.
We can now put the dark days behind us and now look toward a young team that’s just scratching the surface of what their talents can do. There’s a great chance that this group of players can usher in a new streak of consecutive winning seasons.
Hell, who knows, the 2013 club could break another streak. It has been 33 consecutive seasons without a National League or World Series championship.
If one broken streak is good, two is better and three would be great.
(Editor’s note: McAloon is a sportswriter for the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman. He attended California University of Pennslyvania and previously worked in the Pirates’ ticket office. He is a lifelong Bucs fan.)