The good news is the Pittsburgh Pirates had the exact same record on the road last year as they did home at PNC Park. The bad news is they were 36-45 there.
Still, the upcoming 2012 season is without question the singularly most important for the Bucs since 1992—the year traitorous Sid Bream awkwardly slid into home for the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the NLCS and placed a two-decade curse on his old team.
The Pirates haven't had a winning season since.
But this year—the ones the Mayans had a funny feeling about—is Pittsburgh's one remaining chance at avoiding what could be the most unfortunate record in American professional sports. If the Pirates finish below .500, it will be their 20th consecutive losing year—the longest such milestone of futility in the history of pro baseball, football, basketball and/or hockey. An entire generation of baseball fans in Pittsburgh has stood by its beloved team with little to no payoff.
But last year, things were different.
First-time All-Stars Andrew McCutchen and Joel Hanrahan along with a squad of young and talented Pirates emerged as the unexpected NL Central leaders until late July. They remained in the playoff hunt till the beginning of September, just a few days before sadly ensuring their 19th-straight losing season.
Still, for much of the summer, people went to PNC Park to see more than just the skyline.
If the Pirates prove 2011 was no fluke, Pittsburgh fans could be in for more than a few significant series this season. While it's impossible to say exactly which could prove pivotal, some could have history-altering implications or, at the very least, give fans hope that the next 20 years don't have to be quite so rough.