Barry Bonds' throw to the plate in the deciding game of the 1992 National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves wasn't in time to nail the slow-footed Sid Bream.
At the time, Pirates fans had no way of knowing how that play would become the defining symbol of the futility that has defined their organization over the next two decades.
The three-time defending division champion Pirates lost Bonds in free agency to the Giants shortly after his throw to the plate fell short. The Pirates have not had a winning season since that fateful season.
Twenty years later, the Pirates are in first place at the All-Star break, led by arguably the best player in the game, Andrew McCutchen. According to Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com, the Pirates are interested in acquiring another great player, Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks, to team up with McCutchen.
Upton, 24, is having a down year in Arizona, hitting a career-worst .273/.353/.401 with only seven homeruns at the break. Last year, Upton broke out by hitting .289/.369/.529 with 31 homeruns. However, his slow start to this season has been fueled by injuries and rumors about his work habits—which has led the Diamondbacks to put him on the trading block.
Upton will not come cheaply for the Pirates. Acquiring him will likely cost them one of their potential ace pitchers, minor league phenoms Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, plus another prospect. However, the Pirates should jump at the opportunity to combine Upton with McCutchen in the outfield on the shores of the Alleghany River at beautiful PNC Park.
McCutchen is arguably the best player in baseball. The 25-year old is having the best season of his career, hitting a league-leading .362 with 18 homeruns, while playing a premium defensive position up the middle of the diamond. For his career, McCutchen is now hitting an outstanding .290/.372/.485.
Adding Upton to the middle of the lineup to protect McCutchen would make the Pirates a legitimate contender this season and through 2015—the final year of Upton's current contract. For his career, Upton is hitting a robust .276/.357/.477.
Though the Pirates would be gambling away premium prospects for Upton, they would also be getting a former No. 1-overall pick who is already a proven commodity. The Pirates already have solid pieces on the big league roster besides McCutchen, including 26-year-old second baseman Neil Walker, 25-year-old third baseman Pedro Alvarez and 27-year-old ace pitcher James McDonald.
The time for rebuilding in Pittsburgh is over. After twenty long seasons in the dark, Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington needs to sell the farm in order to acquire another young, proven star in Upton to put the Pirates over the top.
Watching McCutchen, Upton, Walker and Alvarez in the middle of the lineup for several years to come would go a long way to erasing the losing memories of the past two decades.
The future is starting to look bright in Pittsburgh, but it would look a whole lot more promising if they strike gold at the trading deadline with Justin Upton.