Pittsburgh Pirates: Power Ranking the Pirates' Teams Since the Sid Bream Curse
Since Sid Bream slid safely across home plate on that fateful October night in 1992, the Pirates have given the city of Pittsburgh a plethora of horrible teams to watch between the end of the Penguins season and the beginning of the Steelers schedule.
While every year did contain some bright spots, ranking some of these teams as better than another is tough to do as a Pirates fan, knowing deep down that all of these teams were just as terrible as the one previous to it.
However, there were (and are) teams that were better than ever given credit, and I will attempt to rank these Pirates teams over the past two decades from worst to first.
Record: 57-105, 6th Place NL Central
When you produce losing teams for 19 consecutive years, the absolute worst team fielded over that time is going to be very, very, VERY bad.
Enter, the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates. This team started off on the wrong foot after the trade to acquire Aki Iwamura, who couldn't bat over the Mendoza line as well as reporting to camp overweight and not being able to field the second base position.
This season provided a glimpse into the future, as Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata were all impressive in their call-ups from the minors. Yet the pitching was atrocious, and the infield consisted of Andy LaRoche, Ronny Cedeno and Aki Iwamura for multiple months of the season.
The result is the worst record, as well as the least competitive team the Pirates have given the city during the long, strenuous losing streak.
Record: 62-99, 6th Place NL Central
One of the most anemic offenses the Pirates have put together over the streak, the 2009 Pirates leader in RBIs was Andy LaRoche with just 64.
Garrett Jones emerged onto the scene this year, hitting 21 homers from July on, but the Bucs suffered through another year of porous pitching and little offense, which lands this team in the basement of basements, so to speak.
Record: 62-100, 6th Place NL Central
The first year of PNC Park brought about vast expectations for the team. Unfortunately, the team responded with a 100-loss season and the worst record in baseball.
Brian Giles continued his strong hitting with a 37-homer, 95-RBI season, and Aramis Ramirez had his coming-out party, hitting 34 long balls and driving in 112.
However, this was not enough to offset other problems in the lineup, as well as one of the worst pitching staffs the Pirates sent out to face opponents.
Record: 58-86, 5th Place NL Central
Highlighted by Denny Neagle's All-Star season, the '95 Pirates won 58 games in a strike-shortened season.
Orlando Merced and Jeff King both had decent offensive outputs, but, as was the case year in and year out, it wasn't enough to make up for the various shortcomings of the team.
Record: 69-93, 6th Place NL Central
1998 is an interesting year for the Pirates, as it is sandwiched between two of the best teams the Pirates have fielded during the losing streak. Jason Kendall, Kevin Young and Jose Guillen all provided offensive punch for the club, and Tony Womack managed to steal an incredible 58 bases.
The pitching was led by Francisco Cordova, knuckleballer Chris Peters, and future All-Star Jason Schmidt. These individual performances were not able to bring the Pirates over the hump however, and the team finished in 6th place, the first year Milwaukee was in our division.
Record: 68-94, 6th Place NL Central
While managing to hit a ton of home runs and possessing two young starting pitchers in Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny have breakout years, the Pirates still finished in familiar sixth place.
Jason Bay had his worst year as a Pirate, hitting just .247, while Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and strange deadline addition Matt Morris all had ERAs over 5.
Record: 69-93, 5th Place NL Central
Brian Giles had his best season for the Pirates, driving in 123 runs while John Vander Wal manged to drive in an impressive 94.
Kevin Young provided production at first base while Jason Kendall had another All-Star season behind the dish. However, as always, during a year when the hitting was pretty good, the pitching was really, really bad.
Kris Benson had a breakout year, and Mike Williams was proving to be a good closer; yet aside from Benson, no other Pirates starter had an ERA below 4.81. Yikes.
Record: 67-95, 5th Place NL Central
The year in which the All-Star festivities were coming to PNC Park, the Pirates added Sean Casey, Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa in an attempt to contend during a year fans were surely to be excited.
It backfired. The team didn't play at or above .500 at any day during the season. Sadly, 0-0 was the closest they were to contending.
However, the Pirates did mange to get two players, Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez, into the All-Star Game. Bay would go on to have his best season as a Buc, and Sanchez would become the National League batting champion, lamenting his place in the game.
Record: 67-95, 6th Place NL Central
2008 was the first year that Neal Huntington took over as GM of the Pirates, and he managed to start off with a few weapons at his disposal.
Xavier Nady, Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit all had career years while Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche produced at higher levels then they did during disappointing 2007 campaigns.
Unfortunately, for how many runs these Bucs could score, their pitching would let up even more. They hovered around .500 for most of the year, until Huntington traded away Bay, Nady and reliever Damaso Marte in deadline deals that sent the Pirates in a downward spiral for August and September.
Record: 67-95 6th Place NL Central
2005 was an interesting year for the Pirates. Freddy Sanchez emerged onto the scene, Jason Bay had one of his best years, and Zach Duke managed to pull off one of the most impressive starts to a career I have ever seen.
This team was right at .500 during interleague play after defeating the Orioles and Rays in back-to-back series. Yet they fell apart on a crucial road trip to the Bronx and Fenway, effectively ending the Pirates season.
Record: 53-61, 4th Place NL Central
While Zane Smith and Jon Lieber both had superb years on the mound, the Pirates provided little offense during the strike shortened year.
Yet this season did produce one of their best winning percentages over the course of the long losing streak.
Record: 72-89, 5th Place NL Central
2004 was quite a memorable season for the Bucs aside from their poor record.
Rob Mackowiak hit the game-winning homer in Game 1 of a doubleheader vs. the Cubs and then went on to hit the game-tying homer in the nightcap, coincidentally on the same day that his child was born. Quite the remarkable story.
Jason Bay also managed to become the first Pirates player to win the Rookie-of-the-Year award, and Oliver Perez struck out an amazing 239 batters with a 2.98 ERA.
The Pirates would win 10 games in a row in the middle of the season, but struggled mightily after that to finish a distant fifth in the standings.
Record: 72-89; 4th Place NL Central
The 2002 Bucs would take the League by storm in April, finishing at 14-10 and being near the top of the division.
Kip Wells emerged onto the scene with an ERA of 3.58, and Brian Giles would have his last strong season for the Bucs.
Aramis Ramirez was worse this year than in 2001 after being injured in a brawl with Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets, and the Pirates season seemed to spiral downwards from that point on.
Record: 73-89, 5th Place NL Central
Jim Leyland's final season in Pittsburgh was actually one of the better ones over the streak. However, that really isn't saying much.
The Bucs were lead by Jeff King's 30 homers and 111 RBI while Jay Bell, Al Martin, and Orlando Merced all had at least 13 homers and 70 RBI.
Denny Neagle, Jon Lieber, Jason Schmidt, and Francisco Cordova were all strong on the mound, yet this Pirates team just couldn't pull it together in Leyland's final year.
Record: 75-87, 5th Place NL East
Year one of the curse wasn't so bad when compared with the other years.
Andy Van Slyke, Jay Bell and Orlando Merced all batted over .300, and Jeff King provided 98 RBI.
Yet the offense as a whole did not produce enough runs, and the pitching didn't have any standout performers, just a bunch of mediocre seasons.
Record: 72-90, 4th Place NL Central
Last year's Bucs did the unthinkable and reached first place by the end of July. Strong pitching from Paul Maholm, Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, James McDonald and Kevin Correia was to thank.
Yet these pitchers all collapsed in the second half, and after the trade deadline, the Pirates played at a worse clip than the team did in 2010, finishing the season at 72-90 after being 53-47.
Record: 75-87, 4th Place NL Central
2003 was a year in which the Pirates attempted to take a shot at the division title by signing a bunch of free agents on the cheap. Reggie Sanders, Kenny Lofton, Matt Stairs, Randall Simon, Jeff Suppan and Jeff D'Amico were all added to the team in an attempt to build off of the performance from 2002.
With a 1-6 consisting of Lofton, Kendall, Giles, Ramirez, Simon and Sanders, the Bucs pounded the baseball all over the field. Lofton, Kendall and Ramirez all had extended hitting streaks throughout the year, and Sanders ended up hitting 30 homers.
Unfortunately, Dave Littlefield tore the team apart in an attempt to rebuild, and made one of the worst trades in history dealing away Lofton and Ramirez for Bobby Hill, Jose Hernandez and a pitcher who would retire immediately following the trade.
Hernandez played here for two months, and Bobby Hill played second base for a year.
Meanwhile in Chicago, Lofton, Ramirez and later Simon would help the Cubs reach the NLCS, and Ramirez would continue to be one of the best hitters in the NL up to the present day.
Record: 78-84, 3rd Place NL Central
1999 was a relatively good season for the Pirates. Kevin Young and Brian Giles each topped 100 RBI, Ed Sprague contributed 22 homers at third base, and Jason Kendall batted .332.
Young star Jose Guillen was traded to Tampa in for pitching help that backfired right in the Pirates face as Guillen would go on to have a very productive career, and Kendall suffered one of the most gruesome ankle injuries in sports history as his bone was hanging out in the open after rolling his ankle running to first base.
Todd Ritchie, Jason Schmidt and Kris Benson were solid on the mound, and these Bucs finished with the second best end of season record of any Pirates team over the last two decades, which brings me to...
Record: 79-83, 2nd Place NL Central
A magical year for the Bucs, the Pirates were in the division hunt right until the final week of the regular season.
This team is responsible for the last no-hitter in Pirates history. It occurred in an extra-inning game between Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon (who was later traded for Brian Giles).
Mark Smith hit the game-winning homer, and the Pirates faithful were treated to what many consider to be the best game in the 20 years since Bream crossed home plate.
Cordova, Rich Loiselle and Esteban Loaiza all had strong years on the mound, yet lack of run production was what kept this team from going to the postseason.
Current Record: 48-37, 1st Place NL Central
Projected Record: 92-70, 1st Place NL Central
The best team of the past 20 years is on display for all to see at the moment.
The 2012 Bucs are leaps and bounds above anything else the Pirates have provided the city with during the losing streak. Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen are both on pace to top 30 homers, James McDonald and A.J. Burnett have been aces at the top of the rotation, and the Pirates have one of, if not the best bullpens in the National League.
Time will tell if this team will slow down, but with only one series loss since May 24, the Bucs don't seem inclined to do so. Look for these Bucs to break this seemingly endless streak and bring postseason baseball back to the 'burgh.
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