The Pittsburgh Pirates are dangerously close to a truly epic benchmark, and we would be poor history students if we didn’t take notice. The dismal swashbucklers are well on their way to recording their 17th consecutive losing campaign. That “achievement”, which is likely to come in the next few weeks, would distinguish the Pirates in at least one way. It would make them the infamous owner of the record for most consecutive losing seasons in baseball history. In fact, this 17th consecutive season of sorrow will give the Pirates the most losing seasons in a row in the history of any of the four major American sports (NFL, NHL, NBA, & MLB).
Why has this happened? A look at just the last couple of years may shed some light on the situation. Only 4 of the 25 players remain who started the 2008 season on the Pirates major league roster. Those who have been dealt include recent all-stars Jason Bay and Nate McLouth, who would have formed one of the best outfields in baseball along with fellow slugger Xavier Nady. Beyond that the Pirates forfeited a formidable double play combination by dealing shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez. Wilson is an excellent defender and solid every day player; Sanchez hit .344 in 2006 and is hitting .296 this year.
If these moves don’t dumbfound you, add to this list Adam Laroche, the team’s most prolific slugger this year, Nyjer Morgan, an electric young center fielder, and solid young catcher Ronny Paulino. Then spice up the lunacy by considering the countless good arms they’ve pitched aside including Ian Snell, Damaso Marte, Tom Gorzelany, and John Grabow.
Those are just a few of the key names the Pirates have sold off for prospects, having essentially given away an all star roster worth of players over the last five years. It doesn’t really pay to get prospects if you deal them the instant they become good major league players.
In a city that has fervently supported the reigning Super Bowl and Stanley Cup champions, it is a true mystery why Pirates management has been unable, or perhaps unwilling to dish out the funds to build a decent franchise. In truth the only thing Pirates brass hasn’t done is made for sale signs directing rival General Managers to PNC Park for their pick of the litter.
One really has to wonder at the mindboggling ineptitude that the Pirates have exhibited yearly for the better part of two decades. After recently building one of the most beautiful, state of the art ball parks in baseball (usually a sign that the team is looking to spend and turn things around), they have continued to sell off their talent quicker than sponsors are dropping Glenn Beck.
The Pirates again have a promising core of young talent including rookie of the year candidates Garret Jones and Andrew McCutchen. If history has taught us anything, these fine young players will be sent packing as soon as they reach the point of demanding big time money.
Pittsburgh fans can certainly be content with the ultra success of their Steelers, and the recent rise of their Penguins, but it seems quite apparent that they will continue to find no buried treasure with their Pirates. [SPORTS NEWS YOU CAN DRINK A BEER TO - BAREKNUCKS.COM]