The Pittsburgh Pirates have secured a losing season for the 17th straight season, a shocking run of ineptitude taking place in an era that, by Major League Baseball standards, has seen relative parity.
A lot has happened since Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series, when Barry Bonds‘ throw to the plate was not in time to throw out Atlanta’s Sid Bream, and the Braves had a walkoff win to advance to the World Series. Bonds, Barry Bonilla and Jim Leyland left the Pirates not long after Pittsburgh’s last winning season and playoff berth.
Look at the Minnesota Twins, for example. In 1992, the Twins finished second to the Oakland Athletics in the AL West with a team made up of veterans like Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek. Since then, baseball split into six divisions and added another round to the postseason. The Twins rebuilt a couple of times before finding the postseason again in 2002 thanks to Torii Hunter, Brad Radke, Doug Mientkiewicz and Corey Koskie.
When I said "relative parity" above, I was referring to one fact in particular. I’ve noticed, assuming my math is right, that there have been 18 different World Series champions in the last 26 years. Only the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays have won multiple titles during that stretch, with the Yankees being the only team to win more than two.
The Pirates’ stretch of 17 straight losing seasons is a record in major American pro sports. A number like that could only happen in baseball, where there is no salary cap. But it’s still an impressive run of futility.
With some emerging young players like Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones, maybe the Bucs are on their way to turning that pirate ship around.