Outscored 36-1 in the recently concluded series with Milwaukee, the Pirates are obviously deeply committed to this season's lose large strategy.
Thursday's game, the worst loss in the franchise's storied history — a 20-run shutout — may well be just the beginning. Think of the possibilities when the Pirates play the Phillies or the Cardinals. A 20-0 loss may look like a squeaker.
When they are bad, they are very, very bad.
When they are good — when were they good?
Having perfected the "lose large" part of the formula for success, it would seem to be time to get to work on the second part of the formula: win the close ones. Of course it is difficult to win any ones, close or otherwise, if you only score one run in three games. Roberto Clemente must be turning over in his grave.
All franchises have their ups and downs. Look at how long it took the Red Sox to get out from under the curse of the Babe. Look at the Cubs getting 'Bartmaned' out of a shot at the World Series in more than 50 years. It's not like the Pirates haven’t had their share of winning.
There were World Series victories in 1960, 1971, and 1979, as well as a couple in the dim, dark days beyond recall. Second baseman Bill Mazeroski is still revered around the three rivers. The trouble is that since 1992, the Pirates seem to have been suffering from a curse of their own: the curse of Francisco Cabrera. The trouble is that the ups all seem to be things of the past, and the future looks to be just one down after another.
Still Pittsburgh fans it turns out aren't greedy. Truth be told, local Pittsburgh fans would be happy, never mind happy, they would be ecstatic with a .500 season. Happy! They'd be happy if the team lost fewer than 90 games. It has come to the point where baseball fans in Pittsburgh would be satisfied with mere mediocrity — forget greatness.
The first few series of the season gave some hope. This last debacle with Milwaukee, albeit a team that always seems to give the Pirates trouble, hasn't managed to crush that hope for many. According to an article in the Post Gazette, Pirate fans leaving Thursday's disaster were still smiling. More power to them.
As for me, down the road from my home in Western Pennsylvania there is a complex with five baseball fields. The Penn State Uniontown Campus plays its home games there. Soon the Little League will be playing there. In the summer, there will be Legion baseball. It may not be the major leagues, but more often than not it's competitive. And if it's a blowout, it only cost a buck or two for a donation, when the bench players come around with a can in the middle innings. You can get a hot dog, fries and a coke for under five bucks. Parking is free. The kids in the field may not be major leaguers; they may not even be future major leaguers, but they play hard and they put up a good fight.
Afternoons this spring and summer, you'll find me there.