Don't look now but the Pittsburgh Pirates have extended their own record of futility by one season after a tough 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday. This puts the struggling franchise at 19 straight losing seasons, a mark that is unparalleled in any of the major sports. I guess if you are in the same city that produces the Pittsburgh Steelers, you have to do something to get noticed.
The Pirates gave their fans something to cheer about in the early going as they inexplicably defied their station as the NL Central cellar-dweller and was in contention all the way till near the end of July. Then came a tough loss to the Braves where they were hosed in the 19th inning and it all began to unravel. They went in freefall mode, seemingly dropping out of the positive overnight, and that was all their was for this years Bucs.
"We've made some strides, but I think one thing we've learned is there's much work in front of us," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We have room for improvement all over the board on offense. We've gotten into situations the last two games where we have people in place to make plays or do things and score runs. We didn't; they did. It comes down to execution. We were very good at it for three and a half months. We have not been very good at it the last six weeks in a number of different areas."
The one bright side to this season, as opposed to the 18 prior ones, is that this year actually ends with a feeling of optimism. The Pirates will finish with a losing season but with the emergence of some of their young talent as well as the proven leadership that Manager Hurdle brings, the feeling going into next season is that it should be the year this massively horrible streak ends.
"The bad streaks kind of feel similar to the bad streaks last year, but the season as a whole and even the way we're losing games is totally different," Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton said. "The atmosphere is totally different, everything's different.
"Obviously we were in contention for a good time there, and we didn't have that (last year). We didn't have anything close to that. So it's just a stepping stone."
The term 'there's always next year' is often tossed around by players and fans of teams that fail to live up to the promise of a successful year and for the most part, these words are just that, words. But for the Pirates and their fans, next season could really be the one they have waited for for nearly two decades, it could really be a winning one.
Or they could hit the big 20, and when your losing streak is almost old enough to legally drink, then you know something has got to give.
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