<
>

The Pirates' epic journey to win No. 82

9/10/2013

Finally.

Finally time to stop replaying Francisco Cabrera's most famous wave of the bat and Sid Bream's torturous journey toward home plate.

Finally time to stop uttering the phrase, "haven't had a winning season since Barry Bonds headed west."

Finally time to stop muttering about Dave Littlefield, Jim Tracy, Gene Lamont, Cam Bonifay and John Russell . . . not to mention Derek Bell, Ian Snell, John Van Benschoten, Bryan Bullington, Chad Hermansen, Brad Eldred, Emil Brown and everyone responsible for putting them in black and gold.

Finally.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are officially off the schneid. It's a wrap. Shoot off that black and gold confetti. It's a beautiful day in western Pennsylvania.

Now it's true that win No. 82 for this team didn't come real easily. Or swiftly. But that doesn't matter now. What matters is that win No. 82 is in the books.

And because it is, the longest streak of losing seasons in the history of major North American professional sports -- 20 of them in a row (yes, 20!!!) -- is already receding into the rearview mirror. Just like Rod Barajas, Midre Cummings and Ravelo Manzanillo.

Finally.

So now that The Streak is over, let us try to put these past two decades into their proper historical perspective -- because only when you look back at them does it become clear how tough it was for any team to do what the Pirates did over the past 20 seasons.

Ready? Here we go:

How hard is it to have 20 losing seasons in a row? Maybe this will bring it home:

The Pirates: 20 losing seasons in 20 years.

The Cardinals: 20 losing seasons in the past 75 years.

The Yankees: 21 losing seasons in the history of the franchise.

Seriously.

But it's not as if every one of those Pirates seasons wound up at 80-82, either. We're talking about a string of not just losing seasons, but ugly seasons. Consider this:

In 10 of those 20 seasons, the Pirates lost 90 games (or more).

That's more 90-loss seasons in that span than the Cardinals, Yankees, Braves, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies and Reds combined (nine). And, of course, that represents 140 seasons for those seven teams -- versus 20 for those Buccos.

It's also as many 90-loss seasons as the Dodgers, Cardinals and Red Sox have combined for since World War II (which ended 68 years ago if you'd lost track).

And it's four more 90-loss seasons than the Yankees have had since the franchise moved to New York -- a mere 110 years ago. But the Pirates pulled if off in a mere 20.

Yikes.

Or we could look at those 20 seasons this way:

The Pirates lost 1,796 games in those 20 years. And it took them only 3,170 games to do it.

That's 14 more games than the Yankees have lost in their past 26 seasons -- during which they've played nearly 1,000 more games (4,120).

Seriously.

In other words, ladies and gentlemen, that's an incredible amount of losing for any team to do in one (relatively) brief, 20-year stretch of time. Mind-boggling.

Along the way, in those 20 seasons …

  • 213 pitchers appeared in a game for the Pirates.

  • 164 of them lost at least once.

  • 199 position players etched their names into a Pirates box score.

  • 149 of them committed at least one error.

  • Assorted Pirates relievers blew 374 saves in those 20 years.

  • Mike Williams, Matt Capps and Rich Loiselle combined for 64 of those blown saves all by themselves.

  • Assorted Pirates hitters combined for 64 Golden Sombreros (four whiffs in one game) in those 20 years.

  • Pedro Alvarez, Kevin Young and Jason Bay combined for 18 of those Sombreros all by themselves.

  • 145 of those losses came via the dreaded walk-off, just like Sid Bream/Francisco Cabrera/Stan Belinda.

  • 68 of them came in a game where the Pirates took a lead into the ninth.

  • 139 came in a game where they Buccos took a lead into the eighth.

  • And 186 of them came in games where the Pirates led after six and needed "only" nine more outs.

Wow.

Gerrit Cole, the winning pitcher in win No. 82 Monday, had just turned 2 years old the last time the Pirates had a winning season.

Alvarez, who drove in the winning run, had just started kindergarten.

So had the prospective NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen.

And Mark Melancon, who saved No. 82, was still trying to figure out how to navigate the rigors of second grade.

Meanwhile, Dennis Lamp, who logged some bullpen time for the last Pirates team to have a winning record, will turn 61 this month.

Roger Mason, the first Pirates pitcher out of the bullpen the last time the Buccos collected a win No. 82 (on Sept. 12, 1992), hasn't pitched in a major league game in 19 years.

And Cabrera, the man who drove in the run that started this avalanche, hasn't driven in a run in two decades. He knocked in 11 more the rest of his career after he'd finished driving in That Run.

The Penguins have played in 100 playoff games since Belinda threw that fateful pitch to Cabrera. The Pirates have played none.

But that's about to change. Finally.

And not a decade too soon. Because The Streak is over. And it already feels like as much a part of ancient history as the fall of the Roman Empire. Well, almost.