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Monday, September 24, 2012
Bucs making the wrong kind of history

This is an edition of the September History Watch that we September History Watchers didn't want to write -- any more than Clint Hurdle or Andrew McCutchen or A.J. Burnett want to read.

But at this point, we can't help ourselves, because the Pittsburgh Pirates are hurtling toward the kind of history nobody wants to make.

Garrett Jones
It's been a depressing couple of months for Garrett Jones and the Bucs.

As recently as Aug. 6, a mere seven weeks ago, they had a record of 62-46. That's 16 games over .500, if you're subtracting along at home. And they'd played 108 games at the time. That's two-thirds of the season.

So if there ever was a lock for them -- or any team -- to finish with a winning record, this was it. Right?

OK, wrong. Obviously. We know that now. We know it because the Pirates have tumbled, stumbled and bumbled their way to a record that now sits at two games under .500.

And that means this team is on the verge of doing something no team has ever done:

Find itself at least 16 games over .500 after 108 games and finish with a (gulp) losing record.

We spent way too much time Monday morning studying this depressing topic. We found more than 500 teams through the years that were 16 games over .500 or more after 108 games. And you know what they all had in common?

Not one of them wound up with more losses than wins. Not one!

It seemed so hard to believe that we asked the Elias Sports Bureau to double-check, just to make sure we weren't nuts.

Nope. That was the deal, all right.

Not one!

The sort of good news is, we did find two teams that finished at .500 on the nose, at least:

• There was Herman Franks' infamous 1977 Chicago Cubs. That team was 25 games over .500 at one point, was still 18 over (63-45) after 108 games and finished at 81-81, completing their legendary Cubbie-esque plunge from first place, and an 8½-game lead, to fourth place, 20 games south of first place.

• And then there was Buck Rodgers' 1989 Expos. That club was also 63-45 through 108 games, and also staggered home to finish 81-81, with the help of an attractive 5-15 kaboom in its final 20 games.

And that's the whole group. So what's the closest any team has ever come to being as far above .500 as these Pirates were, after 108 games or later, and finishing on the wrong side of Mount .500?

Elias reports it was Toad Ramsey's 1886 Louisville Colonels, who were 15 over (64-49, plus one tie) after their 114th game -- then went a spiffy 2-21-1 in their final 24 games to finish 66-70.

Now clearly, this is not the kind of company any team wants to keep. But fortunately, we'd like to remind these Pirates of something they might want to hold on to:

The season isn't over. All they need to do is go 7-3 in their final 10 games, and they can avoid being lumped in with any of the teams in this group. And just to prove how upbeat we are about the chances they could pull that off, we won't even mention that they've only won seven times in their past 23 games.

Oops. Strike that last sentence from the record, please. And let's hope that in a week and a half, these Pirates can forget Toad Ramsey, Herman Franks and anything we just typed -- because no team deserves that fate, especially a team that hasn't had a winning season since Sid Bream slid into home.