COMMENTARY | The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a winning season, they did so by winning the National League East by beating out the Montreal Expos by nine games in 1992.
The Expos are long gone from the division and baseball in general, yet somehow it's been longer since the much-maligned Buccos have managed to finish with a winning season.
If 1992 seems like forever ago, it's because it was. The Toronto Blue Jays that year became the first non-American team to win the World Series. George H.W. Bush was finishing the remainder of his presidency, as Johnny Carson wrapped up an illustrious career. Justin Bieber hadn't even been born yet. Clearly, these were better times.
Gerrit Cole was only 2 years old, Pedro Alvarez only 5. Indeed, it had only been five years since Clint Hurdle ended his playing career with the New York Mets. The Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl that year, while Tony La Russa earned Manager of the Year in the American League while managing the Oakland Athletics. It was a time when baseball still mattered in Pittsburgh.
The ghosts of 1992 can finally be exorcised this week as the Pirates currently sit with an 80-57 record. Fans and the franchise alike for months now have had their sights set on a higher target, that of making and actually competing in the playoffs. And rightfully so, given the high quality of baseball the team has played this year. But that doesn't mean the team and its fans shouldn't recognize the importance of washing off the stink of 20 consecutive losing seasons. It's a pretty big deal for a city that's waited so long.
How appropriate that the Pirates might shed the streak in a game Sept. 3 in Milwaukee, a place that's given the franchise nightmares year after year. But there it is, the chance to finally grasp what's been so unattainable for the past two decades. It might not mean a whole lot to the players currently on the roster. Many of them are simply focused on bigger and better things in the playoffs.
But it means a great deal to the fan base, many of whom for the past 20 years have watched helplessly as the front office has made horrible deals for horrible players who contributed nothing to horrible teams that would consistently lose 90 to 100 games a season. It was hard to pay attention to such a fiasco when the Steelers and Penguins were going on to win multiple championships.
But now the embarrassment is over. The Pittsburgh Pirates are no longer the punching bag of Major League Baseball, no longer the laughingstock of losing in North American sports. It's been a long time coming, and the icing on the cake is that baseball for the first time in a long, long time will be played in October in Pittsburgh. And that's a beautiful thing.
Jared Stonesifer has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates on a freelance basis since 2010. He lives in Pittsburgh.
- Sports & Recreation
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Montreal Expos
- National League East
- Justin Bieber
- Toronto Blue Jays