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The 2011 Pirates and history’s worst fall from first placeThe Pittsburgh Pirates have been so bad in the second half of this season that you almost just want to leave them alone in their misery during the final hours of their 19th straight losing campaign.

But then you see this oh-so-representative (and awesome) picture of manager Clint Hurdle in the dugout.

You also learn that they have been historically bad since reaching the dizzying heights of first place in July.

All-time bad, in fact.

So, really, what other choice do you have but to pause, look at the wreck and post that picture? None, I'm afraid.

According to columnist Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the 2011 Bucs are now the not-so-proud victims of baseball's greatest plunge from first place. Citing the research of Elias, Kovacevic notes that no other team in history has put together a worse record — 16-40 — after leading their division at the 100-game marker.

What's worse, the next-closest free fallers aren't actually close at all.

From the T-R:

The Pirates' 16-40 record down the stretch makes for a .286 winning percentage. Next-worst was the 1977 Chicago Cubs, who went 60-40 to lead their division through 100 games, then went 21-41 for a .339 winning percentage.

These Pirates went from delight to disgrace before Regis Philbin could break out one chorus of "We Are Family."

Of course, because it's the Pirates, there's a particularly cruel twist: Game No. 101 was the infamous 19-inning affair in Atlanta that ended with umpire Jerry Meals making one of the worst calls in history. Meals is a Bartmanesque anti-hero in this case — Pittsburgh would have likely plummeted without his atrocity — but that probably doesn't make it any easier for Pirates fans to digest.

So, as we enter the final six games of the season, there's a chance they could fumble further than the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins to end up as the second-worst team in the National League. But even if they don't, the Pirates will be heading into an offseason where they'll have to reconcile the great successes of the first half and individual growth with the complete business-as-usual suckitude of the second.

As Kovacevic notes, that's not going to be easy.

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