Of all the ways a baseball team can disappoint its fans, it's hard to think of a crueler gut punch than the felonious beating the Pittsburgh Pirates are administering to their loyal supporters right now.
OK, well there's the century-plus of futility that the Chicago Cubs have foisted upon the North Side. But when it comes to a professional troll job, this year's Buccos team can compete with almost any squad in baseball history. Once poised to end a 19-year streak of losing seasons and possibly compete for a playoff spot, the Pirates now look destined to hit losing season no. 20 in the worst way possible.
The worst part is that no Pirates fan is going to disagree with me here. I can feel confident saying that after Thursday's 9-7 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, a defeat that let the Crew leave town with a sweep and dropped the Pirates record to 74-75. It's the first time they've been under .500 since they were 24-25 on May 29. With 13 games to go, do you really think they can go 8-5 to reach the 82 victories necessary to end the ugly 19-year streak?
They're probably not going to do it and even if they do, it'll be hard for Pirates fans to celebrate considering where they once were. The morning of Aug. 8 had them sitting at 63-47, a season-high 16 games over .500 and 3 1/2 games in front of St. Louis for the NL's second wild card spot. They were the resurgent story in baseball with many camps — including this one — figuring the Pirates had more staying power than Oakland and Baltimore.
Since then the Pirates have gone 11-28 with only the Cleveland Indians posting a worse record in that time frame. A wild card spot is now 5 1/2 games away, Andrew McCutchen's bid for his first MVP is effectively over and manager Clint Hurdle sure looks like he could serve as the scapegoat once the season ends. While there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Pirates future in 2013 and beyond, there's only way to describe this stunning and complete collapse in 2012.
It's an absolute shame. Something you wouldn't wish upon any fanbase.