Two seasons ago, the Pirates were 53-47 on July 25th and tied for first place in the National League Central division. After finishing with just 57 wins the year before, they were the surprise of baseball. Unfortunately, instead of breaking 18 years of losing, Pittsburgh went on to lose 43 of its final 62 games and, not only fell well out of contention, finished with a losing record for a record 19th straight season.
In 2012, the Pirates started out even better.
On August 6th, after a 7-6 victory over the Diamondbacks at PNC Park, Pittsburgh was 63-47 and only two and a half games back of the Reds in the Central. Furthermore, they were a major player in the wild card race, along with the Cardinals and a few other teams.
From that point on, however, the Pirates went 16-36 to finish with a losing record for the 20th straight season. It was the latest that any team had ever been that many games over .500 before finishing with a losing record--in other words, the collapse was historic.
Thanks to the very depressing end to each of the past two seasons, Pirates fans, already beaten down by the first 18 losing seasons, are walking around with a sense of paranoia, waiting for the other shoe to drop--a shoe big enough to fit another historic collapse.
The only problem for Pirates fans is the team is so good right now (the best record in baseball at 64-42), it would take a 16-40 finish to have a 21st straight losing season.
I know the Pirates have been bad, but NOBODY's that bad. If Pittsburgh has that kind of finish and breaks its own historical record, the players in that clubhouse should all just retire because they would obviously have mental problems. Furthermore, every member of the front office--including gm Neal Huntington--should be fired on the spot and banned from baseball for life.
I may be knocking on wood as I type this, but I feel as if ending the losing streak is all but assured.....but that doesn't mean another collapse isn't possible.
The Pirates only have 56 games left. With 64 victories already in the bank, anything short of 85 wins would have to be considered a collapse. Think about it. In order to finish with 85 victories, Pittsburgh would have to go 21-35 the rest of the way......not exactly a great finish. Heck, if the Pirates simply play .500 ball down the stretch, they'll win 92 games.
Even if you would be happy with 85 wins (something we all would have signed up for in April), would you be happy with missing the playoffs?
I'll give you that winning the division at this point is far from a done deal (Pittsburgh is one and half games up on the Cardinals as of this writing),but a wild card seems all but assured. The Pirates currently lead Arizona by 10 games for the National League's second wild card spot.
If Pittsburgh finishes the year at 26-30, the Diamondbacks would have to go 36-20 just to finish in a tie. If the Pirates close the year by going 30-26, Arizona would have to go 40-16 to catch them.
While I want a division title above all else, at the bare minimum, I want at least on of those wildcard spots.
Sometimes, all a kid wants for Christmas is a toy under the tree. It doesn't matter what the toy is, or how much it costs, it's just what it represents. I know, at this moment, if the Pirates finish with a winning record but miss the playoffs, I would be very disappointed.
Forget about breaking the losing streak. It's playoffs or bust" for the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates.