17 Years of Losing. Enough Already!

I know health care reform has gotten Americans fired up … and I don’t see an end in sight to the debate so I thought I would weigh in something we can all agree on. Tomorrow night marks the annual – and official – end to the baseball season. Pre-season football begins when the Steelers host the Cardinals.

This is nothing new for we who call western Pennsylvania home. The Pirates have been only too kind to end the competitive half of their schedule in time for the Steelers to take the field. Only once since 1992 has this team even played a meaningful game in September.

But this year’s version of the Pirates deserves special mention … and special scorn. The Pirates have all but clinched their 17th consecutive losing season and that sets the all-time pro sports record for consecutive losing season. Think about it. Even the worse of franchises has stumbled upon a winning season.

The reason it has not happened in Pittsburgh is no accident. Poor decisions, poor players and poor play has relegated the Pirates to the butt of jokes locally. They would become a national punchline, but not enough people outside of the region realize we even have a baseball team.

pirates

Unlike the “Jolly Roger” logo, I can’t turn a blind eye to this anymore.

The Wall Street Journal does. The newspaper has an incredible interactive that shows the deals, the fire sales and sell-offs over the past 17 years that have taken this one-time pennant contender and turned it into the model of mediocrity. Even this might be giving the Pirates the benefit of the doubt because being mediocre – by definition – is being average. An average of .500 season here would be a cause for celebration.

I am not writing this to berate the year’s version of the team. Current management has not choice but to tear down what was here in order to build a winning team. But this is just the latest front office group with a five-year plan for success. This would be the fourth five-year plan I have seen since arriving here and frankly, I have no reason to feel any more optimistic than I did for the first three.

My biggest fear is not the Pirates continued losing ways. Rather, its what it means for the future of baseball in this town. Yes, the ballpark is great but baseball is a sport which captures its audience as young people. Last year’s high school seniors graduated not knowing a winning season during their lifetime and knowing nothing of post-season baseball.

My fear is not that fans revolt or start wearing bags over their heads. My fear is indifference from the baseball fans in this city and this region. Baseball depends on repeat business and season ticket holders. Ballpark or not, the Pirates are qucikly becoming like the theatre, the movies or the zoo. Someplace you visit once or twice a year. That may work for other entertainment options, but not for baseball.

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