Home » Blog » Could the First Place Pirates Still Blow It?

Could the First Place Pirates Still Blow It?

Is a collapse brewing in Pittsburgh?

Is a collapse brewing in Pittsburgh?

The upstart Pittsburgh Pirates have been the feel good story in Major League Baseball this season. After an unprecedented 20 consecutive losing seasons—the longest losing streak in North American sports history—Buccos fans have been proudly shouting “Raise the Jolly Roger!” from Western Pennsylvania rooftops all summer.

That being said, the Pirates have recently started to fall back to earth. Currently they are 7-9 in August and, except for a three-game sweep of the lowly Miami Marlins, haven’t been as convincing as the team we saw in May and June. They’ve seen their once comfortable lead in the NL Central dwindle to a single game over the St. Louis Cardinals. And don’t count out those Cincinnati Reds, who are just two games back.

Now they may not admit it, but there has to be a large number of Buccos fans out there who have been quietly asking themselves: Could these guys actually blow this? Asking that question is only natural when you’ve got 20 years of anecdotal evidence that suggests they could, in fact, blow this.

The question may be obvious, but the answer is not so simple. In this case it really depends on what constitutes blowing it. Given their decades of miserable failure, is simply finishing above .500 good enough—or have expectations already been raised? Will making the playoffs as a Wildcard cut it if they finish third in their division—and is winning the division even still a realistic possibility?

Let’s examine the possibilities:

Finishing over .500

Right now the Pirates are 72-51, which puts them 21 games over .500. That’s very good news. With six weeks left in the regular season at this point, time is really on their side. It’s hard to imagine this team could lose 22+ of the next 38 games.

Pittsburgh’s next 10 games are against the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Milwaukee Brewers—all three are at least 12 games under .500. Even assuming they drop every game left to teams with something to play for [Cardinals, Reds, Texas Rangers] through the end of the season, that would leave them with 15 losses.

Of course it’s highly unlikely that the Buccos will lose all 15 of those games—although losing 10 isn’t unfathomable. But with the Brewers, Padres and the Chicago Cubs filling in the rest of their schedule, it’s hard to find another 11 or 12 losses.

So unless God hates the Pirates and all of their fans, they will finish with a winning record.

Making the playoffs

Time isn’t the only thing the Pirates have working for them right now! They’ve also got most of the National League on their side too—in that it’s terrible. So not only is it possible that three teams in the NL Central will make the playoffs, it’s extremely probable…if not definitive.

Worst case scenario is Pittsburgh finishing third in the division, behind the Cardinals and Reds. The L.A. Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves will take the NL West and NL East. Which leaves only the Arizona Diamondbacks with a semi-realistic shot of making a run at the second Wildcard. Right now they’re a distant 7.5 games back, but their September schedule isn’t very formidable.

That is truly the worst case scenario though. Fear not Buccos fans, it looks like a playoff berth is almost a done deal.

Winning the division

Anyone who’s thinking “division win or bust” is just being greedy. Jeez Louise…the Pirates haven’t made the playoffs since 1992! To provide some perspective on exactly how long ago that was:

  • Wacky billionaire Ross Perot announced he was entering the presidential race as an independent.
  • McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Beijing—today there are hundreds.
  • Mike Tyson was convicted of raping Miss Black Rhode Island, Desiree Washington.
  • South Africans voted on political reforms to end apartheid.
  • AT&T released a video telephone for the bargain basement price of $1,499
  • The Bodyguard, Wayne’s World, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Lethal Weapon 3 were big at the box office.
  • America’s Funniest Home Videos, Home Improvement, Matlock and L.A. Law were rocking the small screen.
  • Miss Miley Cyrus was born two months after the Pirates dropped a deuce against the Braves.

Hopefully that softens the blow for any Pirates fans with sky high expectations, because the odds of them winning the division are not good. The Cardinals are experienced winners who know how to handle this kind of success—they’re going to be more poised coming down the homestretch. The Reds schedule looks much the same as Pittsburgh’s through September, but their three-game series against the Houston Astros could put them over the top in the end.

So…could he Pirates still blow it?

In a word, no.

The Pirates are just 16 wins away from locking down a winning season—if that doesn’t happen, they should really pack it in for good. They probably won’t win the division, but it would take some serious stumbling by the Buccos down the stretch to open the door for the Diamondbacks. And that’s assuming Arizona plays well, which is by no means a given.

So let’s all wish a tentative congratulations to all of the long-suffering Pirates fans out there! Here’s hoping they don’t blow it…again.

It looks like they're heading for a happy ending in Pittsburgh.

It looks like they’re heading for a happy ending in Pittsburgh.

  • 100%