Remember the old days, when the Pirates would be 20 games under .500 before the All-Star break and half the city of Pittsburgh cared more about who would be the backup left tackle for the Steelers? Those seemed like dark times but, compared to now, they may have been easier on the heart.

For the second straight season, the Pirates are in the midst of an epic collapse in September, and with 20 games remaining, it seems unlikely they will finish the season with their first winning record in 20 years. Oddly enough, they are still in the wild-card race (2.5 games back) thanks to the Cardinals and Dodgers losing on a consistent basis as well.

While going 10-10 down the final stretch seems like a modest request, the truth is the Pirates are 13-26 in their last 39 games and in the middle of a six game losing streak. The pitching has been inconsistent, the offense has been atrocious, and the manager has made enough bad decisions in one week to have his job placed in question.

Assuming the Pirates cannot turn it around and recover a winning record, this will easily go down as the most painful season of the last 20 years. Through the middle of last season, the Pirates were in unfamiliar territory and they were excused for their inability to maintain a winning season. After all, they were a young team that was never used to winning at the major league level.

This year, however, there is no excuse.

The Pirates have veteran players to compliment a solid group of young talent. They have Andrew McCutchen, an MVP calibre player, as well as slugging corner players Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez. They have an excellent second baseman in Neil Walker and a strong defensive shortstop in Clint Barmes. They may not have the roster to win the World Series, but they should be able to finish with a winning record, at the very least.

If the Pirates finish with a losing record, they will kill any excitement from the fan base for the first five months of next season. How can fans possibly be excited if the Pirates are 20 games over .500 at the All-Star break in 2013? How can fans possibly talk playoffs or a winning record when, for two seasons now, the Pirates had an opportunity to do both only to fall excruciatingly short?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have managed to do something that only the Pittsburgh Pirates could do: they've won more games while, at the same time, agonizing the faith of the fan base more than before.

Posted in Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers

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