I was listening to KDKA this morning (don't ask me why), and during each half-hour sports report, stuff about the Steelers, the Panthers, and Crosby's health-concerns were covered fairly-well. It wasn't until the very end of each sports segment that the Pirates, 4-1, loss to the Houston Astros last night at PNC Park was mentioned. And it was almost mentioned as an after-thought.
Now, I don't really have much of a problem with that. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been so irrelevant for so long this time of year, I can't blame sports departments for making the team "last page" material once the pigskins start flying, and the pucks start dropping.
However, I wonder how much different things would be today if the Pirates would have avoided that horrendous 10-game losing-streak from late-July into early-August.
Right before that historic, controversial 19-inning game in Atlanta, I said that if the team could just win a few games on their seven-game trip through Atlanta and Philadelphia, the Buccos would be in great-shape heading-home to face the lowly-Cubs and Padres in a seven-game homestand. Well, despite that disappointing extra-inning loss to the Braves, the Pirates managed to split with Atlanta and were sitting at 54-49 heading-into Philly. All I wanted out of the Philadelphia series was one lousy victory. But they didn't get it.
It was okay, I thought. They would take care of the Cubs and Padres, right? What transpired was truly heart-breaking. The Pirates failed to win a single-game on the homestand and lost 10-games in a row overall.
They went from being 54-49 and fighting for first-place, to 54-59 and totally shell-shocked.
I can't help but wonder what the coverage would be like for the team today if they could have somehow managed to win four for five games instead of losing 10-straight.
What if the bullpen would have held-up in the late-innings of that final game in Philadelphia instead of blowing the lead and losing in extra-innings?
What if they could have split the series with the Cubs instead of being swept by a team they've dominated the last two seasons?
What if they would have actually shown-up for one of the games against San Diego instead of being pounded by one of the most underwhelming offenses in baseball?
Had the Pirates managed to play .500-ball during that infamous week-and-a half, today, instead of being 65-77, they would be 70-72. Not bad.
I'm not delusional. At 70-72, the team would still be helplessly out playoff contention, but at least they'd have 82-wins and ending the years of losing as legitimate goals for everyone from the players to the fans to latch-onto down-the-stretch.
That would mean something, and I'll bet the media would give it coverage. There would probably be a song written about it and everything.
I'm not stupid. I know it wasn't just that 10-game losing streak that did-in the Buccos. Truth is, since their high-water mark of 51-44, the team has gone 14-33. Even if you add five more wins to that total, that's still a stretch of 19-28. But at 70-72, would anyone really notice the slide?
You might point to the team's 11-18 record since the end of the streak as proof that the Pirates slide was inevitable. But we all know how much of sports is mental. If they could have just snagged a few games and put an end to that ten-game slide before it even started, maybe they'd have the momentum and the right frame of mind to continue their magical, improbable 2011 run and win a few more games than they actually have the past month.
It's just a shame that that one stretch of baseball has kind of taken the luster off such a great season. I mean, the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates were more than just a team that lost 10-games in a row and started to wilt in the heat of August. They were a team that was predicted by many to be the worst in baseball, once again, yet, somehow managed to dance with the top dogs in the division and went 33-21 at one-point during the summer. That's magical. That's impressive.
Of course, the ten-game losing streak was just as much a part of the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates as their occupation of first place and that 33-21 stretch was.
You can't erase it. It's like when people say that games in April don't really matter. Well, of course they do. They're just as important as the games in September. If the Red Sox lose-out to the Yankees in the AL East by a game or two, I'm sure they'll look back on their pretty horrible start to the season and realize that games in April matter.
Still though, I'm going to the game tonight with my girlfriend. I'm sure we'll have a fun time, but man, it sure would have been nice to be a part of history and witness them try and put an end to those 18-straight years of losing.
If it wasn't for that 10-game losing-streak..........