As you may or may not have heard, the Pittsburgh Pirates have yet to make the playoffs let alone have a winning season since 1992. That's right the Pirates, as most of you I'm sure will be shocked to find out, haven't been over 500 since the cost of gas went over a dollar. That just seems silly. Upon learning this mind-numbing information, I decided to do a bit of research. What could have caused this?
Well most of the information I found tended to point to mismanagement, greedy owners, noncompetitive collective bargaining agreements. This all seemed reasonable, but then I realized that such a streak was unmatched and clearly something else had to be at work. Then it hit me, the Pirates haven't had a winning season since Barry Bonds left. Similar streaks of futility have been linked to curses, the cubs haven't won a world series since they refused admission to a goat, and the Red Sox didn't win a world series after selling Babe Ruth to their rivals.
Now realizing that we are in fact victims of the curse of Barry Bonds, I figured I should look into exactly what happened. It seems that Barry guaranteed that if he didnt get a multi year contract for 25 million by the end of 1991, he was gone regardless of how much the Pirates offered at the end of 1992. The Pirates made no such offer and instead lowballed him in arbitration for the second year in a row. Sure enough, the Pirates then realized he was going to leave and even considered trading him to the Dodgers for John Wetteland and 3rd baseman Jeff Hamilton. The Pirates decided to keep him though, knowing full well he wouldn't resign. They made the playoffs, Sid Bream was safe, and the season ended. Then the Pirates due to sheer idiocracy, declined to offer arbitration despite an agreement being reached before the deadline for arbitration. The Pirates appealed but lost and as such didn't even get the two draft picks they should've easily gotten.
While our reaction as fans was preditctable, and justified, it was due to the way the whole saga was reported to us. We were told that he was greedy and left for more money. This is untrue as Bonds would've taken 18 mill less to stay a Pirate had we offered it to him before the end of 1991. We were told Bonds hated the city of Pittsburgh. This is untrue as Bonds really did seem to miss Pittsburgh. We also at least initially wrongly assumed that we would need him as we had 3 can't miss prospects coming up in Kevin Young (top prospect in baseball), Al Martin (minor league player of the year in 1992) and Orlando Merced. Well, we all know how that turned out.
The first sign of the curse occurred when Bonds hit an easy ground out to firstbaseman Kevin Young who then flipped the ball to Randy Tomlin. Tomlin dropped that ball and it's been all downhill since. Since then the Pirates have fallen victim to strange occurrences one after the other. Top pitching prospects needed Tommy John surgery, the team almost moved because it was so broke, can't miss prospects became Chad Hermansen, Derek Bell refused to compete for a starting outfield job. The team should've broken the streak during that last season in 3 rivers, but Kendall blew his ankle out and the squad fell apart from there. Yep, the team is clearly cursed. While it's probably true that other factors are at work, like the team not taking more advantage of spending on the draft, the team ignoring latin america for a while and the unbalanced revenue in baseball, you would think that somehow they would've lucked into one season at 500.
So what to do from here? Obviously we need to break the curse. First, of all I think Bond's number 24 jersey should be retired. He's the only two time MVP in team history and is one of the greatest players ever to wear a Pirate uniform. If you think that's asking too much, I understand the sentiment given he was only a Pirate for 7 seasons, but I still think he's worthy of the honor. As a no-brainer, the team should at the very very least invite him to spring training to be a hitting instructor to work with Pedro Alvarez . He's not going to make Pedro worse, and could probably help the kid. Barry struggled mightily early on and could pass things along. Barry has mentioned he wants to coach, but no one will touch him. Finally, we as fans need to let go, forgive and forget. Did it hurt when Barry left? YES. Is he entirely to blame? No. Should he have thrown out Sid Bream? probably. Let's leave the past in the past and end this curse.