The Bucs clinched their 17th consecutive losing season, setting a record for major American sports, with a 4-2 loss against the Cubs today.
Today's loss was actually reasonably typical of this year's team, from the seven innings I saw. They didn't pitch terribly well, but they didn't pitch horribly, either. The fielding was fine. There wasn't anybody in the lineup who obviously doesn't belong in the majors. They weren't embarrassing. But they just didn't hit enough. PNC was mostly empty due to the rain, and many of the remaining spectators were Cubs fans, watching the Pirates play mediocre, but not horrible, baseball.
If there's any sort of thread that connects the 1993 squad that began all this losing to the 2009 version, I don't see it. In fact, I'm too young to really put the first several years of the streak into perspective, and I associate most of the middle years with horrible, blunderous baseball played mostly by guys who either didn't belong in the big leagues at all or were so old that the Pirates shouldn't have been bothering with them. (Not that those categories are mutually exclusive.) This version of the team really has neither of those problems. They're just not good enough right now.
Given what Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington inherited, that's no surprise, and the obvious strides the Pirates made with young players, in the minors and with some in the majors, this year, suggest that someday soon things are going to be different. And so, although I know I'm supposed to feel some sort of disgust about this epic skid of losing seasons, I simply don't. I felt it three years ago when Dave Littlefield was running the team into the ground. I'm not a football fan, but my brothers are both hardcore fans, and I was sitting on the couch with them when they saw that the Raiders had traded a 2011 first-round pick (quite possibly a top ten pick) to the Patriots for Richard Seymour. That was an extreme version of the sorts of bizarre moves Littlefield made on a regular basis. Whether you like what the Bucs have done the past two years or hate it, there's a coherent rationale behind about 95% of the moves they've made. If Coonelly and Huntington can get this ship turned around, then being a Pirates fan is going to feel great for once.