Pirates Sinking Below Horizon


SOS. Help us. We need help right now. Come to the rescue. We’re on life support and can’t hold out much longer.  Sad, but true, that seems to be the theme of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ September. It is time for all good Pirate players of the past to rally to the aid of the 2012 team.

Bring that uniform out of mothballs, Bill Mazeroski. Warm up that arm, Bob Friend. Help out your old team, Vernon Law. Give ’em all you got, Bill Virdon. Take a few swings, Dick Groat. It’s all-hands-on-deck time in Pittsburgh. This very nice, pleasant season that had the Pirates notching their first above-.500 seasonn in two decades, erasing the shame of the worst losing streak in professional sports history, and being on the cusp of the playoffs, is unraveling faster than a big fish spinning all of the line off your reel.

It was not so long ago (July maybe?) when it seemed possible that the once-hapless Pirates could win the National League Central Division title. Then the Cincinnati Reds got hot and put some scorched earth between themselves and the Pirates. So forget the title. But the Pirates looked solid for a runner-up spot and in this season of a new playoff system they were sitting pretty to be able to obtain one of the league’s two wild card berths.

Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen has done it all for his team this season, but the Pirates are fading anyway. Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Well, that was August. Now the Pirates are like mountain climbers holding onto the edge of a cliff by their fingernails with the results looking as if they could go either way. Amazingly, the Pirates are looking so shaky right now it’s possible they might even make it to coveted .500-plus territory, never mind gain a playoff spot. It has become a forced march to the regular-season finish-line in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates woke up with a 72-68 record Tuesday, stuck in third place in the NL Central, trailing the Reds by so much not even peering through a telescope could bridge the distance, but also behind the St. Louis Cardinals. There are three weeks remaining in the regular season and that’s plenty of time to blow the four-game winning margin.

Outfielder Andrew McCutchen has emerged as a superstar this summer, but he may not be able to carry the Pirates on his own. McCutchen is hitting .341 with 26 homers and 85 RBIs. His average has dropped, too, during this swoon, but it was at the unsustainable level of the .370s. The Pirates have had difficulty scoring runs all season. At one point they were producing at a ridiculously horrible level. But Pedro Alvarez (27 homers, 73 RBIS) and Garrett Jones (23, 75), have buttressed McCutchen’s swinging.

The Pirates built their solid early-season record on pitching. However, even the top two starters, A.J. Burnett, and James McDonald, have slumped lately. The aces haven’t been stoppers. Closer Joel Hanrahan has done a terrific job, but he can’t win ’em all. Just when the Pirates need to rev it up, they’re faltering, going 2-7 over the first 10 days of September.

If the SOS to all living ex-Pirate stars doesn’t bring sufficient reinforcements fast then Pittsburgh might have to resort to a seance. C’mon, Honus Wagner. Give us a boost, Pie Traynor. We need you, Roberto Clemente.