Since the Pittsburgh Pirates won the 1979 World Series (31 years ago), they have only managed to finish above .500 five times.
After the 1993 season, MLB realigned the divisions and the Bucs were moved from the NL East to the NL Central. The Pirates were placed in a division where they play an unbalanced schedule and have to regularly duke it out with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, and Chicago Cubs, a place where they have never had a season above .500. This season won't be any different.
After Sunday's 8-2 loss to the Astros, the Pirates 2010 record now resides at 39(L)-78(w). For those of you who like math, that's a winning percentage of .333, on pace to lose 108 games.
Supporters of the Pirates will tell you that they've been unfairly place in a division with 6 teams (the only one in baseball) while teams like that Texas Rangers, LA Angels, Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners get to play in a 4 team AL West division, with all other MLB divisions having 5 teams.
While that may be true, and is undoubtedly unfair for all of the NL Central teams as well as an unfair advantage for all of the AL West teams; not being able to field a team that can at least play .500 baseball for eighteen straight years is simply pathetic, any way you look at it. Any excuse, valid or not, simply doesn't hold any water when you suck that much.
The Pirates have a beautiful ballpark to play in. To be honest, PNC Park is arguably the best of all the new stadiums that have popped up the past few years, and I've been to them all. However the franchise has done an awful job of fielding a competitive team for almost two decades now.
The Pirates roster is constantly and consistently composed of a majority of minor league talent, and in the rare happenstance that they produce a decent player from their farm system, they end up trading him because they don't want to pay him.
The Pirates are dead last in 2010 MLB payroll. Surprise! But that's not even an excuse, because the San Diego Padres who are routinely competitive are currently in first place, and are merely a bit over $2.5 million ahead of them.
What would their performance be like if they had to compete against the Yankees and Red Sox? Every year people debate the merits of an MLB Salary Cap, but that's a waste of time because the MLBPA will never let that happen (even though it's clearly the right thing to do.) It's time that MLB talks about having a salary floor so franchises like the Pirates can't consistently turn a profit while fielding a minor league team.
The product being put on the field in Pittsburgh is an insult to not only the Pittsburgh faithful, but to MLB and its fans all throughout the country. Who gets pleasure out of having their team consistently beating the crap out of the Pirates? Enough is enough.
If a salary floor isn't the answer than MLB needs to come up with some standards or competency requirements for a franchise to meet that ensures it will at the very least occasionally be competitive on the field. - David Fry
David is an independent sports photographer currently covering MLB and the NFL. David will be reporting on observations as he sees them in stadiums throughout the year.
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