75 wins

Good morning. It is August 23rd, 2013.

With last night's win, the Pirates are 75-52. Since 1992, the Pirates failed to win 75 games in the following seasons*: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

There are no new additions to the list today, but that's perfect because it means we can talk about The Drive for 75. If you are a veteran of the Pittsburgh Pirate Internet — which is to say that you remember WHYGAVS when it was on Blogspot and Bucs Dugout when it looked like this and Irate Fans and you still have six bookmarks for Wilbur Miller's Pirate Player Profiles — then you remember The Drive for 75. 

The Drive for 75 started in 2003. Over the winter of 2002-2003, a bunch of players had trouble finding work and later accused the owners of colluding against them to keep free agent prices down. Dave Littlefield cashed in on the depressed market, signing Reggie Sanders and Kenny Lofton after the start of spring training. Sanders and Lofton were excellent, as was Matt Stairs, who was also signed that winter. You remember other aspects of 2003, I'm sure, and we'll get to that when 2003 shows up on the list after the Pirates' next win, but the final result was that the Pirates won 75 games in 2003, then all of the free agent signings went their merry way and Littlefield spent the rest of his Pirate career trying to recapture the same lightning that he'd bottled in 2003. 

This went poorly, of course. You remember the Walking Dead that followed those guys in the Littlefield era; Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, Chris Stynes, Benito Santiago, and who even remembers who else. The Pirates weren't spending money on the draft. The Pirates barely had any international scouting operation at all. The one and only focus during Littlefield's reign of terror as general manager was to assemble a team of Major League veterans that could somehow win 82 games. There was no backup plan. There was no plan to build beyond that.

As a result, the Pirates didn't even get back to that 75-win plateau until 2012. Think about this: in the first 11 years of PNC Park, the Pirates failed to win at least 75 games ten times. This year, they have 75 wins with 35 games left on the schedule. This is how it should be. Seventy-five wins shouldn't be a speed bump, much less a destination. Littlefield's Drive for 75 was easily the most destructive thing that happened to the Pirates in the last 20 years. 

*The strike shortened 1994 and 1995. The '94 Pirates were on pace for 75 wins, but the '95 Pirates were terrible and only on pace for 65 wins.

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.

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