The Road to 17: The past catches up

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I know I said back in late March or early April that I wanted to keep this series going during throughout the regular season, but that’s obviously something that I haven’t done very well. The truth is, I really hadn’t thought much about the record until right around the trade deadline. That’s not to say I didn’t think it was going to happen; I’ve known this was going to happen since 2007. I don’t think I’ve once anywhere predicted a winning season for the Pirates in 2009 besides maybe jokingly after the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. This losing season, this 17-year losing streak, has been a foregone conclusion for a long time in my mind.

In some ways, I think that’s a huge indictment of how bad the Pirates have been for most of my lifetime. This is a club that’s struggled mightily for most of this year and never at any point given me as a fan any particular hope that they’d be good this year. Still, I shrugged it off because it’s entirely normal for the Pirates to be that way. Even having been in Pittsburgh for the Steelers and Penguins’ championships and in Chapel Hill when UNC won the NCAA Tournament, no part of me had any real hope for the Pirates in 2009. I have been mostly excited by the Pirates this year, but only because I have hope for them somewhere down the road. Probably not until 2011 or 2012, but that’s more than any of us have had in the past and it’s something to build on.

I’ve read and reread that last sentence three or four times now and I’ll be honest; it gives me weird vibes. Thinking that the Pirates could contend in 2011 or 2012 is infinitely more hopeful than I was prior to Dave Littlefield’s firing in 2007, when I came closer to quitting this blog than I ever have in the past. On the other hand, damn, it’s been seventeen years and we’re still a few years away? Sometimes I want to stand up and scream, “HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO TAKE?!?!?” and buy a Rays hat and be done with it.

But I don’t and I know that I won’t. I’ve simply got too much invested in this team at this point. Like I said, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for once and I can live with that. As improbable as it sometimes seems, the Pirates can’t be bad forever. It’s just not possible. The biggest problem I have with this whole thing isn’t that the real future of the Pirates is still two or three years away. Its that when the Pirates cross over to 82+ losses again is likely to be given some huge national media coverage and all of the focus will be on these Pirates. It’s not fair that Andrew McCutchen gets the blame where Jacob Brumsfeld, Jermaine Allensworth, Adrian Brown, Tike Redman, and Chris Duffy failed. It’s not fair for John Russell to be blamed when he’s got nothing more to do with this losing streak than Jim Leyland, Gene Lamont, Lloyd McClendon, or Jim Tracy. Garrett Jones and Lastings Milledge have only been Pirates in a world where the Penguins are Stanley Cup champions and their faces go on the mountain while countless others get comparative passes.

In fact, there’s only one thing that the Pittsburgh Pirates have in common with the 1993 Pirates besides the uniforms. Me. You. The other Pirate fans you know. The commenters at Bucs Dugout and yes, at the PBC Blog. Stephen King once wrote, “I guess sometimes the past just catches up with you, whether you want it to or not.” That’s how I feel about this losing streak; I’m focused on other things and I don’t want anything to do with it right now. I don’t want anything to do with Chad Hermansen or JJ Davis or Al Martin. When the Pirates lose their 82nd game next week, I don’t want to see Orlando Merced waving a little giveaway flag during a home opener fiasco. I don’t want to see two Pirates dumbly standing on third base while a laughing third baseman tags one out, then the other when he stupidly walks off the bag.

The past is the past. That’s why I haven’t thought much about the losing streak this summer. Because if I did spend a lot of time thinking about it, I would spend considerably less time enjoying baseball. Even if the hope for the future is just a glimmer somewhere down the road, even if it is just a word. Since the trade deadline when the losses have really started piling up, I feel like time has slowed down immeasurably. 82 and 17 are coming, even if it doesn’t feel any different this year than it has in the past ten, even if the fans are the ones that bear the brunt of the pain despite being powerless to stop it. Can we just get this over with already?

If you’re new here, the Road to 17 is my on-going look at the Pirates’ epic losing streak. I can honestly say that it includes some of my favorite posts of all-time, so check them out if you’ve got a chance.

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.