The Pittsburgh Pirates, the same team that lost 105 games in 2010, were 53-47 and in first place through 100 games on July 25. Then, history happened.
The Pirates have lost 40 of their past 56 games, going 16-40 and dropping to 5th place in the NL Central. If it continues, they could end up as the second-worst team in the National League, finishing worse than the Cubs and the Padres and pretty much everyone outside of Houston. As a fan of the Cleveland Indians I am well aware of sh*t and its ability to happen, but according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh’s epic plunge is statistically the worst drop for a first place team in baseball history. In history.
Here’s the math:
The Pirates’ 16-40 record down the stretch makes for a .286 winning percentage. Next-worst was the 1977 Chicago Cubs, who went 60-40 to lead their division through 100 games, then went 21-41 for a .339 winning percentage.
These Pirates went from delight to disgrace before Regis Philbin could break out one chorus of “We Are Family.”
‘Duk at Big League Stew tries to put the fall into perspective and does a fine job, considering:
Of course, because it’s the Pirates, there’s a particularly cruel twist: Game No. 101 was the infamous 19-inning affair in Atlanta that ended with umpire Jerry Meals making one of the worst calls in history. Meals is a Bartmanesque anti-hero in this case — Pittsburgh would have likely plummeted without his atrocity — but that probably doesn’t make it any easier for Pirates fans to digest.
At least as an Indians fan I can rationalize that the Tigers went Super Saiyan and dropped a damn Spirit Bomb on the AL Central. Earlier this month, the Bucs clinched their 19th consecutive losing season, and 2011′s first half has officially gone from “pleasant surprise” to “cruel tease” for Pirates fans. Next year they’ll climb out of it or make it 20 in a row, but no matter what, you have to look on the bright side — there’s something to be said for always finding new definitions for exceptionally awful, isn’t there?