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Year-by-Year: The Pirates Finally End Historic Losing Streak


The Primanti Bros. sandwiches may taste a little better this morning in the Steel City.

The long wait to see a winning team in Pittsburgh is over after the Pirates ended  a record-long streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons by XXXXXX. That’s 82 wins for the first time since ’93, the first season after the Pirates were dismantled.

The two decades of rebuilding have been chronicled in the pages of Athlon Sports, and believe it or not, we’re may be as tired of writing about the perpetually rebuilding Pirates as the Pittsburgh fans are of watching them.

“Two or three more years” always seemed to be the mantra for the Pirates through mangers, general managers and players from Al Martin, Jeff King, Kevin Young, Jason Kendall, Bran Giles, Jack Wilson and on and on.

Here’s a look back at each season during the losing streak from the pages of Athlon’s preview annuals. All the unfulfilled optimism. All the predictions that, yes, in the end this season in Pittsburgh will be just like the last.

Some predictions were right on. Some where unintentionally humorous. Some were way off.

But, hey, now Pirates fans can take a minute to laugh at the last 20 years.

Or not.

What Athlon said: How can a franchise that has lost Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Doug Drabek to free agency, and traded John Smiley and Jose Lind within a calendar year expect to win any time in the near future? “You can’t win every year,” manager Jim Leyland admits.
Projection: Sixth in NL East
Finished: 75-87 (fifth in NL East)

What Athlon said: Through three team presidents and four general managers, Jim Leyland has endured, becoming the fourth-winningest manager in the franchise’s 107-year history. If he has his way he’ll pad those numbers before he’s through. Then he’ll leave the business the way he came in — as a Pirate.
Projection: Last in the NL Central
Finished: 53-61 (third in NL Central)

What Athlon said: On one hand, the Pirates are moving forward. Under guise of new ownership, they are restocking their farm system. On the other hand, the Pirates don’t have any real meat to their organization.
Projection: None, due to the strike
Finished: 58-86 (last in NL Central)

What Athlon said: Jeff King will be an important player for the Pirates, probably through the rest of this decade. Then he’ll move full-time to a 2,200-acre cattle ranch he’s leasing in rugged southwestern Montana, not far from his boyhood home in Colorado Springs. Perhaps then, Jeff King will be truly happy.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 73-89 (last)

What Athlon said: Al Martin will probably be a Pirate into the next century if the team’s goal of becoming competitive again in 1999 proves achievable. He’s willing to endure the probable woes of the next two seasons and provide vocal support for management’s rebuilding plan.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 79-83 (second)

What Athlon said: The Pirates will enter spring training thinking they can contend again. however, an overachieving team usually slips a bit the next season. Pirate management will continue to focus on 1999 and 2000 as the years the team will become a solid contender.
Projection: Third in NL Central
Finished: 69-93 (last)

What Athlon said: This is the third year of the Pirates’ self-proclaimed five-year plan to build a championship-caliber team, and they need to start showing progress.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 78-83 (third)

What Athlon said: The pitching staff is high on potential, if not results, and the club has built a stable of young talent. The move to a new park could usher in a successful era in Pittsburgh. Whether or not manager Gene Lamont’s around to see it or not.
Projection: Fourth in NL Central
Finished: 69-93 (fifth)

What Athlon said: The Pirates may have to finish above .500 in their first season at PNC Park or GM Cam Bonifay could be gone.
Projection: Fourth in NL Central
Finished: 62-100 (last)

What Athlon said: There’s too much for new GM Dave Littlefield to do, and too little money to make much of a dent this year.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 72-89 (fourth)

What Athlon said: After his team on in Chicago to ensure a 10-win improvement over ’01, manager Lloyd McClendon shared some champagne with the troops, telling them he appreciated their hard work. McClendon vows there won’t be any champagne until it’s for real. That bubbly likely will be chilling for at least two more summers.
Projection: Fifth in NL Central
Finished: 75-87 (fourth)

What Athlon said: The left field job is Jason Bay’s for years to come — until the Pirates can’t afford to pay him.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 72-89 (fifth)

What Athlon said: During the winter, the Pirates completed a two-year project — they traded Jason Kendall and his (for them) onerous contract. During this season, they’ll try to finish a 12-year project — having a winning season. That doesn’t appear likely, again, but the Pirates just might be about to turn the corner.
Projection: Fifth in NL Central
Finished: 67-95 (last)

What Athlon said:  With a solid rotation and performance turnarounds by Kip Wells and Oliver Perez, a smooth transition to closer by Mike Gonzalez and more offense, the Pirates could make a run at 81 wins this season.
Projection: Fifth in NL Central
Finished: 67-95 (fifth)

What Athlon said: Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny have made a combined 134 major league starts. However, because they’re all homegrown products, they formed a strong bond last season and seem determined to be part of what they feel is an uptick in the team’s fortunes.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 68-64 (last)

What Athlon said: The Pirates still have that big old elephant in their clubhouse — 15 consecutive losing seasons, one season short of the major league record for futility established by the woeful Philadelphia Phillies from 1933-48. Despite all the newness, the 2008 Pirates probably will match their cross-commonwealth brethren’s unwanted record.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 67-95 (last)

What Athlon said: The starters bore much of the blame for the team’s 95-loss season. ... Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Matt Morris and and assorted others had much to do with that.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 62-99 (last)

What Athlon said: Andrew McCutchen has already established himself as one of the Pirates’ cornerstones with his outstanding speed, developing power, tremendous range in center field and leadership qualities. He quickly made fans forget about the popular Nate McLouth.
Projection: Last in the NL Central
Finished: 57-105 (last)

What Athlon said: While the team should be better this season, an kind of real turnaround won’t begin to take place until 2012 at the earliest.
Projection: Last in the NL Central
Finished: 72-90 (fourth)

What Athlon said:  There is no denying that the Pirates are moving int eh right direction, as their major league roster are much more talented than when GM Neal Huntington took over in 2007. Manager Clint Hurdle also seems to be the man to take the franchise places. However, it would be premature to think the Pirates can contend this season. They still have too many holes and not enough depth. Yet if things break right, the first winning season since 1992 is a possibility.
Projection: Fourth in the NL Central
Finished: 79-83 (fourth)

What Athlon said: Making a run at the postseason might be a stretch — even in the era of the second wild card — but a winning record appears to be a realistic goal in Pittsburgh.
Projection: Third in the NL Central
Finished: XXXXX