Good morning. It is August 21st, 2013.
With last night's win, the Pirates are 74-51. Since 1992, the Pirates failed to win 74 games in the following seasons*: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.
The only addition to the list is 1996. This is what you remember from actual baseball from 1996: almost nothing. You remember the First Fire Sale, which started at the end of the season and carried through the winter. In August, the Pirates traded Denny Neagle to the Braves. In November, they traded Carlos Garcia and Orlando Merced (and Dan Plesac, but nobody every remembers that Dan Plesac was briefly a Pirate) to the Blue Jays. In December, they traded Jay Bell and Jeff King to the Royals. That was pretty much the entire post-Bonds/Drabek/Van Slyke core.
You may also remember that this was done because Kevin McClatchy had just bought the team and had set his sights on the future. PNC Park was still just a dream in 1996, but McClatchy had set 2001 as the goal and he and Cam Bonifay recognized that the team that they had in 1996 was not the team to get them there. In and of itself, the fire sale was not a bad thing. The post-Bonds core was medicore at best and getting old fast. Pirates were awful in 1995 and the only standard by which they were any good in 1996 was The Pittsburgh Pirate Standard. The trades didn't go badly, either. For Neagle, they got Jason Schmidt. For Merced, Garcia, and Plesac they got Craig Wilson, Abraham Nunez, and Jose Silva. For Bell and King, they got Joe Randa. The real problems that would really doom the franchise didn't come until a couple of years down the road.
What I remember most about 1996 was the dawning realization that a good baseball team was not automatic, that it had to be built and earned. We'll talk more about this when 1993 crops up on this countdown, but as a young kid, I just sort of thought the Pirates would plug a few new players in and keep on trucking after everyone left in 1992. By 1996, it was very clear to me that baseball simply did not work that way.
There are still five seasons left on the countdown. There is more work left to be done.
*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.