JOHN STEIGERWALD: Pirates still up against it
Two streaks down for the Pirates, two more to go.
The hideous, humiliating 20-year losing streak ended a few weeks ago when the
Pirates won their 82nd game, and that led to the end of a streak of 20 years without a playoff appearance.
Two more streaks that will be much tougher to break are out there to be broken: No wins in a postseason series in 35 years and no championship in 35 years.
Way too much emphasis has been put on the 20 years since the Pirates’ last winning season in 1992.
The 34 years without a National League pennant is the longest drought in the franchise’s history.
The Pirates have been much worse than their 20 consecutive years of losing seasons. They have won two postseason series in the 42 years since beating Baltimore in Game 7 of the 1971 World Series: the 1979 NLCS followed by the 1979 World Series.
None of this is to take anything away from the tremendous, against-the-odds performance of the 2013 Pirates. It will always be one of the great stories in Pittsburgh sports, but it shouldn’t make anyone forget what the Pirates are up against when they try to take that next step.
The Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers are all once-proud franchises that, when they had a level playing field in the 1970s and early ’80s, were among the most feared and successful teams in baseball.
The Pirates have not won a playoff series in 34 years.
The Reds have won one series in the 23 years since winning the 1990 World Series.
The A’s have won one series since losing that 1990 World Series to Cincinnati and ending a three-year run of Series appearances.
The Royals have not won a postseason series since winning the 1985 World Series. Nor have they been in one.
The Brewers have been in the postseason twice since winning the 1982 World Series. They were beaten four games to one in the 2008 NLDS by the Phillies and beat Arizona in the 2011 NLDS.
That’s five once-powerful franchises, all of whom managed to thrive in the early days of free agency, but who have become pathetic shadows of their former selves.
Their various streaks add up to three postseason series wins in 116 seasons of baseball.
History isn’t on the Pirates’ side when it comes to improving on this season.
• If I were advising Jadeveon Clowney, I would tell him not to play another football game for South Carolina.
Clowney is the guy whose hit on a Michigan running back in January’s Outback Bowl has been seen a few billion times on YouTube and probably more times on ESPN. He is the All-America defensive end who some say could be the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
His willingness to play has been questioned this season because of the suspicion that he is trying to avoid what happened to his teammate, Marcus Lattimore, who blew out a knee last October.
Lattimore was one of the best running backs in college football and a slam dunk high first-round draft pick. He was drafted by the 49ers in the fourth round and is on the physically unable to perform list. He’s also several million dollars poorer than he would have been if he hadn’t played that day.
Clowney has already proven to NFL scouts that he deserves to be a high first-round draft pick. Which means he has nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing another down. His mother has been working in a potato chip factory for the last 18 years.
Stupid, self-serving, anti-American NFL rules about eligibility for the draft, and the NCAA’s outdated, hypocritical, destructive, phony quest for amateur purity should not be Clowney’s problem. And any NFL coach with a brain, a heart and/or a son should understand if Clowney says he’ll see him at the combine in Indianapolis in February.
As his coach at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier, said a few days ago, Clowney has already done plenty for his school. He’s been part of two 11-2 seasons and 26 wins, the greatest stretch in the 120-year history of the program.
Clowney’s been exploited enough by the University of South Carolina and the NCAA. He should quit, sign with an agent, stay in shape and wait for the check.
• Eli Manning of the New York Giants became the first former Super Bowl-winning quarterback to start a season 0-5. Ben Roethlisberger could become the second if the Steelers lose to the Jets. It says here that he won’t.
• Better players than Starling Marte and Neil Walker have struggled at the plate in the postseason. In the 1972 NLCS, Roberto Clemente went 4-for-19 and Willie Stargell went 1-for-16. Somehow the Pirates went into the ninth inning of Game 5 with the lead before losing to the Reds on Bob Moose’s famous wild pitch.