As you probably read in today’s Post-Gazette, the Pirates have not fared well in the past during interleague play. Actually, if you have been following the team closely the past few years, you probably already knew that. It seems as if the Pirates are often still hanging around as the calendar turns to June, luring fans into cautiously feeling hopeful about the season.
Then the American League shows up. And the season is essentially over.
In 2004, interleague play made up a large portion of a Pirates’ 4-21 stretch. And just like that, a 23-22 team was suddenly sitting at 27-43. The Bucs immediately went on a ten-game winning streak, but even that was not enough to save their season. Their 2-10 interleague record played a huge part in the 72-win season.
In 2005, the Pirates won four of their first six interleague games, including a 17-2 laugher over Tampa Bay that left them at 30-30 on June 11. But a 1-5 road trip against the Yankees and Red Sox sent the team into a tailspin from which it would not recover.
The following season, the Pirates lost their first six games of the season. They were 15 games under .500 when they played their first American League team, so the season was already lost. But interleague play still proved to be plenty embarrassing. During an epic 13-game losing streak, the Pirates were swept by both the Twins and the Royals. Kansas City was 19-49 entering the series, and the two worst teams in Major League Baseball proceeded to play possibly the ugliest series I have ever seen. It was one of the lowest points for the Pirates during this 15-year stretch of futility. The team was 27 games under .500 when the interleague schedule concluded.
Last season, the Pirates were eight games under when they met their first AL opponent. Just days after the Daniel Moskos/Matt Wieters draft debacle, the Bucs played poorly as they were swept by the Yankees in New York. Despair was in the air and protests were being planned, as the team tried to salvage some wins during interleague play. They won five of seven before dropping their final five games against the American League.
This year, the Pirates begin the interleague portion of the schedule with a record of 33-34. Hope still remains for the rest of the season. Yes, the team’s performance during this stretch is not that significant in the big picture. Yes, the single most important objective for 2008 is infusing the organization with talent. That includes trading veterans for prospects, even if it hurts the chances of success in 2008. But that does not mean we shouldn’t enjoy the rare opportunity to witness competitive baseball in Pittsburgh. Interleague play is one of the major hurdles we have faced in recent years. It would be great to still have this positive feeling on June 30.