Now that the Pittsburgh Pirates have laid claim to the longest streak of losing seasons among the big four sports, the autopsies are in.
Basically, Pittsburgh is a small market team with a history of bad (read: broke) owners and a habit of overrating its young talent and trading its best players for little in return. A perfectly rational explanation. Unfortunately, it won’t register any sympathy with the locals.
For that reason and for the purposes of this column, I suggest the Pirates turn their run of bad baseball into a marketing strategy and call it the Curse of Barry Bonds.
If it works for the Bucs, the Texas Rangers should give it a thought, depending on how the fall plays out.
The story line has precedent. In Chicago, we have the Curse of the Billy Goat. The story began when the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, Billy Sianis, was denied entry to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field because the Cubs’ owner, Philip K. Wrigley, took offense to Sianis’ companion, Murphy the goat, who had a ticket but not a bath. Sianis supposedly proclaimed, “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more,” and they haven’t, not only losing a 2-1 series lead to Detroit but failing to make a World Series since.
Or as Sianis once put his hex in a telegram to Wrigley, “Who stinks now?”
In another notable example of the occult as a marketing ploy, Boston sportswriters got rich off the Curse of the Bambino before Curt Schilling exorcised the Red Sox and subsequently dried up the material.
The benefit of a curse is that it gives the media something interesting to write and talk about instead of the same old daily nag about crummy players and front office dopes. If you’re lucky, some even buy into it.
As it happens, the Pirates are in luck. They have a curse in waiting.
Their last winning season was 1992, which was Bonds’ last in Pittsburgh before the Giants sent an armored car for him. If the Bucs were smart, they’d at least drop a few hints to the local media.
Meanwhile, here in Texas, the Rangers have a streak of their own to bear.
Texas hasn’t been to the playoffs since ’99. In the interim, the Rangers are on their fourth manager and second GM and third or fourth organizational strategy, I forget which. But does that look good on a billboard? No! Have the Rangers been bad until this season because of bad pitching or bad trades or a broke ownership group? No!
What’s the reason then?
The Curse of Juando!
Juan Gonzalez’s last gargantuan season with the Rangers was 1999. It was the third season in four that the Rangers made the playoffs, if only briefly, before the Yankees brusquely ushered them right back out.
After that disappointment, the Rangers dealt Juan to Detroit. Maybe not so coincidentally, the Rangers could say, they haven’t been to the postseason since.
Side note: Although I’m aware that Juan did technically return to the Rangers for a couple of seasons, I don’t give it much credence. He wasn’t here so much that you would have noticed. He was hurt so often it makes Josh Hamilton look like Lou Gehrig.
If the Rangers flame out again, consider it my contribution to local lore. And if they catch Boston for the wild card, how about this for the Red Sox: The Curse of Manny.