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Pirates season over again

So the Florida Marlins are headed to the baseball playoffs. They won the World Series in 1997, then completely dismantled for financial reasons. Then they rebuilt and made it back to the postseason in just six years. Must be simple, huh• Amazing.

Since the Pirates last appearance in the postseason, all but two other National League teams have made the playoffs at least once. That would be 13 teams selling tickets after 162 games were played. Those other two franchises are none to be compared with, by the way, Milwaukee and Montreal. The Brewers didn’t even join the league until 1998. And Montreal doesn’t even have a real home. Still, the Expos were able to flirt with wild card possibilities until late in the summer. Not here in the ‘Burgh. It’s 11 straight losing seasons with little hope that it won’t become 12. Good thing the Expos fell short. How would you like to be in the same boat with only the Milwaukee Brewers?

There are now people who can legally vote who can’t remember the Pirates having a winning season, let alone playing in the postseason. Any wonder why the best way to draw large crowds to PNC Park is to give away bobblehead dolls or have fireworks after the games• Baseball itself is impossible to sell for nearly an entire generation of young fans who need sideshows in order to be enticed.

While Pirate fans feel the frustration, at least we have 1979, 1971 and 1960. It could be a lot worse. The Pirates have won three World Series since the last time a team from Chicago was even in the Series. That’s right. Two teams. Two parts of town. Double the frustration. The White Sox haven’t been to the World Series since 1959 and they haven’t won it since 1917. The Cubs haven’t been in the Series since 1945 and they haven’t won it since 1908.

Just up the turnpike, where we envy nothing, the Cleveland Indians haven’t won the Series since 1948. Even with all of their success in the 1990s.

And then there are the Boston Red Sox. They get back to the Series every so often but as most fans know, they haven’t won since 1918. The Giants have never won since moving from New York. The Phillies have won it only once despite being around forever. And Atlanta can have their 12 straight division titles. One World Series win over that time makes them more frustrating than successful.

I guess it’s a small consolation, but there are others more miserable and longer suffering. What can you do• Snow will be flying soon and I’m afraid it’s all we have.

I still love baseball. And I will watch the playoffs and World Series. But I will watch with an envy for the fans and media who get to experience them first hand. I will first hope for the Oakland A’s to win. Because Ken Macha is a Pittsburgh guy and a good guy. I will then look for the Yankees to lose. Because they represent the heart of the financial imbalance that has ruined the chances for all but a few teams to compete on a regular basis. Beyond that, I just hope the games are exciting — the way they were when I was a ticket-buying kid as well as a rookie reporter. The way I fear they will never be again.

I’m not sure when teams started to celebrate important wins with champagne in the clubhouse. I think Babe Ruth had something to do with it. Or that might have been before exhibition games.

I’m not sure who the first goof was that wasted the stuff by spraying it on his teammates rather than drinking it. Probably some teetotaler. But the whole thing has really been ruined now by the lack of spontaneity.

Watching the Red Sox in their locker room after they clinched a wild card spot last week drove me nuts. First, you have all these guys running around in caps with the tags still on, proclaiming their own greatness. What if they had performed like so many other Red Sox teams in the past and had blown it• What would they have done with that stuff then• What ever happened to all the Steelers’ “AFC Champions” gear that was already printed when the San Diego Chargers kept them from going to the Super Bowl•

Can’t stuff just happen anymore• Does it all have to be orchestrated• From a hitter’s antics after a home run to the patented linebacker move after a sack, to the gesture to the sky after a home run• After every home run• After every sack• After every championship• It’s as predictable as the sunrise and a lot more boring.

And what about the plastic draped all over the place so none of their expensive clothes get wet during the celebration• Isn’t anything just fun in sports anymore• They had to tear that plastic stuff down and get the champagne out of the Pirates clubhouse quickly in 1992. As the dust settled from Sid Bream’s game winning slide, it was wheeled out in a hurry. Wait until something good happens, then do what you feel.

Like my dad always said, “never count your chickens before they are hatched.” Especially if the hitter is Francisco Cabrera.


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