Inside the Pirates: History for all eternity?

Twenty feats in franchise lore that might take a while to match

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With the Pirates' season having taken a decisive turn for the worse this month, it brings to mind, no doubt, memories of 1992, the most recent year in which they had a winning record.

Will it ever happen again?

Here are 20 other things that might be a long time coming for Pittsburgh's beleaguered baseball fans ...

A game of relevance after the All-Star break: The last came Sept. 24, 1997, the day after which Kevin Polcovich and the Freak Show team were eliminated from contention for the Central Division title.

A player on the roster as a teenager: There have been 29 since 1900, most recently Aramis Ramirez in 1998. Andrew McCutchen, the only recent hope, turned 20 in October and remains below the Mendoza Line in Altoona.

A 20-game winner: None since John Smiley in 1991. No 15-game winner since Todd Ritchie in 1999. Not even a six-game winner this season.

A 20-run output: There was that 18-2 rout of Tampa Bay two years ago, but that is best remembered for the Pirates achieving 30-30, a rare, late glimpse of .500, before falling apart. Most recent was a 22-0 rout of the Cubs at Wrigley Field Sept. 16, 1975, the unforgettable day Rennie Stennett went 7 for 7.

The cycle: It has been achieved by 20 players, most recently by Daryle Ward on May 26, 2004, and ... hey, if Ward could get a triple, someone will do this again, right?

No-hitter vs. the Pirates: There have been none since Bob Gibson's Aug. 14, 1971, and only seven overall. But who will bet against this light-hitting lineup ending that drought?

No-hitter by the Pirates: Has it really been 10 years since Francisco Cordova, Ricardo Rincon and Mark Smith brought the team's greatest moment amid 14 years of losing?

A player signed as a Latin American amateur making it all the way through the system to Pittsburgh: Jose Castillo was the most recent, signed out of Venezuela July 2, 1997.

A position player drafted in the first round playing for the Pirates: None since 1997 choice J.J. Davis.

A playoff game on Pittsburgh soil: None since Bob Walk tipped his cap to the crowd at Three Rivers Oct. 11, 1992.

A dozen-game winning streak: The franchise record of 16 was set in 1909, but the Pirates have not achieved 12 since 1965. The longest in the past two seasons is five.

Three home runs in a game: No, not by the team, wiseacre. Nine players have achieved it, none since Ramirez on April 8, 2001, in Houston.

40 home runs in a season: Only Willie Stargell and Ralph Kiner reached it, and Stargell's last came with 44 in 1973. The record: Kiner's 54 in 1947.

A 120-RBI season: Paul Waner's 131 in 1927 is the high of the 10 to hit the plateau. No one has done it since Brian Giles' 123 in 2000.

Back to back complete games pitched by the team: None since Kip Wells and Josh Fogg on Sept. 7-8, 2003. The Pirates have had a total of two the past two seasons.

Triple play: Jay Bell to Carlos Garcia to Kevin Young Aug. 10, 1993.

Position player to pitch: Abraham Nunez did it May 30, 2004, and Adam LaRoche is waiting for his chance.

Cy Young: There have been two, Vernon Law in 1960, Doug Drabek in 1990.

MVP: There have been eight in various forms of the award, Barry Bonds the most recent in 1992.

Another Hall of Famer who wore the uniform: If not Bert Blyleven or Dave Parker, then who?

The shortstop who got away

Any team in Major League Baseball can look back on players they coulda-shoulda-woulda had in the extremely inexact world of the draft.

But here is the tale of one the Pirates did have and saw slip away:

Stephen Drew, Arizona's talented young shortstop and brother of J.D. Drew, was their 11th-round pick in June 2001, yet another credit to the fine drafting done by Mickey White, the scouting director in 1999-2001 and predecessor to the current man, Ed Creech. Drew, taken out of a Georgia high school, immediately entered into contract talks with the Pirates.

Initially, it went poorly.

"They kind of started off by low-balling me," Drew said last weekend when the Diamondbacks visited PNC Park. "But that happens to everybody at the start."

White recalled appealing to the Pirates' ownership for more money to try to sign Drew, and Kevin McClatchy obliged.

"If you like him, go get him," McClatchy told White, per White's memory.

So the Pirates went back to Drew with a far better offer.

As Drew said, "They upped the ante."

A month after Drew was drafted, the Pirates replaced Cam Bonifay with Dave Littlefield as general manager. And, whether it was because of that or a shift in priorities, the Drew talks fell apart.

"All I know is that I made up my mind to go to college," Drew said.

It proved to be a good move: He excelled at Florida State University, then was taken in the first round of the 2004 draft, 15th overall, and took a $4 million signing bonus from Arizona.

White's three drafts, by the way, produced the following major-league talent in addition to Drew: Ian Snell, Jose Bautista, Ryan Doumit, Chris Duffy, Zach Duke, Nate McLouth, John Van Benschoten, Sean Burnett and Chris Young, now with San Diego. Littlefield replaced White with Creech in his first year on the job.

If they build it, it will be expensive

Should the Pirates replace their Dominican Republic academy with a new one, as seems likely, it surely will be their most expensive non-player endeavor since covering cost overruns at PNC Park.

Price of the facility being built by the New York Mets in Boca Chica, for which ground was broken Wednesday: $7.5 million.

It will include full educational facilities, a golf driving range, a swimming pool and tennis courts.

That might seem excessive, considering that 1 percent to 2 percent of all signed prospects reach the minor-league level in the United States and, from there, 1 percent to 2 percent of those reach the majors.

But Pirates reliever Damaso Marte, one of four players on the team born in the Dominican, seems to believe strongly that his team's investment, whatever that ends up being, will be worth it.

"All the kids there, they want to be baseball players, and they'll do anything to get there," Marte said. "What is it worth for the Pirates if you get one Vladimir Guerrero? Or one Miguel Tejada?"


Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com .


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