This baseball season’s edition of interleague play finds the Baltimore Orioles meeting the Pittsburgh Pirates for a three-game set at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. For older Oriole fans, this matchup brings up bad memories of the 1970s, where the Orioles and Pirates met twice in the World Series. Unfortunately for Oriole fans, the Birds came up short in both the 1971 and 1979 series, losing both in seven games. The Orioles and Pirates in those days were good ballclubs, always in the hunt for the pennant. They also contained a fair share of memorable players and Hall of Famers: Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Eddie Murray to name a few.
Fast forward to the present day, and both franchises are now known for having the two longest consecutive season streaks of losing. For the Orioles, it has been thirteen seasons finishing below .500. For the Pirates, it has been eighteen straight seasons of less than mediocre baseball. No one could have guessed that the Pirates, one out away from the 1992 World Series but for Sid Bream barely sliding in with the winning run for the Braves, or that the Orioles, going down to the Cleveland Indians in a year when they went wire to wire in the AL East, would go this long without a winning season for either team. And while both teams head into this week’s series with losing records, there are reasons for optimism for both clubs.
For the Pirates, who currently sit fourth in the NL Central, hope can be found in that they are 35-36 going into tonight’s game. It may not last, and losing season number nineteen may be around the corner, but it has been years since the Pirates have been this close to .500 this late in the season. Often, Pirate teams have had young talent come in, only to trade it away or see it leave in free agency. Perhaps now the Pirates are changing their tune, as they are now growing some young talent, most notably Andrew McCutchen, that hopefully they will keep as they build toward becoming a winning team again. For the Orioles, hope abounds in several young players showing their talent at the major league level. Adam Jones has already been an All-Star once, and may be one yet again this season. Jake Arrieta has been solid in the rotation, and Matt Wieters, having now shed the “savior” tag he was saddled with when he arrived in Baltimore, is becoming a very talented player.
It remains to be seen if the Orioles and Pirates can break their respective losing streaks, but both organizations are hoping that winning days are just around the corner.