Erasing Psychological Damage (Or Inflicting More?)

Transport yourself one month into the future.  The Pirates will be preparing for their final series of the regular season.  And if you believe the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report, the Pirates will have positioned themselves to have a 1 in 4 chance of being on the precipice of the playoffs.

Who will the Pirates be facing for the opportunity to go to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years?  None other than the team that both literally and symbolically sent the Pirates on this long odyssey through the desert of baseball’s landscape — the Atlanta Braves.  When I was at opening day this year, a girl at our tailgate mentioned that her favorite player was Chipper Jones.  She wanted to see him one last time and wondered when the Braves were coming to Pittsburgh.  After looking it up and seeing it was the last series of the season, we jokingly said that there would be plenty of good seats available for that one.

As it stands now, barring an unforeseen collapse, that final series will have oodles of potential meaning for the Pirates.  There is a good chance that the Pirates will still be mathematically fighting for a wild card spot, if not outright controlling one of them, so these games will be important for them in the baseball aspect.  However, just as importantly perhaps, will be the opportunity to purge the demons that have haunted this franchise since 1992 by making the playoffs through the act of winning games against the Atlanta Braves.

As of this writing, the Braves are leading the wild card chase by 3-1/2 games over the Cardinals and 4-1/2 over the Pirates.  But as witnessed last year, the Braves are capable of spectacularly choking down the stretch.  There is a non-zero possibility that the final series of the 2012 season may come down to a battle between the Pirates and the Braves for the final wild card spot.  Imagine savoring the chance to have the Pirates knock the Braves out of a playoff race while simultaneously ensuring that they make the playoffs.  All of the ghosts of Jose Lind, Stan Belinda, Barry Bonds, Sid Bream, and Francisco Cabrera could be exorcised in one fell swoop under that scenario.

But what of the flip side to that argument?  What if the Pirates and Braves are battling for the final playoff spot and it is the Braves that knock the Pirates out of the 2012 playoffs?  Imagine the teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing that would ensue if the  hated Braves broke the hearts of the fanbase of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club for a 2nd time.  This year is unlike 1992, of course, in that the 2012 Pirates are already playing with house money, while the 1992 Pirates were on the short list to win the World Series throughout the whole season and had a star-studded roster.  But it would still fiercely sting to fall short of the playoffs at the hands of the team from General Sherman’s favorite vacation spot.

The fact that this even exists as a possibility, positively or negatively, is unbelievable for those that have suffered through lo these many years.  It will be fascinating to see how the City would rally around the team if that final series of the season does have implications for the Pirates’ playoff chances.

About Kevin Creagh

Kevin Creagh resides in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and has been a Pirate fan since the mid 1980′s. Kevin joined Pirates Prospects in July 2010 and enjoys writing about the economic side of baseball decisions. Many of Kevin’s articles focus on the long-term decisions that the Pirates and other organizations may need to make in the future, in order to balance escalating player salaries with built-in payroll limitations. Kevin also enjoys following prospects throughout the Pirates’ minor league system and forecasting their potential to help the major league team.
  • gonfalon

    “Imagine savoring the chance to have the Pirates knock the Braves out of
    a playoff race while simultaneously ensuring that they make the
    playoffs.”

    The Braves had a promotion this year where Bream’s slide at the plate after Cabrera’s hit was mocked up as a set of bobblehead dolls (complete with Spanky and umpire Randy Marsh), so we’ve got karma on our side for knocking the Braves out of the playoffs. :)

  • James S

    I have never entertained thoughts of a playoff berth this year. I won’t be disappointed if they don’t get in. They are not as good as the Reds, not as good as the Braves, and now after L.A. bought all the stars available, The Pirates would have a hard time beating them now. They are about equal with the Cardinals at least.

    They should have gotten Chase Headley when they had the chance, he’d look better in RF than Snider right now. His August player of the month bat could have been a huge equalizer, but no use crying over spilled milk.

    I’m just happy they will finish over 500 this year. Hopefully they will continue to improve, and get the couple of steady good hitters that they are short of right now.

  • szielinski

    “As it stands now, barring an unforeseen collapse, that final series
    will have oodles of potential meaning for the Pirates. There is a good
    chance that the Pirates will still be mathematically fighting for a wild
    card spot, if not outright controlling one of them, so these games will
    be important for them in the baseball aspect. However, just as
    importantly perhaps, will be the opportunity to purge the demons that
    have haunted this franchise since 1992 by making the playoffs through
    the act of winning games against the Atlanta Braves.”

    The Pirates purged the last of the demons who afflicted the organization when Nutting and Coonelly replaced McClatchy and Huntington replaced Littlefield. The 1992 loss to the Braves did not cause the Pirates to have defective owners afterwards. That loss haunts the fans of a certain age. It’s a symbol. But it does not haunt the organization. Persistent losing haunts the organization. So too the bad economics of ML baseball. Most Pirates employees were not with the organization in 1992. However, many were around when the Pirates earned 1.1 and 1.2 draft picks. Those seasons haunt the Pirates more than the 1992 loss.

  • Teacher_in_Tejas

    Being as I have believed all summer that the Bucs were a second wild card team at best, I have no problem with us going to Atlanta and knocking them out in the wild card game. I see the Bucs as having nothing to lose, really. They aren’t a truely solid team yet, gaping offensive holes, Bedard and Correia types at the back end of the rotation, catchers that essentially turn 90% of walks and singles into doubles etc. They break the .500 streak comfortably and build on last year. I really want to see us go to Atlanta and pound them 9-2 behind a Burnett four hitter.

  • http://twitter.com/wondertaint Will

    If Michael Bourn robs a Cutch homer, I’m qutting baseball fandom.