Pirates highlights, lowlights from 1993-2011
5th NL East, 22 games out of first place
John Candelaria, who had last pitched for Pirates in 1985, re-signed with the club. The Candyman made 24 relief outings, put up a 8.69 ERA and was released July 9. ... Mike LaValliere and Stan Belinda, who were part of the final play of the 1992 NLCS Game 7 loss against Atlanta, were cut. LaValliere was released on April 11, just five days after the season started. Belinda was traded at the end of July.
3rd NL Central, 13 GB
On Aug. 11, Zane Smith tossed a 4-0 shutout against the Expos, who had the best record in baseball. The next day, major league players went on strike. ... During the labor dispute, the Pirates made an important under-the-radar move, signing undrafted free agent Aramis Ramirez.
5th NL Central, 27 GB
With rumors of a possible relocation to Northern Virginia swirling, the Pirates end the season by beating the Cardinals, 10-4, at Three Rivers Stadium. An investment group formed by newspaper heir Kevin McClatchy eventually finalized plans to keep the Pirates in town. … Andy Van Slyke and Zane Smith left as free agents before the season. ... Denny Neagle shared the NL lead for innings pitched with Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux.
5th NL Central, 15 GB
On Sept. 18, manager Jim Leyland opted out of the final four years of his contract and resigned. “I'm looking for a team that has a shot,” said Leyland, who guided the Florida Marlins to the World Series title in 1997. ... In late July, lefty Denny Neagle was traded to Atlanta for Jason Schmidt, Ron Wright and Corey Pointer. Although he spent the final two months with the Braves, Neagle still led the Pirates with 14 wins.
2nd NL Central, 5 GB
Before the season, Jay Bell and Jeff King were traded to Kansas City. ... The “Freak Show” team swept a four-game series from the Cardinals before the All-Star break to move into one-game lead in NL Central. Despite a meager $9 million payroll, the Pirates stayed in the race until late September. ... Manager Gene Lamont finished second in NL Manager of the Year voting behind Dusty Baker.
6th in NL Central, 33 GB
On May 4, Turner Ward crashed through the right field wall at Three Rivers Stadium while running down Mike Piazza's fly ball. “I felt something strange when I hit the padding and, the next thing I knew, I was on the other side of the wall,” said Ward, who hung onto the ball despite the collision.
3rd NL Central, 18.5 GB
Although no one could have guessed it at the time, the season's highlight actually happened five months before Opening Day, when the Pirates swapped Roberto Rincon to the Cleveland Indians for Brian Giles.
5th NL Central, 26 GB
On Oct. 1, Carrick High graduate John Wehner hit the final home run in the last game at Three Rivers Stadium. But Wehner also grounded out with two runners on base in the ninth inning, sending the Pirates to a 10-9 loss against the Cubs. ... One day after the Three Rivers Stadium finale, Lamont was fired.
6th NL Central, 33 GB
The first Opening Day at PNC Park was overshadowed by the death of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell. The Reds beat the Pirates, 8-2. ... On June 26, first-year manager Lloyd McClendon ripped first base out of its moorings and carried it off the field after being ejected for disputing a call.
4th NL Central, 24.5 GB
Coming off a season in which he hit .171, Derek Bell scoffed when asked during spring training if he had to win a starting job. “If there is a competition, tell them I'm going into ‘Operation Shutdown,' “ Bell said. When he was released March 31, Bell said, “Just tell (the media) I got in my yacht and rode out into the sunset.” … The Pirates drafted Ball State pitcher Bryan Bullington No. 1 overall, passing on B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder. … All-Star Mike Williams posted a club-record 46 saves.
4th NL Central, 13 GB
Early in spring training, outfielder Kenny Lofton signed as free agent. But on July 23, the Pirates sent Lofton, Aramis Ramirez and cash to the Cubs for Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback and Bobby Hill. The Pirates were forced to make the deal to get their debt-to-equity ratio back in sync. ... Not all the team's trades were awful. On July 31, the Pirates acquired Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez from the Red Sox for Brandon Lyon, Jeff Suppan and Anastacio Martinez. On Aug. 26, Brian Giles was sent to the Padres for Jason Bay, Oliver Perez and Corey Stewart.
4th in NL Central, 32.5 GB
Raul Mondesi's contact was terminated in mid-May after he left the team to return to his native Dominican Republic to fight a lawsuit. … On May 28, hours after his first child was born, Rob Mackowiak hit a walk-off grand slam in Game 1 of a doubleheader. In the nightcap, he hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth in an eventual 5-4 win. ... Jason Bay became the first Pirate to be named Rookie of the Year, Jack Wilson collected 201 hits to tie Honus Wagner's club record for a shortstop, and 22-year-old Oliver Perez ranked in the top five in the NL in ERA (2.98) and strikeouts (239). ... At the trade deadline, GM Dave Littlefield turned down an offer to deal pitcher Kris Benson to the Phillies for a power-hitting prospect named Ryan Howard.
6th in NL Central, 33 GB
With the Pirates one loss shy of clinching another losing season Sept. 7, manager Lloyd McClendon was fired. ... Jason Bay continued to build on the promise of his rookie season, batting .306 with 32 homers, 101 RBI and 21 steals. Bay represented the lone legitimate power threat; Brad Eldred and Daryle Ward were next on the Bucs in homers, with 12 apiece. ... Pete Mackanin served as interim manager for the rest of the season, leading the team to a 12-14 record.
5th in NL Central, 16.5 GB
En route to losing 60 of their first 90 games, the Pirates dropped 13 games in a row, the franchise's longest losing streak of the modern era. But, they went 37-35 after the All-Star break, their first winning record in the second half since 1992. ... Freddy Sanchez won the NL batting title with a .344 average and had 200 hits.
6th in NL Central, 17 GB
To protest the team's tiny payroll and losing ways, a group calling itself “Fans for Change” staged a walkout on June 30 during a 7-2 win over the Nationals. ... On July 31, Littlefield dealt for $10 million pitcher Matt Morris, who won three of his 16 starts before being released April 27, 2008. Littlefield, who had a year left on his contract, was fired five weeks after making the trade. ... Manager Jim Tracy was fired five days after the season ended.
6th NL Central, 30.5 GB
It was the first full season under the management team of president Frank Coonelly, GM Neal Huntington and manager John Russell. ... On June 5, Pedro Alvarez was drafted with the second overall pick, but tense negotiations took three months to complete. ... Third baseman Jose Bautista was traded for a player to be named later. With Toronto, Bautista led the majors in home runs in 2010 (54) and 2011 (43).
6th NL Central, 28.5 GB
Two months after management hailed Nate McLouth as a cornerstone of the franchise and gave him a multiyear contract, the outfielder was traded for a trio of minor leaguers, including pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke. To take McLouth's plate, Andrew McCutchen was promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis ... In July, fan favorites Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson were dealt for more prospects. ... The Pirates became the first pro sports franchise to post 17 consecutive losing seasons.
6th NL Central, 34 GB
A 20-0 rout by the Brewers on April 22 is the worst loss in the Pirates' 124-year history. ... On June 16, Aki Iwamura, batting .172 and making $4.85 million, was benched indefinitely. Neil Walker, who was drafted as a catcher and played third in the minors, became the everyday second baseman. ... In mid-June, the Pirates admit manager John Russell and GM Neal Huntington were given contract extensions eight months earlier, but team officials decided not to reveal the information. ... Russell was fired less than 24 hours after the season ended.
4th NL Central, 24 GB
On July 26, in one of the most blatant blown calls in baseball history, umpire Jerry Meals ruled Atlanta's Julio Lugo safe at home in the 19th inning. The Pirates lost 11 of their next 12 games and went from first to fourth place.
4th in NL Central, 19 GB (through Sunday)
The Pirates appeared to turn the corner, finding themselves on the winning end of another 19-inning affair, this time against St. Louis on Aug. 19. But the team collapsed again, winning just 15 times since being 16 games over .500. They ensured another non-winning season in dramatic fashion, as the Reds' Homer Bailey no-hit them Friday.
— Rob Biertempfel, John Grupp and Karen Price