Sunday, September 22, 2013

"The Outfield of Dreams"...


...before two of them became nightmares, made up one of the finest outfields in the history of baseball. Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke, and Bobby Bonilla added superstar punch to a powerful lineup. It was a team strong enough to achieve greatness; it was a team best remembered for coming up just short of the ultimate prize. It signaled the fate and the seeming demise of the once-strong Pittsburgh Pirates.

Barry Bonds as a Pirate was one of the best. He had speed, could field, and had power. He could steal bases and drive in runs. His potential soon turned to controversy after leaving the Pirates at the end of the 1992 season. An excellent player during the regular season, Bonds is best remembered by fans of the Buccos as a player who choked, repeatedly, in the playoffs.

Andy Van Slyke came to the Pirates along with Mike Dunn and Mike LaValliere in a trade that sent Tony Pena' to the Cardinals. Van Slyke was a powerhouse in the lineup and a looming presence in center field, but in the era of free agency, high salaries and declining attendance he left the Pirates in 1994. 

Bobby Bonilla was an error-prone third baseman who moved to the outfield with Bonds and Van Slyke after committing 67 errors in two seasons on the hot corner. Bonilla left after two failed playoff runs with the Buccos, and went onto to a colorful career with more than a bit of controversy.

Why do I mention these three? After 20 consecutive losing seasons, does anyone really care?

Three failed playoff runs, the departure of many talented players, and incompetence in the Pirates' farm system  led to many bleak seasons. There were last place finishes, 100 game losing seasons, and many names few even remember for the Buccos.

The Outfield of Dreams soon became the lineup of incompetence. While fans of good teams had visions of the World Series, Pirates fans began dreaming only of 82 wins. Would it ever happen?

Part 3 soon to follow!
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