By now, you know this already, but in case you haven't - the Pittsburgh Pirates won their 82nd game last night. 2013 will mark their first winning seasons since 1992, also the year of their last playoff berth. This run of failure is unprecedented across professional sports, and Pirates fans are just happy to have it behind them.
Of course, it's not in our culture to simply celebrate something like this. Hooray, the Pirates streak of futility has ended! So, who's next? Who are we going to use as the butt of all of our jokes now?
Well, it's a bit of a difficult question. Despite Pittsburgh's 20 straight losing seasons, their 20 years without a playoff berth (which looks like it's going to come to an end this year) isn't the longest active streak in MLB. The Royals haven't made the playoffs since they won the World Series in 1985, a span of 27 seasons that looks like it will extend to 28 through 2013. Kansas City also has nine straight seasons with a losing record, and they've also finished below .500 in 17 of the last 18 years. However, the Royals' streak looks like it will be coming to an end this year thanks to their 75-69 record with 18 games remaining in 2013.
After the Royals, things get a lot more dicey. The Blue Jays haven't made the playoffs since their World Championship over the Phillies in 1993, but they finished at or above .500 in six out of seven seasons from 2006-2011 before struggling in each of the last two years. The pathetic Marlins have finished above .500 as recently as 2009, though they haven't made the playoffs in a decade. Those loveable Cubs have taken up residence near the bottom of the NL Central, but finished above .500 in 2009 and won division titles in 2007 and 2008. The Mariners are one of our favorite punching bags on TOC, but they somehow finished above .500 in both 2007 and 2009, despite not making the playoffs since 2001.
The Astros might be the worst team in baseball today, but they won 86 games in 2008. The Rockies have been hideous over the last three seasons, but finished above .500 in three out of the four years prior, even picking up a pennant in the process. The Indians are probably going to be a .500 club this year, but they only had four straight sub-.500 seasons before 2013. Even the Twins, who will likely crack 90 losses for the third straight year, had a history of success in the last decade, finishing above 500 in every year from 2002 to 2010 while winning six division titles.
It's actually slightly unfortunate for the Pirates that a pair of AL East clubs that had been losers for years turned things around before them. The Rays started their franchise with ten straight losing seasons, but haven't been under .500 since 2007. The Orioles had 14 straight losing seasons after their 1997 AL East championship through 2011, but they've been contenders in the American League over the last two seasons.
If all of the current teams above .500 manage to stay there, and all teams below .500 manage to stay there, the longest current streak of losing seasons will be the Mets' and Astros' five. The Cubs, Mariners, and Marlins all have four straight. In other words, if the Royals manage to stay above .500 and end their streak at ten seasons, we're going to have to wait another decade and a half *at least* for a team to equal the Pirates' futility. Now that's saying something.