MILWAUKEE At this time last year, a prevailing sense of optimism seemed to follow the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise. After taking the lead in the NL Central one game into the second half of the 2011 season, the Pirates seemed to be on the brink of turning around what had for so long been the league's most familiar losing franchise.
Eighteen straight losing seasons had worn on the Pirates -- there's no doubting that. And as the team collapsed in August, drifting from first in the NL Central to 10 games back in just two weeks, that similar sense of defeat reared its head in Pittsburgh.
As Brewers fans know quite well, Milwaukee soon slipped into that first-place spot, riding the rest of the season to its first-ever division title as the Pirates continued to tumble.
A fourth-place finish in the NL Central gave Pittsburgh its 19th straight season below .500, a streak dating back to a certain 1992 slide into home during the NLCS by Atlanta's Sid Bream -- a moment that would live in in...