We're shifting gears today to talk about a team that's had a little more success. Yesterday's post took a look at the Milwaukee Brewers, and although they've had some good seasons, they still haven't clinched a World Series victory.
The Pirates, on the other hand, are one of the oldest teams in baseball and have had significantly more success than the Brewers. Pittsburgh has won nine National League pennants and five World Series titles since the team started play in 1882.
Despite their lack of recent success - the Pirates have only made the playoffs three times since 1993 - the team has a winning history. Unfortunately for them, most of that winning was done over 100 years ago. Of the Pirates 16 seasons with a .600 winning percentage or higher, nine of those seasons took place before 1920.
So you could say it's been a while since the Pirates have really been one of the best teams in MLB, which means it's also been a while since their best season in franchise history. That season took place in 1909, when the Pirates won 110 games and the World Series, their first championship in team history.
That Pirates team ranked third in batting average (.260), second in on-base percentage (.327) and first in slugging percentage (.353) during the 1909 season. They were second in the league in total home runs with a whopping 25 dingers. They also led the league in doubles (218) and triples (92). By that days standards, this was a high-powered offense.
The pitching staff wasn't as dominant, but they did post a 2.07 ERA, good for fourth in the league.
The MVP award wasn't around yet, but if it was, Honus Wagner would have been a contender. The Hall of Fame shortstop hit .339/.420/.489 with five home runs and 100 RBIs. He trailed only fellow Hall of Famer Ty Cobb in most categories that season, but he did lead the league in doubles with 39.
They finished the season 12 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers, who they would go on to beat 4-3 in the World Series.
Now, there's no doubt that today's players are bigger, faster, stronger and all around better than at any point in history. It's a fair argument to say that any team today could beat the 1909 Pirates. If you put the 1909 Pirates on the field against, say, the 1991 Pirates, the '91 team would likely win that matchup.
But it's all relative to the respective era. If the players from the past had the knowledge, training and resources that modern players have, they would still be the all-time greats. You have to respect the players and teams of the past, and that's why the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates are the best team in franchise history, and they will be until another Pirates team wins more than 110 games.