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Tuesday August 18, 2009 11:07 pm

Francisco Cabrera killed the Pittsburgh Pirates

Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, MLB,

Francisco Cabrera

With a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series, the Pirates were on the brink of eliminating the Atlanta Braves and heading off to Toronto to face the Blue Jays in the World Series. The Braves had managed to score a run and load the bases while giving up two of their remaining three outs when Braves manager Bobby Cox sent his final bench player to the plate; Francisco Cabrera. Bucs pitcher Stan Belinda threw a 2-1 pitch to Cabrera, who singled into left, scoring David Justice and Sid Bream, winning the game and the series for the Braves. It was the eleventh at-bat for Cabrera of the season, and undoubtedly the greatest of his career. The Pittsburgh Pirates were not only expelled from the playoffs, they were basically eliminated from baseball altogether.

Cabrera never made a significant long-term impact in Major League Baseball. He debuted – and played three games – with the Blue Jays, but quickly was sent to Atlanta. Over his six seasons with the Braves, he hit just .254 with 17 home runs and 262 RBI; not exactly stunning numbers. However, his lone at-bat on October 14, 1992 stands out in the minds of thousands of baseball fans in Pittsburgh.

1992 was the last of three consecutive trips to the NLCS for the Bucs, but it was also the last time Pittsburgh finished a season with a winning record. In the 16 years that have followed, the Pirates have finished higher than fourth in the NL East exactly twice, and have not finished a season with more than 79 wins. They also have the longest streak for consecutive losing seasons, and they’re already less than a dozen losses away from adding to that in 2009.

Usually it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly when the tide changes for a baseball team, but you could make a pretty good case that Francisco Cabrera’s series-clinching single ushered in an era of mediocrity for the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise. The Bucs walked off the field that night with their heads low, having blown it for a third straight year, and haven’t raised their heads since. Not even players like Barry Bonds, Jason Bay, or Aramis Ramirez have been able to break the slump. The 2009 fire sale certainly makes it seem like the Pirates are mailing it in for the next couple of seasons. It has certainly been a horrifying couple of decades in Pittsburgh. You can go ahead and blame Francisco Cabrera for all of this if you want, but despite his season-defining hit, his trading cards sell for less than a dollar. Isn’t that punishment enough?



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