It’s been more than two decades since the Pittsburgh Pirates were relevant, but as Major League Baseball resumes Friday night, the Bucs are the top story.
The Pirates hold the North American professional sports record with 20 consecutive losing seasons, but they sit at the All-Star break with the second-best record in the bigs at 56-37.
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American-Statesman staffer Kevin Lyttle rates the major-league teams top to bottom, based on their accomplishments and second-half potential:
1. St. Louis;57-36;1st, NL Central;Quite simply, the team that has everything. Cardinals own staggering +127 run differential.
2. Detroit; 52-42;1st, AL Central;Tigers’ only potential flaw is lack of proven closer, but they’ll address that before trade deadline.
3. Boston; 58-39;1st, AL East;Surprising Red Sox just 11 victories short of 2012 total, even without dominant pitching.
4. Oakland;56-39;1st, AL West; Oh, those young arms. Team’s 3.62 ERA leads AL. Look for HR Derby champ Cespedes to heat up.
5. Pittsburgh;56-37;2nd, NL Central; Amazing Pirates are no fluke. Any time you lead MLB in ERA (3.07), you’re going to contend.
6. Tampa Bay;55-41;2nd, AL East;Rays have won 14 of 16, and now Cy Young winner David Price rejoins impressive array of arms.
7. Atlanta;54-41;1st, NL East;Braves thriving even with all-or-nothing offense that leads league in home runs and strikeouts.
8. Texas;54-41;2nd, AL West;They don’t hit like they used to, but AL’s No. 2 staff (3.73 ERA) to be restocked with healthy arms.
9. Cincinnati;53-42;3rd, NL Central;Reds enjoy huge lead for 2nd wild card and boast +63 run differential that ranks 5th in majors.
10. Baltimore;53-43;3rd, AL East;Only No. 3 in own division, heavy-hitting Orioles make our top 10 because nobody bashes better.
11. Cleveland; 51-44;2nd, AL Central;One of MLB’s most improved clubs; Terry Francona making difference with lot of new faces.
12. N.Y. Yankees;51-44;4th, AL East;With all their injuries, ancient Yankees seemingly staying afloat with smoke and mirrors.
13. Washington;48-47;2nd, NL East;Preseason World Series favorites are baseball’s biggest bust, but there’s still time.
14. Arizona;50-45;1st, NL West;Best of bad division. D-backs, thanks to Goldschmidt and Corbin, are only club over .500.
15. L.A. Dodgers;47-47;2nd, NL West;Dodgers showing signs of revival with explosive Yasiel Puig and 14 wins in past 17 games.
16. Philadelphia;48-48;3rd, NL East;Poor -45 run differential shows .500 record is fools’ gold. Aging Phillies should sell, not buy.
17. Toronto;45-49;5th, AL East;Hyped Jays recover from horrid start, but it just seems hopeless in this meatgrinder division.
18. L.A. Angels;44-49;3rd, AL West;Disappointing Angels 29-22 after 15-27 start, but they’re already regretting Hamilton purchase.
19. Seattle;43-52;,4th, AL West;Arrow pointing up for franchise with King Felix, good arms and exciting rookie talent.
20. Colorado;46-50;3rd, NL West;Stars like Car-Go, Tulo can go only so far with mediocre pitching. Yet just 4.5 out in West.
21. San Francisco;43-51;4th, NL West;World Series hangover? Champs look sluggish and have been outscored by 40 runs.
22. Kansas City;43-49;3rd, AL Central;Pitching improves slightly, but young hitters regress. Will Royals ever break the malaise?
23. Chicago Cubs;42-51;4th, NL Central;Cubs actually better than expected while farm system being rebuilt with high-end prospects.
24. N.Y. Mets;41-50;4th, NL East;Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler at least give forlorn Mets fans hope that better days are ahead.
25. San Diego;42-54;5th, NL West;How rotten is pitching? Padres last in NL ERA (4.22) despite playing in spacious Petco.
26. Minnesota;39-53;4th, AL Central;At least Twins fans can track phenoms like Miguel Sano, Byran Buxton in minors.
27. Chicago White Sox;37-55;5th, AL Central; Grab some bench, Hawk. Your Sox stink. Fire sale is coming: Peavy, Rios, Crain, et all.
28. Miami; 35-58;5th, NL East;Marlins, hitting MLB-low .233 for season, own third-best record in NL since May. Who knew?
29. Milwaukee;38-56;5th, NL Central;Brewers could go from 96 victories in 2011 to 96 losses in 2013. Karma for injured Ryan Braun?
30. Houston;33-61; 5th, AL West;Long-term help on way, but Astros have been outscored by 146 runs. Next worst: Marlins at -89.