1985 Pirates Retrospective – Part 1

The 1979 Fam-A-Lee was given all sorts of well deserved attention during the 25th anniversary of their magical run. Now it is time to celebrate a team that did nothing: the 1985 Pirates. Why? Because I was 14 during the 1985 season. When I was 14 I was innocent. I was devoid of cynicism. I used to wear my Pirates Fun Food pins on my jacket to school. Salaries and payrolls were somewhat modest. Steroids were for football players. The Pirates lacked talent and it showed in their record, but the team began to take shape and the future seemed brighter.
Maybe it’s just me and maybe I’m nostalgic. Things that surround us in the pop culture world were always better when we were younger. To quote William Hurt’s character from The Big Chill, “We were great then and we’re (poop) now?” I wouldn’t say that. But I would say that baseball was nearing the end of what I consider to be its best ever age – 1978 to 1987. Consider:
1. Parity – between 1978 and 1987 no single team was victorious in more than one World Series. Nobody repeated and nobody won more than once. There is no other 10 year period in baseball history when that can be said.
2. Power – A 40 home run season wasn’t common but was certainly reachable. In nine of the 20 seasons between the two leagues combined, 40 homers would’ve been enough to lead the loop. The last time that 40 HRs was enough to lead the league was in the strike shortened season of 1995 when Dante Bichette paced the Senior Circuit with 40 on the nose.
3. Pitching – Two pitchers notched 25 wins in a single season. That has only been done once since then and there have been no such seasons since Bob Welch in 1990.
4. Pilfering – Stolen bases were very much a part of the game. The low water mark for a league leader in steals during that period was former Baseball Tonight analyst Harold Reynolds with 60. In seven of the last eight seasons, that would’ve been enough to lead the AL in swipes. Between the two leagues in the “Golden Era”, the league leader topped 100 steals on six occasions. Nobody has topped 80 steals since 1988, when Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson both did it.
5. Phinishing (okay, finishing) – The role of the three out closer was still early in its infancy. Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage and Dan Quisenberry could often be found on the mound in the 8th inning (or earlier) putting out a fire. Quiz was the first reliever to get 40 saves in a season (45 in 1983). The last time the league leader in saves failed to amass 40 saves was during the strike shortened 1985 season. As an aside, Quiz has more top three Cy Young finishes (4) than Nolan Ryan (3). Quiz also finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting four times. Ryan never finished in the top 10. Different entities, starter vs. reliever, but that gives you an idea of just how immensely valuable Dan Quisenberry was to KC.
With that background in place, that’ll be a wrap on Part 1. In Part 2, I’ll briefly recap the 1984 season and give brief biographies on the Opening Day starters in 1985.

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