There were, of course, highlights interspersed throughout the year, too. Pedro Alvarez's walk-off homer, James McDonald's stirring Pittsburgh debut and the emergence of Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan in the back end of the bullpen were among the feel-good stories of the year.
But of all the story lines that played out over the past 12 months, here were the five biggest:
5. Pirates show their books
In an unprecedented move, the Pirates opened up part of the club's financial reports in an effort to dispute the perception that anyone on the Pirates' ownership team was earning a profit since Bob Nutting took over as majority owner in January 2007.
Anticipating that a potential Associated Press report would misinterpret particular financial numbers, the Pirates provided documents that showed the club earned $5.4 million in profit in '09. That was a sharp decline from profit earned in '07 ($15 million) and '08 ($14.4 million). The decline in profit, president Frank Coonelly asserted, would not prevent the club from increasing its payroll in '11. In the August meeting with reporters, Coonelly and Nutting also provided documentation that showed the Pirates had significantly increased the amount of money spent on capital expenditures since '07.
4. Bucs spend $11.35 million on three teen pitchers
Negotiations went up until the Aug. 16 deadline, but the Pirates were able to successfully ink their first two picks from the June First-Year Player Draft. Jameson Taillon, the No. 2 overall pick, signed for $6.5 million, while second-rounder Stetson Allie earned top 10 money with his $2.25 million signing bonus. The two power-throwing right-handers were joined in the organization days later by 16-year-old Mexican pitcher Luis Heredia. The Pirates purchased the rights to Heredia for $2.6 million. The organization had previously never given a signing bonus of more than $400,000 to an international player.
3. Russell dismissed, Clint Hurdle hired
Lauded as a superb instructor and the right fit to move forward with a young club, Russell never led the Pirates to more than 67 wins in any of his three years. Pittsburgh's decision to remove Russell from the managerial post came less than a year after the organization extended his contract through 2011. With the arrival of Hurdle, the Pirates got someone who is familiar with turning around a losing franchise. His passion and charisma came across in his introductory news conference, and he should be well-received by a fan base that is looking for more outward emotion from the team's manager.
2. Young talent debuts over the summer
Though it didn't translate into more wins, the infusion of youth did provide an encouraging spark and outlook. Third baseman Alvarez arrived just two years after being the No. 2 pick in the Draft. While Alvarez endured some struggles early on, he finished the season with a sensational final month. Jose Tabata and Neil Walker both moved into starting roles and flourished in their rookie seasons. Each entered the last day of the season with a chance to finish the year hitting .300. Starter Brad Lincoln didn't have the same immediate success in his first taste of the Majors, but he remains an intriguing young pitcher for the organization.
1. Bucs record 18th straight losing season
Losing continued to be the most prominent story line surrounding the organization and remain so until the Pirates find a way to finish above .500. With a final record of 57-105, the Pirates ended with fewer wins than any Pittsburgh club to play a 162-game schedule. The road record was especially poor, with the Pirates becoming only the second team in baseball history to play an 81-game road schedule and win only 17 games. The starting rotation lost a combined 84 games, and Pittsburgh finished last in the National League in offense (.242 batting average), defense (.979 fielding percentage) and pitching (5.00 ERA).