Honestly, I'm tired of tiptoeing around it, tired of hearing and reading every other imaginable excuse for why these dogged, determined and, yes, talented Pirates haven't been able to assume anything more than a short-lived hold on contention this summer. Or, in the context of their current five-game losing streak, why they're suddenly in peril of falling out of contention entirely.
Sure, the injuries have hurt, especially those of Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Gerrit Cole. The list of blame could also tally up Francisco Liriano's customary off-year, Charlie Morton's relentless losing, Jason Grilli's early blowups, Neal Huntington's maddening summer-long denial about his bullpen, all these bench guys even their wives wouldn't recognize, and it could climb all the way up to Bob Nutting's payroll still being several million shy of acceptable and all the usual suspects.
Devour that list as you will.
But here's the cold truth once you're done with the distractions: No single factor has weighed this team down more than that the defending National League home run champion, around whom a lineup and an infield and to some extent an organization have been built, has been an unmitigated bleeping disaster.