The Worst Move in the World

Cole might not be the favorite among Pirates fans, but he's deserving of the number one pick.

For the longest time it seemed like we wouldn’t know who the Pittsburgh Pirates would be selecting with the first overall pick in the draft until the pick was actually announced.  We had narrowed down the field to top college players Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, and Danny Hultzen, but no news was coming out that the Pirates had settled on one player.  Over the weekend we heard that the Pirates were set to take Cole, and today we’re getting more reports that Cole is the guy.

I’ve talked about who I would take with the first overall pick in the draft already.  You can check out my 2011 draft preview for my opinion on Cole, and why I’d take Anthony Rendon first overall.  You can also vote for who you would select first overall, and see what the consensus opinion is (over half are in favor of Anthony Rendon).  This post isn’t about who should be the number one pick.  It’s about the line that gets drawn in the sand during the discussion of any move the Pirates make.

The Pirates can’t make a move without the issue getting divided in to two sides.  There’s the side that loves the move, and the side that hates the move.  It’s usually black and white, and there’s little room for shades of gray analysis.  That’s not just limited to Pirates fans.  That’s our society.  It’s what fuels the show Pardon the Interruption.  It’s what most political talk shows are all about.  It’s fueled by hyperbole.  If someone didn’t make the decision that you wanted, that decision becomes the worst move in the world.

Unfortunately, this means that there’s no room to step back, look at the situation without inserting your views, and try to understand why a move was made.  It’s much easier to like or hate a move, depending on how it lines up with your beliefs.  The worst part is that Pittsburgh fans can’t disagree without being disagreeable.  If you like a move, someone who doesn’t like it will call you an apologist.  If you don’t like a move, someone who does like it will call you a front office hater.

Over the off-season I was called an apologist for such things as predicting Daniel Moskos would be in the majors by June, for saying that Matt Walbeck’s firing didn’t really mean John Russell would be retained, and for liking the Kevin Correia signing.  Moskos got over his limited AAA struggles from last year, the Pirates fired Russell and hired Clint Hurdle (Walbeck is managing in low-A), and Correia has turned out great so far, even beyond what I expected out of him.

Dejan Kovacevic is a guy who gets a lot of criticism for being a front office hater.  He felt that Pedro Ciriaco should have made the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, and criticized the decision to keep Josh Rodriguez over Ciriaco.  Ciriaco hasn’t been good this year, although neither was Rodriguez, and really the only thing Ciriaco has struggled with has been his bat, which is expected from him.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but the problem is that no one is really open to different opinions.  Most analysis is usually focused on the intentions of the writer, rather than focusing on the actual topic.  People want to understand why a person has an opinion about a player, rather than seeing if there’s something about that player which warrants the opinion.  I’m not saying there aren’t people out there who only focus on the positive or negative, or offer their own spin on the issues.  I’m just saying that we should focus on what people are saying, rather than trying to come up with reasons why they might be saying it.

Everyone has their own opinion on this draft pick.  Here is mine again.  I would take Anthony Rendon first overall, but I can see the appeal with Gerrit Cole, and I can see why some would have concerns about Rendon and his shoulder.  If it was just a normal college pitcher, I wouldn’t find the move acceptable.  The fact that Cole has a plus change-up is what does it for me.  That change-up is the difference between Cole being a star closer, or an ace starter.  So while I’d rather have the potential All-Star third baseman, I wouldn’t mind taking the potential top of the rotation starter, especially since his issues are only mechanical, and his stuff looks good enough for long term success.

There are very few situations where there is only one right choice.  The odd thing about the draft is that we’re debating between a potential All-Star third baseman, and a potential frontline starter.  If we had the same debate about whether a team should add Evan Longoria or Tim Lincecum, you’d have your individual preferences, but all would agree that you’d be getting a good player regardless of the pick, and you couldn’t really go wrong.  So why is the draft not the same way?

Part of the reason comes down to history.  The Pirates have made some bad choices when there was an obvious pick on the board.  They took Bryan Bullington over B.J. Upton and Scott Kazmir.  They took Daniel Moskos over Matt Wieters and Jason Heyward.  But taking Gerrit Cole is not the same as taking Bullington or Moskos.  It’s more like taking Kazmir over the top ranked Upton, or taking Heyward over the higher ranked Wieters.  You can’t really go wrong with the move, and the gap between the potential of Cole and Rendon isn’t huge.

Earlier today, in Dejan Kovacevic’s morning links, I noticed this very trend.  Dejan wrote about how he liked the pick of Gerrit Cole.  He was immediately called out for “playing nice”, and it was suggested that he probably would have said the same thing about Rendon.  My question is: why is that not OK?  Why can’t you think both guys would make a good pick?  It would be one thing if you said that about everyone, even if someone like Danny Hultzen was the pick, but I don’t think there’s an issue with having 2-3 guys that you’d be satisfied with picking (and I’m not saying Dejan would have made similar comments about Rendon).

As a guy who would be fine with either pick (and it’s established that I’d only be fine with Cole, Rendon, or Dylan Bundy), I don’t see the need to marry yourself to one pick, and hate all of the other possibilities.  We’re too caught up in looking for the next Moskos, or the next Bullington that we end up forcing comparisons.  Gerrit Cole doesn’t fit either bill.  He’s a talented player who is worthy of the number one overall pick, in a year where you could make an argument for more than one player as the top pick in the draft.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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2011 MLB Draft Live Chat Transcript

  • Erik Johnson

    Well said Tim

  • Anonymous

    VERY well said.  I’ve stated this on Twitter, but Cole was my number three choice behind Rendon and Bundy respectively.  BUT, I do love Cole.  He has nasty stuff and the potential to be an ace.  I don’t think he’s a Strasburg like everyone is saying.  He’s not as dominant as Strasburg was.  But, that’s not a knock on Cole, that’s more of a testament to the skill level of Strasburg.

  • Todd Smith

    I loved the idea of getting Rendon before the season started.  He was going to be that big, middle of the lineup, corner infield bat that we needed.  As the season went on, it became clear that he’s not that player.  When he has to make a long term move to 2nd base to keep from re-injuring his shoulder, something is very wrong.  At this point, I absolutely would hate the Rendon pick.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have differing opinions.

    • Lee Young

      To be honest, without opinions, where would these blogs be? Of course they’re opinions. Of course, MINE is correct. That’s the way it works.
      I love ya, Tim, but you’re stating the obvious, imho.

      Btw, this is just my opinion. .

      • Lee Young

        So what happened to my smiley face after……..”Btw, this is just my opinion. ”

        Without it, my comment sounds kinda snarkey. I don’t like being snarkey (smile).

  • Anonymous

    Good post Tim

  • Anonymous

    Your spot on Tim.

  • Steve Zielinski

    “The Pirates can’t make a move without the issue getting divided in to
    two sides.  There’s the side that loves the move, and the side that
    hates the move.  It’s usually black and white, and there’s little room
    for shades of gray analysis.  That’s not just limited to Pirates fans.
     That’s our society.  It’s what fuels the show Pardon the Interruption.
     It’s what most political talk shows are all about.  It’s fueled by
    hyperbole.  If someone didn’t make the decision that you wanted, that
    decision becomes the worst move in the world.”

    One problem I had with some of the professional draft and prospect pundits was their willingness to claim that Rendon had suffered an injury that structurally damaged his shoulder, and this meant that he was not the prospect he appeared to be in years past. They offered no direct evidence in defense of this claim. How could they when they lacked access to his medical records. We had to wait until a Pirates fan talked to a few of the Pirates medical staff before we had credible evidence that the Pirates believed Rendon to be a damaged player. And this evidence would not be considered credible except by those who believe the poster in question is a person of integrity.

    Many fans mimicked the professional pundits or just felt Rendon’s admission that he injured himself was enough to downgrade his draft status when his admission was coupled with his production decrease.

    For months, then, a debate has swirled around highly suspect claims made by the professional pundits and the fans. I felt the need to counter that FUD.

    My other problem was with the belief that the Pirates would only take Cole or Hultzen. Professionals like Law, Gammons and Christensen made these claims. They based their assertions on anonymous sources that their readers had no reasonable way to evaluate.  This was shoddy journalism. Even if their sources provided accurate information on or guesses about what the Pirates would do, it would not help much if their readers could not evaluate the credibility of their sources.

    For me, what I take from all of this bickering, rumor mongering, politicking and the like is that the current FO has a physique and pitcher bias that will inform their future draft picks.

    Of course, that judgment will change if the team picks Rendon tonight!

  • Bob

    Didn’t Boras tell Pirates not to select Rendon b/c Alvarez doesn’t want to play 1B?

    • Todd Smith

      I think we can be fairly certain that never happened since Boras still has a job.

  • Philip Pallerino

    Fantastic article, well done

  • Nate

    Calming the waters.  Excellent post.

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