First Pitch

First Pitch: 2013 Is the Make or Break Year for Huntington and Company

First Pitch: 2013 Is the Make or Break Year for Huntington and Company

Last September, Neal Huntington was given a three year extension, running through the 2014 season with a team option. This September was filled with questions of whether Huntington would be fired at the end of the year. Those questions picked up when the Pirates drew national attention for their Navy SEAL workouts over three days in the minor league instructional leagues. But those questions reached an end today, as Frank Coonelly issued a statement saying that Neal Huntington, and his assistant General Managers Kyle Stark and Greg Smith, would all be retained in 2013.

When the Navy SEAL controversy came out, I had the feeling that someone was going to be fired. It was a perfect storm, with the mixture of the second half collapse, the team falling below .500 the day the article was released, the losses to teams like the Cubs and Astros, and the national attention the issue received. That combination would have made it totally justifiable to fire anyone. The Pirates wouldn’t have seen much negative PR, unlike the situation now after today’s announcement. I also felt that the Navy SEAL controversy was a non-issue. If you wanted to bring up issues with the major league team losing, or the minor league development, there were plenty of topics to focus on.

When it comes to Huntington, and this management group, I get labeled Pro-Huntington, or a Huntington apologist, or whatever the term of the week is on Twitter, the message boards, or any other outlet. Truthfully I’m pretty close to the middle when it comes to this group, and I’m a little more patient than most. There are things they’ve done that are positives, and there are things they’ve done that are negatives or that can be questioned. I’ve brought up examples of each over the last few weeks. The tipping point for me right now comes by stepping back and looking at the team from a different perspective.

The Pirates are currently 76-79. If you would have said before the season that they’d be 76-79 at this point, and that they’d be within three games of the Wild Card spot as late as September 17th, you’d probably get a strange reaction if you suggested firing Huntington for those results.

Looking at the minor leagues, they’ve had two players — Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco — who are not only the biggest breakout players in the system, but two of the biggest breakout players in the minors. A lot of their top prospects took positive steps forward. Stetson Allie was really the only top prospect who saw his stock drop a significant amount. Looking at those results, it would be a strange suggestion to fire Kyle Stark, who has a big role in the development of the minor league players.

Then there’s the draft. The Pirates have spent more on the draft than any other team from 2008-2011. I wrote last week about how the 2009 draft is lacking impact players. However, the 2008 draft got a boost this year when Pedro Alvarez stepped up, and Robbie Grossman was the key piece for Wandy Rodriguez. Players have emerged from other drafts, including Nick Kingham (2010 4th round), Tyler Glasnow (2011 5th round), and Clay Holmes (2011 9th round). The Pirates have also seen some later round guys put up surprising numbers, such as 2009 21st round pick Phil Irwin, 2010 23rd round pick Adalberto Santos, and 2010 25th round pick Casey Sadler. Looking at those results, it would be hard to justify firing Greg Smith.

That’s just a quick summary of each guy. To get in to some more detail, let’s take a closer look at each person.


Neal Huntington

We went from “the Pirates won’t match their 2011 win total” to “they’ll win 72-75 games” to “they could win 90 games” to “they’ll probably fall just short of .500” in the span of one year. Which one of those seems like the outlier? If you guessed the 90-win comment, you’re right. The Pirates were on fire in June and July. They were on a pace where they could have won 90 games. But hindsight tells us that they were playing over their heads, and it wouldn’t continue.

I find it hard to blame Huntington for the late season collapse. That would be more on Hurdle than Huntington. Considering that the Pirates were hurt by Andrew McCutchen and A.J. Burnett slumping in August, and James McDonald slumping in August and September, it’s hard to blame either person. The Pirates looked like contenders in July because they had an MVP favorite (McCutchen), and two Cy Young candidates (Burnett, McDonald). None of those players played well in August, and only McCutchen and Burnett snapped out of it in September.

The Pirates didn’t do what most of Pittsburgh wanted at the deadline. They didn’t make that big statement by adding a name that everyone knew. They didn’t add Shane Victorino, who was traded to the Dodgers and has hit for a .606 OPS since the deadline. They didn’t add Hunter Pence, who was sent to San Francisco and has hit for a .658 OPS since the trade. Instead they dealt for Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez. Snider has dealt with injuries, and has a .651 OPS since the trade. Sanchez is looking like the 2010/2011 version, with a .777 OPS and four homers in 107 at-bats. The Pirates could have added a name like Victorino or Pence, but as it turns out, they would have been worse off with those two.

Then there’s the issue that the Pirates were one of 29 teams who didn’t trade for Chase Headley, who remained with the Padres. They could have given up three big pieces from the farm system for Headley, but would it have really helped? Would one player make a difference with this collapse? Would Headley prevent McCutchen, Burnett, and McDonald from struggling in August? The answer is no.

I can’t blame Huntington for how this year turned out, specifically with the late season collapse. But there are some questionable decisions Huntington has made this year.

The first one comes with some of the organizational philosophies. The glaring issue here is holding base runners. The Pirates don’t put a big importance on holding runners. Instead they focus on the pitchers executing their pitches. That made sense when they practiced this in the minors. If you’re developing pitchers, you want them focusing on pitching, rather than the guy on first. But in the majors, giving up free bases doesn’t make any sense. I broke down the numbers a few weeks ago. If the Pirates were below-average to average in catching runners, they’d add 2-3 wins compared to their current season total. That’s not a huge issue over the course of a season, but it is giving up wins, and I can’t see how the Pirates can regain that by having the pitcher focus only on the batter.

There’s also the way that the team uses younger players. All season they’ve seen Michael McKenry out-hit Rod Barajas by a huge margin. McKenry has good defense behind the plate, which raises the question of why he isn’t getting more playing time. I covered this topic as well. If the Pirates would have swapped their playing time this year, McKenry’s bat would have added about an extra win. And that’s with them getting mostly equal playing time. If McKenry gets 60% or more of the starts, and keeps his same production, that number goes up. The Pirates have their own system to evaluate a catcher’s defense, and that system supports Barajas. I can’t see how any system would support Barajas over McKenry. You’re already ignoring stolen bases, so that aspect is removed. McKenry is better at blocking pitches than Barajas, based on their passed ball numbers (2 for McKenry, 7 for Barajas). I just don’t see where Barajas could make up for the difference in almost .200 OPS points on the batting side.

There are other issues with younger players. All season Bryan Morris was dominating in Triple-A. The Pirates had plenty of opportunities to call him up, but didn’t. Instead they made moves like trading for Chad Qualls, who was on the verge of being designated for assignment for the second time this year. They claimed Hisanori Takahashi off waivers. Even after Morris was called up in September, Rick VandenHurk was used more frequently in the early part of the month. It’s not just Morris. The Pirates had a lot of pitching in Triple-A, and some of those guys could have benefited from getting their feet wet in the bullpen during the season. Obviously there was a need for this, otherwise they wouldn’t have to add Qualls and Takahashi. There’s the fear of the unknown with prospects. But is that fear worse than adding guys who we know are bad players, and who have been dismissed from other teams because of their poor numbers?

And while we’re at it, the team has openly said that Jordy Mercer is number two on their depth chart at shortstop. Yet when Clint Barmes gets time off, it’s usually Josh Harrison getting those starts. Mercer isn’t the first prospect to be brought up by this group only to ride the bench. He’s not even the first shortstop prospect. The same happened to Pedro Ciriaco last year, even though Ronny Cedeno was on his way out. If Ciriaco’s .294 average and .700 OPS this year turns out to be the real thing, the Pirates will look foolish for not only letting him go, but not giving him a chance in meaningless games in September 2011, all while starting a guy who wasn’t going to be back next year.

We could get in to the trades with Huntington, but that would be a whole new article. To sum it up, most of the 2008/2009 trades haven’t worked out, although the Pirates didn’t have much to offer. The biggest disappointment was the Bay trade (if you’re not using hindsight with Jose Bautista). Two of the biggest standouts were the trade that added Joel Hanrahan, and the Nate McLouth deal. The deals since 2009 have been much better, and a few of those deals have played key roles on this team. James McDonald was added for Octavio Dotel. A.J. Burnett was added for next to nothing. Michael McKenry was added for cash. And then there’s the deals this year, which give the Pirates some promising guys in Snider and Sanchez, without giving up much in return.

There have been some mistakes with Huntington. There have been some success stories. There are questionable philosophies and questionable forms of roster management. He hasn’t been perfect at all, but he also hasn’t been a disaster. He built a team that was 16 games over .500 in late July this year. That team crashed and burned down the stretch for a ton of reasons, and a big reason would be that the top three players all struggled for a month. That’s something you can’t avoid, no matter who the General Manager is.

Most of this team is under control next year. The team salary is at a point where the Pirates can make an off-season addition. They should have Gerrit Cole joining the team by mid-season next year. Starling Marte will have his feet wet. The same might be said for Kyle McPherson or Jeff Locke. On paper, this is a team that can easily be improved upon. Coming in to this year, everyone seemed to be looking at 2013 as the year that things would happen. It doesn’t make sense to fire Huntington now because things didn’t happen one year earlier. But if we see the same thing in 2013, there wouldn’t be anything justifying keeping Huntington on the job.


Kyle Stark

There’s been a lot of local talk that the farm system isn’t in good shape. Some of that stemmed from Dejan Kovacevic’s column on the SEAL controversy, where he quoted an American League scout as saying the Pirates development approach was the “laughing stock of the industry”. A lot of it comes from the struggles in the majors being applied to the minor leagues incorrectly and out of frustration. It sounds better to say “this team is horrible, they’re collapsing, and there’s no help on the way”. But that’s not true.

Most of the people commenting on how bad the farm system is don’t follow the farm system. They wouldn’t be able to pick Alen Hanson or Gregory Polanco out of a lineup, and might not even know who those two are right now. They only know Gerrit Cole as a guy who can hit 100 MPH, and don’t know that he has a plus slider and a plus changeup that really make him the pitcher he is. Until he reached the majors, they thought Starling Marte was a small, skinny, no-power outfielder. I totally understand all of this. Most fans only follow the minors through the box scores. In fact, most fans don’t follow the minors at all. For most of the media, it’s their job to follow the team in Pittsburgh. There’s too much involved with that job to provide any time to take close looks at the minor league system.

The national writers, who follow prospects closely and who talk to scouts all around the league, have a different take. The growing consensus is that the farm system is very good. It might even be one of the better systems in the game, and that’s even after Marte lost his prospect eligibility. Having top picks definitely helps that. But it’s not just the first round picks. released their updated top 100 list earlier this month, which featured six Pirates. Two of those were Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco. Ben Badler of Baseball America had a lot of input on the system recently on Twitter, and followed up by naming four Pirates prospects to the 2012 GCL top 20.

There’s two aspects when evaluating the job Stark is overseeing. Having talent in the system is one thing. The Pirates definitely have that. But developing that talent is something totally different. Guys like Cole and Taillon might be chalked up to just being high draft picks. But the development has been shown with the progress of guys like Hanson and Polanco, or some of the prep pitchers like Nick Kingham, Tyler Glasnow, and Clay Holmes.

Ultimately the most important aspect of development is unproven. That aspect is developing major league players. The only examples we have to go by so far are Pedro Alvarez, Alex Presley, and guys who are just starting to arrive in the majors, like Starling Marte, Kyle McPherson, Jeff Locke, and so on. We’re just now starting to see a lot of the guys from the first drafts, or a lot of the guys who this group inherited in the lower levels in 2008, make the majors. That’s a normal time frame for those guys to arrive. Because of that, we don’t really know how the development in the minors will translate to the majors.

This group took Alex Presley from an organizational A-ball player to a major leaguer who profiles best as a fourth outfielder. They turned 14th round pick Kyle McPherson in to a pitcher who could be a strong number three starter in the majors. They might have developed a potential impact player in Starling Marte. We just don’t know if those guys will make that successful jump. We might not know for a year or two. Some players instantly have success. See Andrew McCutchen. Some players take a few years to break out. See Pedro Alvarez.

There have been issues with fundamentals. The biggest issue would be that the Pirates have so many fast runners, and almost all of them are bad at stealing bases. There’s also a lack of awareness when on the base paths. The stolen bases raise an interesting question. If the Pirates don’t care about other teams stealing, then why would they try to steal? If it’s not going to hurt them giving up a free base, then why would it be beneficial to risk an out trying to get a free base on the other side of the game? Those seem to be two conflicting approaches.

Since we’re just starting to see players arrive in the majors this year from this development system, we don’t have enough information to draw a conclusion about the ultimate goal of that system. Next year will bring more players, and will give us a longer look at some of the guys who arrived this year, after they make adjustments to what they saw this year. That should give us a better idea of how the development is going, and how we can grade Stark.


Greg Smith

The drafting has seen some mixed results. The 2008 draft was mostly centered around Pedro Alvarez, Robbie Grossman, and Quinton Miller as far as spending goes. Miller is turning in to more of a non-prospect in A-ball, while Alvarez is breaking out in the majors this year, and Grossman was the key piece for Wandy Rodriguez. Some of these picks, particularly Alvarez, get written off with comments like “that’s an obvious pick that anyone would make”. There’s two problems with that.

First, a year before Alvarez was drafted, the Pirates passed on another obvious pick: Matt Wieters. So at the time it wasn’t obvious that the Pirates would take Alvarez. There were also people at the time who doubted Alvarez. Some favored Buster Posey (and they might have been right so far, although Alvarez is starting to close the gap). Some favored Justin Smoak. Alvarez was the top prospect that year, according to Baseball America, but he wasn’t given the treatment we saw from guys like Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper. The Tampa Bay Rays passed on him to take Tim Beckham. As noted, Alvarez wasn’t the consensus choice. The Pirates wouldn’t have gone wrong with Posey, but Smoak would have been a bad choice in comparison.

The Pirates started their extreme approach with over-slot players in 2009. They reached for Tony Sanchez, who signed for slot, and spent the extra money on the prep pitchers. I won’t go in to much detail, since I’ve already covered this. I’ll just sum it up by saying the 2009 draft is looking weak. There’s a lot of guys who could make the majors, but right now no one stands out as more than an average starter, a back of the rotation starting pitcher, or a late inning reliever. That evaluation could change going forward, but right now there’s no middle of the rotation starters or better, and there’s no above-average position players or better.

The 2010 draft threw a curveball to the prep pitcher approach. Several of the top ten round picks didn’t sign, including potential 2013 first round pick Austin Kubitza. Some of the over-slot picks haven’t worked at all. Stetson Allie isn’t much of a prospect anymore after converting to a hitter. Mel Rojas Jr. hasn’t converted his raw tools to on-field success. Ryan Hafner and Jared Lakind both were later round over-slot guys, and both had horrible 2012 seasons. But there have been others who have emerged. Nick Kingham reminds me a lot of Kyle McPherson when he was coming up through the lower levels. That doesn’t say much, since McPherson hasn’t established himself in the majors. Adalberto Santos was a 22nd round pick that year, and displayed some great hitting this year in Altoona. Casey Sadler was a 25th round pick, and emerged as a starting pitching option this year. 9th round pick Brandon Cumpton has a good shot at being a back of the rotation starter or a late inning reliever. 16th round pick Matt Curry probably isn’t a long-term first base answer, but could be an average first baseman with the ability to hit for some power. 41st round pick Bryton Trepagnier saw his velocity increase this year from the mid-80s to consistently sitting in the 92-93 MPH range.

It’s really early to evaluate the 2011 draft, but so far we’ve seen great results from Tyler Glasnow and Clay Holmes. Glasnow has seen his velocity increase, to the point where he was touching 96 in his final start in State College. Alex Dickerson is the best first base prospect in the system. Colten Brewer put up good numbers this year in the GCL. And this doesn’t mention Gerrit Cole or Josh Bell. There’s no ceiling on guys like Holmes or Glasnow. Dickerson could be a starting first baseman, and his power potential could make him an above-average player at the position. They’ve got the talent, and where they go from there depends on the development. But it’s Greg Smith’s job to add the talent. The rest is out of his control.

There have been mixed results with the draft. The 2008 draft looks good but not great when you consider that it has ultimately led to Alvarez and Wandy Rodriguez in the majors. The 2009 draft looks weak. A lot of the big names in the 2010 draft aren’t looking good, but others have emerged to fill the void. It’s too early for the 2011 draft, and even the 2012 draft, but the talent is there.

That talent evaluation is shared on a national level. The Pirates have taken a lot of players who are highly ranked by outlets such as Baseball America, Perfect Game, and writers like Keith Law. Every year they’ve received good grades on their drafts. That’s even with some of the players who are struggling, such as Zack Von Rosenberg, who was Baseball America’s 41st best prospect in 2009. If the approach the Pirates take for drafting talent is wrong, then that means a lot of other people are wrong about the talents of the same players.

As far as Smith goes, it’s another situation where we don’t have a lot to go on. We just started to see the 2008 draft picks arrive in the majors this year. We’re starting to get a feel for the upside of the 2009 picks. Most of the 2010 picks are in the lower levels. The 2011 and 2012 guys are in the lowest levels. There have been some good picks and some questionable picks. The pick that hurts Smith the most is Tony Sanchez. That’s the first big pick that reflected their scouting abilities, and so far Sanchez isn’t looking like a 4th overall pick. There are also picks that work in favor of Smith, like Kingham, Glasnow, and Holmes. The Pirates have definitely been adding talent in the draft, and it’s not just the first round. There’s still the question of how that talent will end up, and that will partially fall on Smith, good or bad. For now, we only have two drafts that have a somewhat clear picture, which isn’t a lot to go on.



Each one of the above could have been an individual article, but I wanted to keep them all in the same location. I think the most concerning aspect of all of this is that it takes so long to build a baseball team from scratch, which is what this group had to do. The farm system had next to no one. The major league team consisted of one impact player, and a bunch of role players, with most of them over-paid, 30 years or older, and nearing free agency. There was nothing to build around. The first chip came in 2009, with Andrew McCutchen. The next pieces came in 2010 with Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and Brad Lincoln.

McCutchen is just now becoming the star player everyone hoped he’d be. Alvarez is just now starting to break out. Tabata has struggled. Walker has been inconsistent. Lincoln failed as a starter, turned in to a good reliever, and was dealt for Travis Snider. Just think about that. They didn’t start to build around anyone until 2009-2010. And in 2012 we’re starting to see those players break out. That could be good or bad, depending on your expectations for how long it should take a major leaguer to break out.

I think if you want to get a good feel for the job this group is doing, ask yourself what a new General Manager would inherit. They’d have Andrew McCutchen, one of the best players in the game, under a very team friendly deal. That might be Huntington’s most under-rated move. They’d have A.J. Burnett and James McDonald in 2013. They’d have Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon on the verge of arriving in the majors. They’d have Starling Marte, Kyle McPherson, Jeff Locke, and all of the other guys who are getting their feet wet this year. They’d have two of the biggest breakout prospects in the game in Hanson and Polanco. They’d have a lot of talent throughout the minors, with a lot of high upside guys. They’d have one of the best international scouting departments in the league.

That would be an extremely attractive position for any GM candidate. A lot of that was built by this group. We’re not really to the point where they’ve had a chance to finish what they started. The feeling before the season was that they wouldn’t have a chance at contending until 2013. That chance came a year earlier. That shouldn’t work against them. They should be given the 2013 season, for all of the benefits I mentioned above. At the same time there are unanswered questions. They’ve got a team that is close to .500, will be returning all of the key players, and will have two of the best pitching prospects in the game coming up in the next year or two. They’ve got a very talented minor league system. In my opinion, they’ve been good in building this system up from scratch. We just don’t know if they’re the group that can take things to the next level. The 2013 season should give them an opportunity to prove themselves. That would make it a key season. Another collapse, or another year where they struggle to end up around the .500 mark, and it will be time to start looking elsewhere for a group that can take what this group has done, and take that next step to become a contender. It’s just too soon to rule out this group and say that they can’t also be that group who takes the next step.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost to the Mets 6-0.

**Pirates Notebook: Locke Struggles in Start; Walker Could Get Shut Down.

**Huntington, Stark, Smith Will Be Retained for 2013.

**2012 Minor League Baseball Attendance Rankings.

  • A FULL apology. Very nice. Can’t make a change now, because that’d be awful. And wait till next year. Right down the middle there.

    • whiteAngus

      i agree. the offseason will be big for NH. hopefully he can convince Nutting into allowing another Burnett type of deal or finally convince a better than average pitching FA to sign with the Bucs.

      • Thunder

        As opposed to the previous 5 offseasons where he’s done almost nothing? What convinces you this offseason will be different?

        • whiteAngus

          im not convinced. which is why i said this offseason will be his biggest test yet. he shouldnt have spent alot of money in the past because we werent going to win anyway, but if this team is truly close to being a front runner, he has to take that next step.
          the previous seasons dont count. you dont invest in huge contracts for one or two players when you have holes all over the field.

  • st1300b

    It’s been a rough summer to watch things unravel – but these players have been getting better every year and anyone that can’t see that is blind. The best is still ahead of them.
    My concern of these 3 execs is Huntington. I question his ability to see and properly address, and properly value players. He’s done some good things too – but this season’s issues begin and end with his mis-evaluation of what the team needed to carry winning through the end of the year. That’s his job to know that.
    Personally, I’ve thought the Snider and Sanchez moves were fine, but it’s the Wandy trade that is really frustrating to me. The key piece, the giveaway of 3 players for a player that amounts to another Paul Maholm type… just not the right move. I would have addressed the real weakness which was clearly the bottom of the lineup – C / SS. In spite of the recent success of Barmes – giving up talent would have been best served to go after significant upgrades there.
    Anyway, what’s done is done – he said he’d be evaluating and he needs to start with himself and his advisors because Wandy for those prospects was about as far away from a contender’s big closing move as you can get.

    • whiteAngus

      i dunno. wandy is the type of guy you go for at a deadline. we only gave up Grossman, him being the only real prospect, for a quality LHP and Houston is paying a great deal of his salary to boot.
      barmes was signed to be a defensive stopper, and he has earned that money despite his worst offensive season yet. i can see the team shopping for a SS but lets be honest, they arent going to find one.
      wandy is now a maholm type. i have no problem with that. maholm would still be with the Bucs if he didnt have that $9MM payment due to him for 2012. wandy will probably be gone if he gets too expensive as well. thats just the way it is, ya know.

      • What???? Wandy sucks and has been on the decline last 3 years and we gave up a legit prospect for him. Qualls was about to be released and we gave them McGehee and cash!!!! Not to mention that we have better RP in AAA. I don’t mind Sanchez or Snider trade but Wandy trade was just an absolute joke.

        • john.alcorn

          You may want to review Wandy’s numbers. He has been our 2nd best SP since arriving. 3.78 era 1.27 whip 5-4 W/L. Almost identical numbers to what he was putting up in Houston.

        • whiteAngus

          how does Wandy suck? a quality LHP that cost one prospect who was passed by Polanco on the depth chart? AND houston pays part of the salary???
          i didnt understand the Qualls aquisition either, but mcgehee, whom i liked, was not needed after aquiring Sanchez. im guessing the team decided they could fix Qualls and didnt want to rely on rookie arms during a playoff hunt.

        • Lee Young

          Don’t like Qualls (would’ve preferred Morris), but losing Casey was no big deal!

          Btw, how many of these moves can we attribute to Hurdle saying “I want this and I want that?”.

          • whiteAngus

            maybe a few. NH probably aquired Qualls and Takahashi on his own; veteran arms for a tired bullpen or something.

    • So, why with these players getting better haven’t the Pirates even won 82? Or will next year be when the suddenly great pitching, defense and hitting happen? They didn’t even bother to get to the end of the collapse to evaluate, they looked at each other and said ‘all is well’.

      • whiteAngus

        because those same players got them 16 games over, thats why. but they aquired wandy, snider and sanchez before the collapse, they didnt just sit on their hands. what are they going to do? trade half the farm for 2 months of Chase Headley???

  • RandyLinville

    I’ve written it before and I will write it again: if you had told me in March that this team would compete into September for the fifth wild card spot, I would’ve been happy.

    But if you had told me the day NH was hired that in five years the club would still be mediocre and fail to win an as of yet to be created fifth wild card spot, I would’ve been thoroughly against him coming on board.

    We are in both places at once. NH did such a poor job that my expectations were lowered coming into 2012. That is not a good thing.

    • TonyPenaforHOF

      Exactly! “Let’s Go Bucs” has become code for “We Suck Less!”

      • whiteAngus

        well, we do suck less. much less. we’re better now than we were with guys like Bay, Wilson and Duke. progress is progress, no matter how long it takes.

        • TonyPenaforHOF

          I agree that progress can be good – but achievement
          is most important.

          All us Pirate fans are so use to bad teams and terrible
          front offices, we can’t distinguish between excellence and barely average.
          Today the Pirates are barely average. For the amount of time and money invested
          the product at all levels should be much better.

          Look at the Brewers – they did it in a shorter amount
          of time and have found ways to sustain it.

          • I’ve never bought the “Pirates fans only know bad teams” argument. You can easily look around the league and see what good teams are doing and how they got there.

            • TonyPenaforHOF

              Tim, please don’t take offense but the reason you don’t buy that argument is because you don’t understand human development. Most people watch their favorite team a majority of the time. Anytime a human is subjected to a consistent stimulus it becomes “normal”. If you watch great teams – that becomes normal. If you work in a great place – that’s normal. If you are in an abusive relationship – that’s normal to you. Until something comes along to refute the “new norm” as not normal it becomes the accepted practice.

              Pirates fans need an intervention. We are hooked on a bad product, but we keep watching and paying for it. Kind of surprising since most of us are also Steeler and Penguin fans. Look at the fit many of my fellow Steeler fans have over every little detail. For pete’s sake, the Steelers won 12 games made the playoffs and FIRED their offensive coordinator! As Tomlin says “The Standard is the Standard”.

              But the Pirates get a pass for not being as bad as they were under Littlefield?

              Five years, the most money spent in the draft in MLB history, a farm system with few prospects drafted after the first round, weak fundamentals and a MLB team that is about to not only set the record for consecutive losing seasons but a new record on how they did it!

              But hey – the standard is the standard. For the Pirates it’s just much lower.

          • whiteAngus

            brewers did it by the draft. once the team started winning, they started spending. and they are hot right now, not necessarily good, and their system is not stocked for a future run.

            • TonyPenaforHOF

              Point 1 = Exactly – and if our drafts were outstanding, not just a little below average – we would have players coming up from the minors ready to make positive contributions. Instead look at what we have.

              Point 2 = My reference to the Brewers is over the last 4 years, not the last 4 weeks. From that view not only did they produce excellent players though the draft, they had a system strong enough to trade for some very good/great players. Today they aren’t stocked, but it is because of the trades, not the lack of talent or development in the players drafted.

              • whiteAngus

                over the last 4 years? they havent won a pennant, thats what they have done the last 4 years. their payroll has skyrocketed, they had to let Fielder walk and they traded the pitcher that was supposed to get them over the hump.
                sure they are better than us, but youre not really selling me that they have been run better in the last 4 years.

                • TonyPenaforHOF

                  Yes, much better. They have developed more players and won more games. That’s the job of the GM.

    • Lee Young

      Randy….ahh yes…the ‘5 year plan’. NH NEVER said it would only take 5 years.

      • The only people who ever talked about a “five year plan” were fans and windbag columnists.

        • Lee Young

          they’re called “Talking Heads” for a reason!


      • It should have taken less if he knew what he was doing.

        • whiteAngus

          ridiculous. the team is leaps and bounds better than it was before he started and nearly became a playoff team just 2 years after losing 100 plus. yeah, NH hasnt a clue.

    • whiteAngus

      when you start off with nothing, how long do you think it should take to end up with something?
      the team, and franchise, has taken big steps over the last two seasons: much improved play from our core group, attendence has jumped, depth in the minors is at an all time high… yet NH has done a poor job?
      trades: Pirates only really had Bay and at the time the trade was considered bountiful. tell me, what did the Twins get for Johann Santana?
      draft: The nationals got the #1 overall picks in two seasons where there were actual consensus #1 picks, with Strasburg being arguably the best #1 ever. Pirates were still able to draft very well and do have talent to show for it. It takes an average of 6 seasons before most minor leaguers stick with a major league team, and NH has only had 5 drafts.
      free agents: its tough to get free agents to come to the Burgh. not only with the history of losing and lack of funds, but the city isnt really a diverse melting pot of cultures. the attempt of signing guys like De La Rosa and Edwin Jackson, and probably Oswalt as well, proves that you can throw gobs of money at some people and even they wont wear black n yellow.
      NH, in my opinion, has done a fine “overall” job as GM. he has taken chances and not played it easy. he overhauled the whole system and it has slowly shown progress towards a possible great future. the problem most have is that its going much too slowly for their tastes.

      • Well said.

      • Lee Young

        WhiteA….Agree….we are definitely in the minority, tho.

        • whiteAngus

          thanks. its tough being the outsider, but its because i dont bleed “black n yellow”. i do however understand how poor the pirates were run after 1992. i understand that the entire franchise was nearly in financial ruin. i get how it takes time to build up from within.
          this makes me an outsider, and im fine with that.

      • RandyLinville

        DL didn’t do a good job. He didn’t leave much to work with. But NH did a poor job turning over the ML roster. The result is that he has had to sign crappy free agents to fill in while we hope the drafts work out.

        Top five WAR seasons ( of the players NH traded away (leaving Bautista out and he went 2.7, 6.6, 7.7 and 3.2 in the last four years) :
        Bay 2009 – 4.9
        LaRoche 2012 – 3.2
        Morgan 2011 – 3.1
        Burnett 2010 – 1.9
        Gorzelanny 2010 – 1.8

        Top five WAR seasons of players acquired in the various deals while NH took apart the team.
        Karstens 2011 – 2.3
        Hanarahan 2011 – 2.3
        Ohlendorf 2009 – 2.2
        Andy LaRoche – 2.1
        Morton 2011 – 1.6
        Ohlendorf 2010 – 1.6

        You are reading that correctly – Nyjer Morgan’s best season is better than any season of any player NH acquired when he dismantled the team.

        Still want to defend his trade record when the team was dismantled? I’ll keep going.

        Adding up the WAR earned by dealt players (again leaving out Bautista) and you get 23.3. With Bautista it is 43.4. Adding up the WAR earned by the acquired players and you get 5.5. That’s it – 5.5.

        This club needs Karstens, Hanrahan and Tabata to earn nearly 20 WAR over the rest of their career for these trades – independent of Bautista and with no additionally WAR from LaRoche – to simply be break even. That’s three seasons each of 2.5 WAR when none of them have earned a 2.5 WAR in a single season as of yet. You throw Bautista’s numbers in and this is insurmountable. Big time ugly fail. Not sure how this can be viewed any differently than that.

        But DL left the cupboard bare, right? Not enough good players to trade, right? How much did NH really have to work with? I’ve used the Brown/Thrift deals as a comparison which many people didn’t like. And here I go again.

        Here are the top five WAR seasons by the second tier talent acquired in those deals (taking out Bonilla, Van Slyke and Drabek)

        Lavalliere 1987 – 2.8
        Bream 1986 – 2.5
        Bream 1990 – 2.5
        Dunne 1987 – 2.3
        Reynolds 1989 – 2.1
        LaValliere 1988 – 2.1

        Here are the top five WAR seasons by the players dealt by Brown/Thrift
        Reuschel 1988 – 3.4
        DeLeon 1991 – 3.2
        Rhoden 1988 – 2.9
        DeLeon 1989 – 2.8
        Reuschel 1989 – 2.6

        So, having roughly the same talent level (with Bautista the modern crop is clearly better, without him the 1980s crop has an edge but it is close), the second tier of players acquired by Brown/Thrift is better than the best players that NH acquired. Read that again: the second tier of talent acquired by Brown/Thrift is better than the best players that NH acquired. You throw the three studs into the numbers and it is pretty clear that NH did an awful job of turning over talent.

        Again, I’m not sure how this is a debate. But here is another way of looking at this. In 2012 when the players NH acquired should be better than the aging/decling guys he dealt, the WAR value in 2012 for the dealt players was 3.6. For the acquired players it was 0.6. Last year the traded players had an edge of 12.5 to 7.3. In 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990 the acquired players were greater than or within 0.1 WAR of the players that Brown/Thrift had sent packing.

        Sure, DL could’ve left behind something greater. But it was incumbent upon NH to get good players in return. He failed. Badly. And he has had to rely on a series of subpar free agent signings. I’ll say it one more time: there is no debating that NH did a poor job turning over the roster. He did not get back even an equivalent value let alone improve the team. Had he gotten even one impact bat, this club would be dramatically better. The 2012 team suffered because NH did a terrible job of turning over the roster. Do you know how many free agents got more than 25 at bats on the 1990 Pirates? Two guys – Wally Backman (361 PAs) and Dann Billardello (43 PAs). Know why? Because Brown/Thrift/Doughty did a good job of bringing in talent from the outside via trades and that was with a really bad miss on the Rick Reuschel trade.

        NH failed horribly in this regard. The numbers bear this out – even without Bautista. That anyone continues to debate this is beyond me. Acknowledge this to be a fact and let’s move on.

        I’ve said openly that the minors are better than they have been. But I think the bulk of that is the obvious early first round picks and the Latin American effort. Credit NH for that. But, DYK that DL had four top 20 BA prospects on one team? The 2004 Lynchburg club had Duke, Gorzy, Eldred and Rajai Davis – all of them ranked in the top 20 at the end of the season. So, while many people giving NH some deserved props for getting four in the top 20 at the GCL, DL has been criticized for his poor drafts/development while having four players in the top 20 at a couple of levels higher in the minors. I think the minors are better, but not by as much as they should be given that the team has been emphasizing them (finally) to the extent that they have. That’s an opinion and only time can tell whose opinion is correct.

        • whiteAngus

          first of all: well done. great research.
          second: this is our best season in over a decade. NH has more to do with that than you give him credit for.

          • RandyLinville

            I’ve given credit where I think it is due and have readily acknowledge NH>DL. NH hasn’t done enough to retain his job. The best season in a decade is mediocrity. The club should be better than it is. The fact that it is not rests squarely on the FO, IMHO.

        • Lee Young

          Randy…good research, but I feel NH’s work needs to be measured more below the majors, than at the majors. If you just go by W-L, he’s been pretty darn crappy.

          I’m going by how he’s built up the minors. That is where he’s done a pretty good job, imho!

          • RandyLinville

            Lee, I hear what you are saying, but I think the GM needs to be accountable for the whole org, not just the minors. I also don’t think there is as much depth in the minors as we all want to believe – that’s my opinion and hopefully I’m wrong. If we love the job NH has done with the minors. Then, let’s axe Stark, demote NH to his spot and hire a different GM.

            • whiteAngus

              youre demotion of NH says that you just really dont like the guy at all. just let him go completely if you must.
              and again, it was a total rebuild. it didnt start before NH arrived, it started not long AFTER he arrived. from short season ball all the way to the majors.
              if you thought the MLB team would turn around faster then you have no idea the complexity of NH’s dismantling.

              • RandyLinville

                I’m not the one suggesting he be judged primarily on the state of the minors – that was Lee. Let’s be clear: I think NH should be fired. I have nothing against the man personally. I don’t think he has done a good job as GM.

                After 20 years of futility, I’m pretty sure my grasp of the complexity is solid.

                • whiteAngus

                  and im not saying you did. you just seem to think that a rebuild doesnt include the MLB team. he had to rebuild the whole damn thing from scratch, and damn if the cake didnt nearly rise to perfection in 2012.

    • I hear that. I figured this team was, at best a mid 70’s win team. Even though that looks like what it will be(unless God answers my prayers), the collapse of this magnitude had NEVER happened before. Hard to say that in baseball. Of course, no Franchise had ever lost 18 and then 19 and then 20 consecutive seasons. The Pirates had never gone more than 33 years between times in the world series. And on, and on, and on.

  • dropkickmurphys

    I wish I had a job that gave me six years to prove what I could do. I spent my entire adult life in the military. I spent about 2 years in each job. At best, I had six months to prove I could be successful or I was done. My last assignment were probably as difficult as NH’s. I commanded or ran organizations that were as large or bigger than the Pirates. I managed budgets that were much larger than the Pirates. I don’t want to hear how difficult it was for him to be successful. But enough about me, that isn’t the standard by which NH should be measured.
    Improvement in sports in just measured on how the team did compared to last year. Sports is about competition. Improvement is measure by how often your team is beating the other team. Granted there are other factors, such as organizational development and talent acquisition from outside the organization, but it still comes down to what happened on the field record. The Pirates still haven’t had a winning season in 20 seasons.
    NH has been in charge since late 2007. He’s finishing his fifth losing season. He’s been on the job for five years and the Pirates standard for improvement is a sub .500 season. When do we stop blaming DL and start looking at NH? When is the industry standard the metric by which NH is evaluated.
    Tim, you like to make the argument that it takes 5 years to evaluate a draft or evaluate NH because of what DL left and the argument is that he should have six years. I disagree. I follow one team almost as closely as the Pirates and you can see from them, not only how quickly one can turn a team around but how one GM can evaluate talent better and develop it quicker than NH.
    Mike Rizzo took over as GM of the Nationals about 18 months or one baseball season after NH. Before becoming the GM, he was the AGM in charge of scouting and player development. He ran the Nationals draft process. If we use NH’s first draft and compare his drafts to Rizzo’s we see a big contrast. Since 2008, Rizzo has drafted: Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore, Tommy Milone, Steve Lombardozzi, Strasburg (granted a no brainer), Drew Storen, and Bryce Harper (a no brainer that the Pirated didn’t have on their top ten) all of whom are playing and contributing on some level in the majors. If you go back to 2007, Rizzo’s first draft with the Nationals, you can add Ross Detwiler, Jordan Zimmermann, and Derek Norris to the list. Three of his picks, Norris, Milone, and AJ Cole were part of the package that allowed them to get Gio Gonzalez; a much better return than Wandy for Robbie Grossman (who I was really sorry to see dealt).
    Since 2008, NH has drafted and developed major leaguers like: Pedro (pretty much a no brainer), Mercer, D’Arnaud, Hague, Justing Wilson, and Brock Holt. Granted, the Pirates have Cole and Taillon in the minors, but then again when you consider that Espinosa, Storen, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, Strasburg and Harper are all 25 or younger, its easy to see why they don’t have a lot in the minors right now.
    In about the same time that NH has been the GM, Rizzo has drafted and developed four MLB starting pitchers (counting Milone with the A’s), a starting second baseman, a starting outfielder and a closer. NH has drafted and developed a starting third baseman and four players who have been called up but contributed little. In terms of quality and quantity, NH hasn’t developed as many or as good major leaguers as Rizzo and they’ve had about the same amount of time. That is the industry standard by which NH should be evaluated, not because the team didn’t lose as much last year.
    This is the lack of standards or using the wrong standard, of which I speak about the Pirates. They haven’t won in NH’s employment. They’ve only made progress when compared to their own crappy past. But even if you exclude their crappy past and current not as crappy record, there are still industry standards to show why NH shouldn’t be around. Even if NH is making progress, he hasn’t done it fast enough or made enough progress in the time he’s had. And as the comparison to Rizzo (and I could do the same with Beane, Friedman, Jockety, and Duquette but I don’t follow them closely) shows, winning can be achieved in the time NH has had. The problem is the Pirates either have no standard or don’t have the right standard.
    If one accepts mediocrity as the standard, then mediocrity is about all that the organization can achieve. Right now, at least to me, if the Pirates have any standard of measure, at best its mediocrity. NH has had 5 years to build a winner and he hasn’t. More than a few others have done it in the same amount of time or less. Giving NH six years to make or break himself is an example of the Pirates failed leadership and NH’s inability to succeed.

    • Lee Young

      Two corrections:

      From Wikipedia, Rizzo did not become the GM until Mar 1, 2009. His first draft would’ve been that draft. That is the draft that he got Strasburg and Storen and Harper the next year. Bowden drafted before then.
      Nobody else from that 2009 draft has had any impact.

      Harper WAS on NH’s radar…you are clearly misinterpreting what he said at that time. He only said “we are looking at a group of individuals”, which is what *I* would expect him to say.

      I daresay that if DL had left our system a little less barren, we’d be farther ahead. Rizzo’s cupboard was NOT barren!

      A lot of luck goes into draft. Look at Jack Zduriencik of Seattle who has been on the job about the same time as NH. Doug Melvin gave him most of the credit for the Milwaukee drafts.
      However, Jackie Z has, so far, been unable to duplicate that same ‘luck’. Why is that?

      • whiteAngus

        plus the Nationals have much more money than the pirates which people also seem to forget.

      • dropkickmurphys

        Rizzo was the AGM. He was in charge of scouting and player development. He was in charge of the draft. You would have been amazed at how little attention Jim Bowden paid to the draft. He left it completely up to Rizzo. Of course, I just know the guy.
        No one else from the 2009 draft had any impact. Their closer and staff ace at the MLB level came from that draft and you are complaining about it? Drew Storen, selected after Sanchez, was their second pick overall and has been better than anyone from the Pirates 2009 draft. Two players contributing to a post season team? Who from the Pirates 2009 draft has contributed?
        Tony Sanchez was the Pirates top pick in that draft. If you go the Pirates web site, he’s 15th in their top 20 prospect watch. Go to the Nationals MLB site and you will see that Danny Rosenbaum is their 13th prospect. What does that tell you, especially when two players are already having success in the majors.
        A great GM once said, “luck is the residue of design”. One team has four home grown players in their starting lineup, three starting pitchers in their rotation and their closer. The other has no starting pitchers from within, got their closer from the other team and just three position players. Its not about luck…good or bad.

        • Lee Young

          Dropkick…I believe I mentioned Storen?

          As for your Rosenbaum/Sanchez comparison, 2009 was a very weak draft. I applaud NH for gambling on overslot players. After Ackley (and maybe incl Tate), there was no consensus pick, as Tim noted.

          Glad you know Rizzo…of course you wouldn’t be biased or anything!

          • dropkickmurphys

            I like him but that doesn’t effect how I evaluate him. That’s another good thing about the military. I don’t have to like someone to feel positive about them as a professional. The converse is also true.

    • The job Huntington took on in 2008 was the baseball equivalent of re-building Iraq after “Shock and Awe.”

      • Except that he was there in 2007.

        • He was hired after the 2007 season had ended. And one of his first moves after the start of the 2008 season was to cut the abysmal Matt Morris in spite of the $10 million albatross that David Littlefield had guaranteed to him.

        • Lee Young

          Oct ’07….takes awhile to get settled i..

      • dropkickmurphys

        Except that the Rays had a worse record in 2007. Baltimore and SF had similar records. The Rays have been to the series. The Giants won the series. Baltimore is about to make the post season. The Reds were only a handful of games better than the Pirates in 2007, and have clinched the division.

        • whiteAngus

          like i said above, the Rays were the worst team in baseball for their first 9 seasons. the Rays get 9 years and NH gets 5? fair???

          • whiteAngus

            the giants arent even in the conversation.

        • Lee Young

          The Rays were on YEAR 10 of losing!!!!!!

          Why do you conveniently ignore that?

          • whiteAngus

            the Rays also had 4 overall #1 picks in that timeframe. they also assumed Hamilton wouldnt be picked in the rule 5. they selected tim beckham over pedro alvarez. delmon young worked out great, eh? david price was a left handed strasburg. he would be sweet with the bucs too!!!
            my point is this: i was a Rays fan and became a pirates fan when PNC Park was built. i watched both teams stink up their joints. difference was this… the Rays stockpiled picks and trades while the littlefield era patched holes and ignored the international markets. the Rays were awful. when your best player is Randy Winn and your best arm was Tanyon Sturtze, youre gonna f-ing stink.
            the Devil Rays first season was filled with expensive free agents and they stunk. their first major signing was Matt White, a $10MM bust who never made the show. then the fans stopped showing almost overnight.
            they then starting pouring more funds into the draft and especially the international market. honestly they had more misses than actual hits. and some of their hits, like James Shields surprised everyone. hell, they even got lucky with trades like the one for Zobrist who went from mark belanger to brandon phillips almost overnight.
            all GMs, and i mean ALL of them, make mistakes. fans just remember the ones their own team makes, and thats not really fair. NH and his crew is the reason why the system is at its highest in decades. they deserve credit for the increased attendence. they deserve kudos for leaving Pedro in the lineup. they deserve some praise when Richie worked with Cutch on his new open stance in spring training.
            now NH also deserves criticism. barajas has seen better days. the bay trade flopped even though it was seen as a win when it happened. alderson has flopped.
            but all things considered, Huntington was a good choice to take over for Littlefield, and i appreciate the efforts he has put forth. is he the one to take us to the next level? I dont know. this coming offseason is his biggest challenge yet. 2013 spring will tell us if hes “the one”.

            • Lee Young

              I root for the Rays, too, so, like you I am familiar with their blunders.

              • whiteAngus

                yeah, and theyve made alot of them. but so has every other MLB team. for some reason, our fans on here think only the Pirates make mistakes.

    • whiteAngus

      the military has a budget of $550 BILLION dollars per year. the Bucs have maybe $50 Million at best.
      why even bring up military in this discussion? it has nothing in common with running a baseball team unless of course you count running on a beach with a telephone pole over your shoulder, which im sure happens on a daily basis in Dafur.

      • dropkickmurphys

        Because its about standards. To compare the Pirates to themselves and only themselves and claim progress is absurd. When evaluating any leader, one use established standards, metrics and recognized benchmarks for performance, as the military does.
        Its also about being realistic as it relates to timing. If someone had told you 5 years ago, that the Pirates wouldn’t have a winning record before 2013, would you think they should keep the GM, whoever it is? A six year free pass? I say again, I would love that job.

        • whiteAngus

          it depends on the job itself. this was a total rebuild from rookie ball on up to the majors, just like what the Astros are going through right now. its not like the redsox who rebuild by trading all of their talent to the dodgers then next season spending $100MM on replacements.

    • Completely agree. If he was a good GM we would be where the Nats are now. I don’t want to hear this crap about money, these were people they drafted that are producing at the MLB level and our draft guys are still in AA, AAA or sucking in MLB. Yes they went after Werth in FA but he isn’t the main reason they are in 1st place. Main reason is guys they correctly scouted and drafted. If we drafted anywhere close to as well as they do we would have a winning season and possibly playoffs.

      • whiteAngus

        we would have a winning record with Strasburg right now. just sayin.

        • No, they would still have him in AAA.

          • whiteAngus

            no, youre just being spiteful. strasburg is an elite talent. harper, however, would still be in the minor leagues.

    • john.alcorn

      Come on, Strasburg and Harper were once in forever type talents. Rizzo got very lucky he happened to have the #1 each year. Rizzo has mad plenty of bad moves too, exhibit A is Werth’s terrible contract.

      • dropkickmurphys

        Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, and Danny Espinosa all contributing to the MLB team? Tommy Milone contributing with Oakland? Trading four home grown prospects for Gio Gonzalez? Really, just luck?
        I’ve always said that Werth’s contract was awful but guess what, he’s contributing. I’d rather have him than Barmes and Barajas.

        • Lee Young

          all those players drafted under Bowden’s watch.

          He traded for Gio…Bucs traded for AJ….it’s a wash.

          I am NOT denigrating Rizzo…just saying his cupboard was a little more well stocked than the Bucs.

          • dropkickmurphys

            Jim Bowden had nothing to do with the draft. He handed that off completely to Rizzo. I know this because I know Bowden somewhat. A family member was one of his special assistants. A family friend was and is an AGM/VP. I know one of the other AGMs. So when I write that it was Rizzo who ran the draft, I write from experience.
            Gio is more than a little better than AJ. He will also be around a lot longer than AJ. He’s also signed to a very team friendly deal. Its hardly a wash.
            There is also Wilson Ramos. Although he’s out this year, he’s been very productive. He was obtained for Matt Capps. What did NH get for Matt Capps.
            Then there is the trade for Michael Morse. Have the Pirates traded anyone as a bad as Ryan Langerhans and received someone who has produced as much as Morse? Again, hardly a wash when looking at trades.

            • F Lang

              Is Bowden as nuts as everyone thinks he is?

              • dropkickmurphys

                He’s a salesman. He’s a great guy to be around. If you want to talk baseball, he’s even better. But I wouldn’t trust him with anything. Give him a handshake and count your fingers on the return.

            • whiteAngus

              by trading Capps we inserted Hanrahan as the closer. winner- Bucs.

            • Lee Young

              So, if Rizzo has been handling the draft since 2006? So, he is a year and a half ahead of NH (Hired Oct 2007)? According to your logic, he should’ve been canned, since the Nats have been bigtime losers up until this year?

              Like I said, I am not denigrating Rizzo, its just that his and NH’s positions are apples and oranges, imho.

              Neal should be compared to Jack Z in Seattle or even Dayton Moore in KC (who just completed his 6th year).

              • Lee Young

                ‘so, Rizzo has’…ignore the ‘if’….:(

              • whiteAngus

                can you imagine the Bucs if we selected first on the Strasburg and Harper drafts??? Strasburg alone would have us with a winning record right now.

              • dropkickmurphys

                He only took over as GM in 2009, a year after NH. As I stated, he’s had more success in a shorter time than NH. Why would they fire him as the AGM, when given the context of his job, player development, scouting and the draft, he was doing a good job?
                Apples to apples, he’s doing a lot better than NH. Using an objective standard, he should be retained and NH should not.
                As another poster mentioned Moore and Z, they both should have been fired before NH.

      • F Lang

        I know, the Pirates can’t even lose right! You’d think in one of the 2 years we could have lost just the few more games needed to get one of those two guys. Though NH said he would draft Harper over Taillon. Taillon is gonna be nice but you would have needed to take Harper there. I would be sick right now if we had a chance to get Harper and didn’t take him. 4.1 WAR as a 19 year old!

        • F Lang

          …of course if we had Harper he would still be in the minors preserving his fa clock for the next gm.

          • whiteAngus

            except Harper had a MLB contract. even Cole doesnt have that.

    • Very well stated. Neil has, at best, been mediocre. Just like playing jobs, there are only so many GM jobs of teams. It shouldn’t be considered to go to guys who are below average, when the Pirates admittedly have smaller resources than many, need guys well ABOVE average. Does anyone really think Neil is brilliant? Ownership needs to take their job seriously, same old Pirates should be retired by evidence, not hope.

      • dropkickmurphys

        You hit the nail, dead center on the head. I’ve stated for a long time, on other forums, that even if NH is no better than a good GM, that isn’t good enough to succeed in Pittsburgh. The Pirates need a great GM. I think everyone agrees that NH is not and will not be a great GM.

        • whiteAngus

          what percentage of teams have a great GM? for the money he is given, Beane is one of the best, but even he has had down years recently.

        • Nor will he ever be as good as he thinks he is, and his apologists think he is. The fevered defense of him is Helsinki Syndrome.

          • I think it’s ironic that you chalk my writing up to knee jerk reactions and being an apologist. I wrote this article hours after the announcement. That gave me plenty of time to think it all over and get my thoughts in order on the subject, which is the opposite of “knee jerk”. And immediately after reading it, you quickly posted about it being a “full apology”.

            So which one of us is making knee jerk reactions, and which one of us has the bias? Everything you say is negative. It’s predictable, to the point where I know what you’re going to say before I finish writing an article. I point out the negative and the positive. This article, which has both, is an example. I also take my time writing something, rather than rushing to write an article on a subject. This avoids knee jerk reactions, and allows me to think of things I wouldn’t have initially thought of. Yet you comment immediately on those articles, which is the definition of a knee jerk reaction.

            • RandyLinville

              Tim – I think this type of reaction is one of the reasons you get so much grief from people, especially at the CIA board. I understand that you don’t enjoy having someone claim your position is knee jerk. But to then turn around and claim that John’s response to your post is a knee jerk is off base. Don’t you think that’s a bit pompous? I mean, the suggestion that John’s comments to your post are knee jerk implies that the only time he has spent ruminating on the topic is when he read your post. While you were taking your time in writing this article, isn’t it possible that John was talking this over with friends, bouncing it around on twitter, posting and reading opinions on message boards and/or reading what other bloggers/mainstream media had written (in addition to being formed over the five years that NH has been at the helm)? Isn’t it possible that his opinions – although different from yours – are formed from an equal or near equal amount of thought being given to them? I think he was off base in calling your post knee jerk. But you are also off base in turning the argument back around on him. I think it is arrogant to suggest that your readers don’t put some time into their analysis/opinions and I think this is partly why pockets of Pirate fans have such little respect for all the work and effort you put forth in covering the team.

              • I could care less about whatever grief I get from people, so that’s of no concern to me. I get amused by it for the most part. Maybe that’s “pompous”, but I’m totally fine with that. You can’t avoid negative reactions to your work or even to you.

                In this case I was bringing up how it’s ironic that I’m being accused of knee jerk reactions, which are coming in the form of knee jerk reactions to my article. There’s no consideration that maybe I’m writing this because my reasons are valid, and not for hidden reasons like apologizing.

                Ultimately I don’t care what anyone thinks. John disagrees with me on a lot. That’s fine. I’m not trying to change his mind or criticize him for thinking any different way. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about anything. You’re off base assuming that I’m trying to suggest anything about how much time the readers put in to their thoughts, or trying to criticize the way they view a subject. I don’t care what the readers think. I respect that everyone has an individual opinion, and I assume that they came to their opinion for valid reasons, just like I came to my opinion for valid reasons. I’m not going to get worked up because someone has a different opinion than I do.

                I just continue to find it ironic and amusing that John (and a few other people) always have these same posts on my articles, accusing me of knee jerk reactions or apologizing (and you never see these comments on the negative articles). So I’m just pointing out the irony. John has made these comments in several articles over the last few weeks. That assumes he’s on the other side of each issue. So which one of us is having a “knee jerk” reaction if we are both on different sides of an issue every time? Personally I think it’s just that we have different opinions, and that’s all there is to it.

                • I really don’t have the same opinion on your first pitch articles. Read up on it sometime!

              • Actually, I read this sight because I love what Tim does covering the minor leagues. No one does it 1/10th as good. And I’ve been a Pirate fan forever. But I call it like I see it. It hasn’t been just this year when you talk about Pirates management. Neil Huntington has been arrogant, along with Coonelly. Completely dismissive about whatever criticism comes. I know that isn’t how great management works, I’ve worked long enough to know that. I’m not interested in an endless war of words, I’m too old for that. Unlike the many minions on both sides, I’m not some cutesy term, I’m John Lease. I don’t hide behind that, the picture of my twitter handle is me sitting on my sister’s back porch at her house in Hampton Township. I’m way too emotionally involved with the Pirates to be dispassionate. But I can look at them objectively enough, I believe, to have an opinion of worth. I’ve been right and wrong. Ask me sometime how I felt about Jimmy Anderson.

            • Really? I find it predictable that whatever bad news coming out from the joke of an organization that is the Pirates is defended. Also checking out what the OTHER defenders of the faith write makes sure of group conformity. Why do I comment immediately? I love the stupid Pirates. Love them. Loved them enough to go to Friday’s game. Loved them enough to be ENRAGED watching them go thru the motions to be no-hit by Homer Bailey. I’m SICK of the losing. Incremental process in the minor leagues doesn’t cut it with me. It’s past time for excuses, it’s time for results. Did you see the game Friday? In the 8th inning, Brandon Phillips was credited with a hit (if it changed since then I don’t know, just got back from Pittsburgh). It was a grounder that Alvarez should have gotten to, that Barmes got and made a leaping throw to Jones, which he missed trying to dig out. Had he caught it, Phillips would have been out, so how that is a hit is beyond me. The Pirates complete dis-interest in the game was palpable, right down to the manager. Once it looked like a no-hitter was happening, suddenly Hurdle starts putting in lefties? Tabata jogs it out twice, time to put in Snider?

              I want real results from my team, not pie in the sky. I’ve had my fill of that. Excuse me if I am negative. The Pirates aren’t going to have a winning season, for the 20th year in a row. They went thru the most EPIC collapse in ML history (assuming one more loss) this season.

    • szielinski

      “Improvement in sports in just measured on how the team did
      compared to last year.”

      For ML teams, it’s best to measure improvement by looking at
      the talent in the organization as a whole. Players like Strasburg and Harper,
      players who quickly make the ML and succeed, are rare. Like any outlier, they
      do not provide a standard to which others must aspire. The Coonelly-Huntington
      Pirates have proven themselves to be good enough as talent acquirers. Good
      enough should not be considered a synonym for excellent and it surely
      contradicts the claim that the Huntington regime has failed to acquire talent.
      The Pirates talent acquisition people should have done a better job. But they
      did not fail to the point where they ought to be fired. They actually did not fail at all given the whole body of their work.

      “…it still comes down to what happened on the field record.”

      I’d say that Pirates prospects for having a winning are
      looking up and forward right now. The great risk is if possible Number One
      starters like Cole, Taillon and Heredia fail to produce because of lack of
      talent or injury. If those players fail to produce, the recent drafts will have
      been in vain.

      • dropkickmurphys

        I agree with your theory but completely disagree with your execution of it. Even wholistically, this team isn’t close to where it should be. The starting pitching is a mess, as evidenced by it failure in the last two months. They have two automatic outs in the lineup. They have no hitters anywhere close to being MLB ready. While they have two good pitchers, they are as yet unproven. NH’s two best position players were drafted by DL. And their primary product, the MLB team has lost every year under NH. Organizationally, that’s not good and its only progress when compared to themselves.
        Again, I can point the Reds, O’s, A’s, Rays and Nationals who have progressed more and generally in less time than we should give NH. NH is only progressing when compared to himself. That’s not how we evaluate people or organizations. Well, unsuccessful organizations do it that way.

        • whiteAngus

          dude, it took the O’s nearly a decade and a half to win. granted, thats faster than the Bucs, but cmon.
          the Rays were awful for 9 years and built up draft picks. they traded off any and every veteran for young players and most of them stunk up the Tropicana. sound familiar? they traded their best player for a manager. how come the Rays get 9 years while NH gets 5????????
          I’ll give the A’s some credit. they took chances on players that NH could have aquired, but those numbers may not have translated as well in the National League. but who knows?

          • dropkickmurphys

            Gentlemen (I’m answering both of you with one post),
            Lets compare apples to apples. The current GMs of those teams turned them around much more quickly than our current GM. All of you are comparing NH’s time with the entirety of multiple GMs on other teams. When you compare apples to apples, you will see that we have the bad apple.

            • whiteAngus

              no, no,and no. your only comparing the time frame and not the situation.

          • F Lang

            I don’t know what happened with the Orioles because I still don’t think they are good. They win a lot of close games and then get clubbed 10-2. I feel like the Orioles kind of had everything go right…good for them…but I don’t see them being good again next year without getting more talent. But what do I know?

        • Lee Young

          It took the Rays longer than 5 years to turn it around. Like the Bucs, they started from nothing! It took them 10 years!

          Also using the Reds, O’s and Nationals are NOT good comparisons, either. I could debate this all day, but I fear you’re gonna believe what you want to…and there isn’t anything wrong with that. I just happen to believe, like some others here, that NH has us on the right track!

          If our starters hadn’t collapsed and we had finished with 82-85 wins, there wouldn’t be as much crying here as there is, I bet.

          • F Lang

            The Royals also Lee..they were ahead of the Bucs and now it looks like the Bucs have moved ahead of them in rebuilding. I think the fo should deserve some credit for tempering their enthusiasm and not giving up a marte or taillon or both down the stretch.

    • BlueBomber72

      Good point. You could also look at the Reds. Walt Jocketty completely turned them around in the same time span.

      • whiteAngus

        reds we’rent as barren as the pirates and you know it. but lets see how well they are when they are paying Votto and Chapman a bazillion dollars with the rest of the team full of triple A fodder because they cant afford to sign anyone else.

        • BlueBomber72

          Who are you, Neal’s girlfriend? Nationals have money, Reds weren’t bad enough. Obviously you think he’s doing great, but I think the point some are trying to make is it doesn’t need to take 6 years to build a .500 team. I never liked the guy, I didn’t think he was the best man for the job, and then I thought he could have done way more with the assets he started with in ’08. He failed on the quick re-build and now has twice failed to get competitive teams what they need to stay in contention. He’s spent a lot of money of the draft, but to what end? Do we need to discuss Neal’s FA signings? I’d get someone in there now who has a clue on how to build a winning team for next year, not for 2017.

          • whiteAngus

            what quick re-build are you speaking of??? this did not exist.
            youre hatred of NH’s free agent signings are valid but forget one crucial thing: no one wanted to come to play for a rebuilding team, especially in the Burgh.
            the pirates didnt have any assets other than Bay when the trading started. the performances of these assets since the trades have proven this. the only one who excelled was Bautista who nearly got DFAd by the Jays until he finally opened his stubborn ears and did what his coaches asked.
            i think the real problem is that you have a wicked awesome Xavier Nady black n yellow pullover that you cant wear in public without a tear strollin’ down yer cheek.

            • BlueBomber72

              It’s actually my sleeveless Bay jersey that brings a tear to my eye. It’s a real beauty.
              Quick re-build would have been getting talent back for the ’08 team and not having to suffer through the ’09 and ’10 seasons. All old arguments. I’m on the side that thinks he could have done better. Poor scouting from day 1. I agree with you on Bautista.

              • whiteAngus

                NH is trying to build up the entire franchise, not try to win 82 games in 2008.
                he was going to lose Bay and the rest of the guys eventually to free agency. he could have waited longer to deal Bay and the trade is obviously a failure, but Bay was going to go no matter what.
                a complete rebuild was necessary. 2010 is long gone and the team has come back well since that stellar season. (snark). you dont rebuild an entire franchise and win immediately. the Rays didnt. and the Astros wont be.

  • Lee Young

    Tim…I agree with practically every thing you’ve written. Nice job!

    As you stated in another article, our starting pitching has collapsed in Aug/Sept. I wonder if our W/L totals would be switched, if not higher, had it not!

    • leadoff

      When you lose 3 of your starters and a core player (Walker) add a burned out bullpen and you pretty much have a collapse on your hands. No team going down the stretch lost the players the Pirates did. There is not a GM alive that could have foreseen these problems, then to throw the amount of rookies the Bucs had to into a pennant race spelled disaster. They are called rookies for a reason.

      • whiteAngus

        totally agree, brudder. especially about the rookie thing. the rookies are talented, but its called the Major leagues for a reason. its extremely hard to win with rookie players. we had cutch/walker/alvarez/tabata and quite a few other youngsters in 2010 and look at our record that season. yet, we still have quite a few of these guys on the current roster and they have a much better record just 2 years later. must walk before one can run.
        actually, this team must WALK more before we can get better. :-D

      • Lee Young

        agree with leadoff and whiteangus

      • dropkickmurphys

        Again, the Nationals lost their starting right fielder for three months, their starting left fielder for two months, their closer for half the season, their starting catcher for nearly all of the season, their starting short stop for three weeks, their starting third baseman for two weeks, and shut down, arguably their best starter for three weeks and yet they didn’t collapse. Not only did they not collapse, they continue to lead their division.
        Who did the Nationals put in for those reserves? By and large rookies. Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Jonatan Solano, Sandy Leon, and Steve Lombardozzi filled in when regulars were hurt. All three players were products of the Nationals system. In fact, Nationals rookies have hit 35 homers this year.

        • whiteAngus

          again, pitching win’s ballgames, and the National’s have pitched themselves into the playoffs.
          were you chirping about the Nats when they finished under 500 last season? with about the same record this team has?
          check out the payroll of the Nats before 2011 finished and see if they spent wisely. do you think the Pirates could afford to spend that much and not make the playoffs?????

  • dack2001

    The definition of a an apologist is someone who writes in defense of something, so i would consider your article here an example of apologetics. For bright guys i see a lot of the same lapses in logic employed here and at bucsdugout when reflexively defending the regime that has given the blogs unprecedented access (that may have nothing to do with it but considering the way this regime reacts to criticism i belive most journalists not to mention bloggers trade access for objectivity).

    To assume somehow that everyones who was available at the trade dealine’s performance would magically remain the same if playing on different teams (Victorino, Pence, Headly) or that Cutch’s performance wouldn’t be improved or hurt by their presence is a huge leap in logic unsupported by anything but your conclusion that Huntington couldn’t have helped the team anymore at the deadline. The fact of the matter is that Neal weakened the bullpen by bringing in Qualls, NO ONE from the minors was capable of helping in the roles they were given, dumping Bedard for Locke was foolish, moving Correia out of the rotation was foolish, Snider looks like a bench player going forward, giving away casey mcghee was totally unneeded and may have crippled this team…..about the only move that worked was bringing in Gaby Sanchez.
    So looking at the trade deadline alone, Neal absolutely did about as badly as he could have. He enabled a 16 game above .500 collapse and then stood by and deflected the blame to “bad luck”. Your player development evaluations may be more accurate but if you are judging Neal Huntington on his ability to mold pieces into a winner, I reject your argument. They should have taken the opportunity to dismiss him. Even if they don’t, they should bring in a senior advisor as this crew gives amatuer hour a whole new meaning as far as perception of comepetance goes.

    • whiteAngus

      i respect your opinion but, heh?
      snider > a bullpen arm
      sanchez > mcgehee… mcgehee is a great guy, but he barely even played.
      bedard > locke… but bedard wasnt the same after the hip thing and back spasms.
      and everyone wanted correia gone from the club. everyone.
      the collapse was caused by slumping from nearly everyone on the team EXCEPT kevin correia. wandy was part of that slump as well.
      NH got 3 players who could have possible futures with this club at the trade deadline with sanchez, snider and wandy, and we only gave up a bullpen arm and robbie grossman to do this. sure the team went downhill, but it wasnt because of the deadline deals. the whole team slumped at the same time and this is what killed the playoff run.

      • F Lang

        I never wanted Correia gone. We should probably sign him as insurance for next year if we can get him for the same price we had him at.

        • whiteAngus

          ummmmm, i dunno. i think its time to bring in another veteran arm and not KC’s arm. if mcdonald can be straightened out and mcpherson’s periph’s continue we could have a decent rotation. karstens is the wild card, but he may fill KC’s role much better than KC

    • The definition of a an apologist is someone who writes in defense of something, so i would consider your article here an example of apologetics.”

      Then that’s a ridiculous concept. If you’re going to be in the middle on an issue, there are going to be topics you defend, and topics you criticize. This article had both. Are you saying that if you don’t criticize everything, you’re an apologist?

      “For bright guys i see a lot of the same lapses in logic employed here and at bucsdugout when reflexively defending the regime that has given the blogs unprecedented access (that may have nothing to do with it but considering the way this regime reacts to criticism i belive most journalists not to mention bloggers trade access for objectivity).”

      I was going to respond to this, but it’s not worth my time.

      • leadoff

        Tim, right on! Could not have said it better myself.

      • How is ALWAYS saying that whatever negative thing that is reported isn’t that important, not being an apologist? Cite one time when a reporter reported something that was negative, that you agreed? It’s reflexive. Of course, it’s not as bad as some, but is that the standard? Just one more year, and we’ll be able to make a judgement. Actually, it’s been 5 years, and we are already able to make a judgement. Team torn apart? Not very good results from that, but it’s reasonable to say that it had to be done. Backup shortstop that can’t play short? Every year! And it goes on, and on. Money wasted on draft picks? Yes, but only the first year, it’s gotten better. I’d HOPE it’d get better. The whole point of being the GM is that you are supposed to be ‘ready’ from day 1. Unless you hire someone incompetent or in over their heads. Plenty of objective evidence for that.

        • ” Cite one time when a reporter reported something that was negative, that you agreed? ”

          The other day Ben Badler commented that there are some questions about their ability to add US talent. I agreed with that.

          • whiteAngus

            all of our top players and pitchers are US talent. our top prospects are also US talent since Marte is no longer in the mix.

            • whiteAngus

              cept for Heredia. forgot about him. :-x

            • Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco, and Luis Heredia are three of the top five prospects in the system.

              • whiteAngus

                cole and taillon and bell. before that was grossman and allie. but yeah, i didnt forget about hanson and polanco. my point is that nearly all of our MLB talent is american born.
                our top 1B prospect: american born
                top C prospects: american
                top P prospects: all but Heredia, american born
                all of our core “young” talent that led this team in 2012? american.

                • The comments by Badler were more about talent recognition. There are a lot of really good, high upside international guys emerging in the lower levels. And a lot of those guys were low bonus guys. If you compare that to how many middle to late round draft picks the Pirates have found, the international side clearly wins. There would also be some questions raised about the draft, which I noted in this article.

                  • whiteAngus

                    the emergence of 3 international guys doesnt mean that it overshadows the home grown aquisitions, especially since all 3 are lower level players right now.
                    however, when these 3 guys are still playing wonderfully in Altoona, i’ll admit I was wrong. the last few years were the Bucs banking heavily on US high school arms and for the most part failing miserably. the international talent still really only has these 3 guys. they have missed on cayones, lopez and quite a few others. so the Bucs are missing with their international signings just as much as their draftees.
                    for the record, im stoked about Hanson, Polanco and Heredia.

                  • whiteAngus

                    yeah, i can agree with this

                • Thunder

                  Nearly all of our MLB talent is American born, and other than Pedro, none of it drafted by Neal Huntington. Unless you want to count guys that don’t play, like Wilson, Mercer, d’Arnaud and Hague, and one that doesn’t have a position (Holt). Marte, Walker, McCutchen, etc., were in the system before NH got here. Past Cole and Taillon, where are the prospects in AA and AAA? Are you going to wait 3 or more seasons for a position player to make it up through the ranks? I’m sure you are all for giving the management team a 3 year extension at this point. Because it will be that long before another position player makes it through the system to play a significant role.

                  • whiteAngus

                    doesnt matter if its drafted by NH. walker was turned into a sucessful 2bman by, tah dah, NH’s crew. Cutch has become an MVP candidate because of, tah dah, NH’s crew.
                    trades could be made to bring in position players. hell, thats how we got Snider. thats how we got Gabby. both have years of control remaining and both could bring something to the table.
                    everyone acts like what we currently have is all we’ll have in 2013 and beyond, and thats just flat out incorrect.

      • F Lang

        You are right tim. It isn’t worth the time. Wandy has been good, Sanchez good, sure Qualls terrible but what about Hughes who has been worse and Grilli who has not been nearly as dominant in the 2nd half. They play 162 games for a reason…no excuse for a total collapse and this needs to be addressed but a return to the averages was coming whether anyone can wrap their brain around that or not. We are not going to turn it around until we get better at the top of the order (1 & 2 holes), control the running game, and add another couple of starters that can cary us 2-3 months to the mix. Cole and Taillon are coming. Let’s hope they are what they have the potential to be. Holding runners and other fundamentals are a major issue…I hope this gets addressed swiftly in the offseason. …and hopefully “Crazy Kyle” and anyone who mirrors his way of thinking is gone soon also. I have sent drunken emails to girlfriends at 3am that sound more sane than his email.

        • whiteAngus

          spot on, you are.

    • F Lang

      You missed the whole point of the article dack.

      • Lee Young

        he must be a ‘negatist’….lol

  • Excellent article, Tim. I agree with your conclusions.

  • Excellent arteicle, Tim. I agree with your conclusions.

  • leadoff

    I suppose the collapse is the only thing most people see when it comes to evaluating NH.
    At this point in time I think the big picture is still the best way to evaluate a GM, picking away at a deal here and there is wrong, a draft here and there is wrong.
    The best way to evaluate NH is to look at what they have and what they need going forward. If the needs going forward are far too many then after 5 years on the job, they should have made a move for a new GM. If the Pirates are a couple of players away from contending all year, then they should retain NH.
    Every move that the Pirates make is based on stats of some kind, if the stats don’t tell it like it is, it turns out to be a bad move, but they are betting the stats will be right more often than not. All GM’s make moves based on stats these days. So I find it hard to fire NH on the moves that he has made considering the constraints that he still has to work under compared to most GM’s.
    It is obvious to me that there is a problem with the field managing, something that can be corrected. The manager has to know he has more than 22 or 23 players on the roster and he has to play them. The team ran out of gas, maybe they wouldn’t have if the manager played more players during the year.
    The Braves manager blamed himself for the Atlanta collapse in 2011 and he said next year I will fix that, this year he said he did make changes to the way he manages and he is in the playoffs, maybe a manager does have something to do with a collapse, I think so.
    The Fundamentals of this team were so bad that even the novices of baseball figured it out, those fundamentals can be corrected, but not by learned teachers that don’t know how to teach.
    What they need more than a GM are teaching specialists, like a base stealing coach, a base running coach, a catching coach, that can teach footwork and balance. I would take these types of coaches any day over a head shrink in the organization any day.
    By the Pirates not firing any of their top management people they are telling us the problems for the collapse are either with the players or the coaches or both.

    • Lee Young

      I’m not a Hurdle fan at all! If not for a hot Sept in Colo, he’d be working on 10 losing seasons as a manager….great guy, but…..

  • We need guys in AAA to have breakout seasons, Polanco and Hanson are great stories but nowhere close to helping this team.

    • whiteAngus

      well, yeah. but check this out. most AAA rosters around MLB are filled with veteran tweeners who get called up when MLBers get hurt. this is common for every MLB squad. not many AAA team has breakout players because the quality of play is a huge step up for young guys.

  • So pissed that Morris didn’t get more of an opportunity.

    • whiteAngus

      you’ll get over it.
      the team is/was in a pennant race. rarely does a team throw a bunch of rookies, especially rookie pitchers, into the mix during a pennant chase. and lets face it, morris/wilson/locke/mcpherson arent exactly top notch prospect rookies to throw into said mix. its not a slam against them; all 4 could end up as good MLB pitchers, just to expect it right away is wishful thinking.

      • Better than pitching Qualls

        • whiteAngus

          i cant argue that.

      • Thunder

        The Pirates had 7 starts by pitchers 25 or younger this season (as of today). The Orioles had 62 starts by pitchers 25 or younger this season.

        • whiteAngus

          mostly by necessity. look at the numbers that their young pitchers have put up, and only chris tillman has shown progress. their bullpen, however, has been fantastic.
          before the pirates “collapse”, the Bucs had a better record than the O’s. how the o’s are winning is beyond me, but its amazing to see.

    • Lee Young

      Stephen….I’m with you on that. I think Tim was, too.

  • This FO is so dumb!!! If Ciriaco’s .294 average and .700 OPS this year turns out to be the real thing?? Of course it is!!!

    • Lee Young

      Yeh…they saw THAT coming!!!

      I wanted to keep Pedro, but his hitting that high had to be totally unforeseen!

      • Not if they had actually played him. He got like 6 AB’s a month.

        • whiteAngus

          remind me how Ciriaco has improved Boston’s record this year.

  • gonfalon

    A good balanced summary, Tim (though if it were up to me, I’d still probably fire the lot of them, along with Hurdle). Two minor points:

    “and only McDonald and Burnett snapped out of it in September.” .. I think you meant McCutchen, not McDonald.

    “The Pirates could have added a name like Victorino or Pence, but as it turns out, they would have been worse off with those two.” … not necessarily true, unless Victorino and Pence played the same exact schedule (e.g., faced the same pitchers) the Pirates played against after the deadline. Now I’m not saying the Pirates should have traded for either, but based on wins and losses, the Pirates were clearly a less talented team after the trade deadline.

    • Thanks for pointing out the McDonald/McCutchen mistake.

      I guess you could take that approach with Victorino and Pence, but both were struggling before the trades. Hard to imagine they’d turn things around in Pittsburgh and not SF or LA.

    • Lee Young

      Quite happy with getting Snyder over Victorino or Pence.

      Shane is gone in two weeks and Pence ain’t worth his money. I worked with a lot of Philly folks and they said he is vastly overrated.

  • leadoff

    IMO, the Pirates will make some organizational changes, the lack of solid fundamentals would fall on coaching, therefore I see coach’s at the major league level and the minor league level in trouble.
    On the major league level IMO they need another pitching coach and a batting coach to start with.
    I see most of the development problems starting at the major league level, players don’t come out of the minor leagues as finished products anymore, so the major league coach’s can’t just plug them and in and away they go, they are still in diapers when they get here.

  • F Lang

    I am hoping we finally turn it around next year and I have been a supporter of this fo but I have to say I have my torch and pitchfork ready for next year.

  • F Lang

    By the way, watching Morris yesterday. He has had some injury issues but I see a 95mph fb, something cutter/sliderish coming up there at a blazing 90, and a downer pitch at 85. He has starter stuff. I know he has never gotten the feel for the change but he is electric enough to get guys out for 5-6 innings. All the more reason to be scratching my head why he is not getting more innings in garbage time.

    • The 90 MPH pitch is his cutter. He just added it this year. It’s a variation of a slider. He added the slider last year, then turned it in to more of a cutter this year.

  • Paul Hartman

    Your analysis is extremely well thought out. You make a good case for keeping Huntington and company around for at least one more year. I agree and have been saying as much for the past two months, angry as I and so many fans are at the collapse, again, of this team.

    But a word of caution. You seem to be putting a lot of faith, hope and charity into two players, Hansen and Polanco. Yes, they had break out years, but they’re still young and very deep in the Pirates minor league system. IMHO, neither can be seen in the same light as, say a teenage Luis Heredia, who truly seems to have the makeup of an emerging star pitcher.

    And Alex Dickerson, with his Indiana background, would seem to be well on his way to becoming a useful if not star major league first baseman, able to hit left handers and right handers alike. But again, Dickerson is a different case from Hansen and Polanco.

    I don’t think this is any time to be hanging much credence on two players such as Hansen and Polanco, when they could very easily flop out at AA or AAA. Yes, they are encouraging, but how many times have we seen players at that level just never quite live up to expectations. Here’s hoping you’re right about them and that they both end up on the starting nine in Pittsburgh sometime in 2014!

    • I don’t see how Hanson and Polanco could be questionable, but Heredia can be seen as an emerging star. Hanson and Polanco had success one level higher.

      Heredia had the advantage of a big bonus, getting $2.6 M while Hanson and Polanco combined for $225 K. If either one of those guys got a huge bonus, we probably wouldn’t doubt their abilities right now. I don’t think what they did was a fluke. I was predicting good things from them before their breakout season, just because of what I saw throughout Spring Training, combined with their tools. I might even say they have a better chance of success than Heredia, since I usually feel that hitters have a better shot at making it than pitchers.

      • Paul Hartman


        Can’t disagree with your thinking on Hanson and Polanco, given your seeing good things coming into this season. As you know however, it’s entirely possible for a player to have tools, look good, have a breakout season below AA ball, then struggle from there.
        We’ve seen this under Bonifay, Littlefield and now Huntington. Unlike Littlefield, I’ll say this for Huntington and his two prospects – Hanson and Polanco – they have youth on their side and can blossom. Littlefield had so many older prospects playing against younger opponents during his rein and it often gave a deceptive picture of where his players really were.

        • I totally agree. The thing is, this ranking is already weighing that. I think their upside could ultimately make them the top prospects in the system. A lot of that is based on the idea that they could continue improving their game from here. They’re ranked where they are because they’re largely unproven. There’s the important jump to AA, and the additional upside that isn’t guaranteed.

  • azibuck

    >McKenry is better at blocking pitches than Barajas, based on their passed ball numbers.

    This not an appropriate measure for blocking pitches. Missing a fastball just off the plate is passed ball. A better measure is how many wild pitches were charged to pitchers for whom they were catching. If one gives up a lot of WP, he’s not good at blocking pitches. And the truer measure than that is, WP/all pitches in the dirt.

  • With all due respect to the military, no job in that organization below the rank of General is anywhere near as complex as that of a major league GM. Even Brian Cashman makes mistakes, he just has the financial resources to overcome them. The GM of a bottom-third revenue team like the Pirates has no such luxury, he has to perform to a near-impossible standard.

    And what does his job entail?

    Coordinating the drafting of about 40 players every year, who have played the game against inferior competition to what they will see in Rookie ball, and guessing which ones have the work ethic, character, and drive to develop into major leaguers.

    Overseeing the development of said players, through about 5 levels of developmental leagues. This requires him to walk the tightrope between keeping the players challenged and giving them too much at one time. It also entails finding the right instructors and coaching personalities for a diverse group of young men, some of whom need a pat on the back and others a kick in the a**, with yet others requiring both at different times.

    Attempting to plumb the depths of the trade market and free agency, to find missing pieces to fill out his major league roster, and then to get those pieces to agree to sign. Note that, at his budget level, he is basically required to forecast future performance of guys who have marginal big league skills.

    Trying to decide how to allocate salary budget over the next four or five years to (a) keep the players who will produce throughout their contract years, and (b) avoid the fatal mistake of committing money to players who will, for one reason or another, cease to be productive.

    Think you can do it? Hah!

    As far as Huntingdon’s performance, I grade him as:

    Draft B- / C+, with steady improvement.

    Development A Regardless of who, how, or where the players currently in the minors have been acquired, the Pirates had 6 of the top 100 prospects in baseball going into last year. Five of them progressed (counting Grossman, who became the key piece in acquiring Wandy) and the 6th (Josh Bell) was injured for much of the year. Two more guys (Polanco and Hanson) had breakout years, and will surely join the holdover pitchers in the consensus top 100 list. Few organizations can claim to have had as good a year in player development.

    Trades / Free Agency – C+ / B- Barajas and Barmes have been discussed to death. Bedard was also a failure, although for him it was apparently more a lack of wanting to be here. But there were successes, too. Jason Grilli and Kevin Correia have been solid for their entire tenures. Garrett Jones was an excellent low-budget FA signing. On the trade front: Joel Hanrahan – acquired for the forgettable Nyjer Morgan. Wandy and A.J. – their top two starters next year will have been acquired for a package of players the best of whom is likely to be Robbie Grossman. James McDonald – acquired for Octavio Dotel, Mike McKenry – acquired for a song. There have been bad trades, too, but the pieces above are enough to make up for a lot of errors. I also like acquiring Travis Snyder and Gaby Sanchez this summer, too – both are ML minimum types with some history of success.

    Salary Management – A – our “worst” contract next year is likely to be Barmes, but it is only one more year. There is future money to lock up any or all of Walker, Marte, Cole, Taillon, McDonald, and more if they choose to. And the Cutch deal is looking fabulous. If he has another year like this one, they should volunteer to add one year at $20 million to the end of his current deal as a thank-you, and as an incentive to others.

    So my grade for him is 13 of a possible 16 – I’d say that’s pretty good.

First Pitch

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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