Spikes Didn’t Offer Demands For Player Development

There have been a lot of confusing aspects to the State College/Pirates relationship, which ended last week when the Spikes signed a two year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. There have been a lot of conflicting reports, some speculation, and some comments taken out of context. As an example of the conflicting reports, I’ve seen that the Pirates wanted four years and the Spikes wanted two years. I’ve also seen that the Spikes wanted four years and the Pirates wanted two years.

One of the big misconception is that the Spikes were trying to offer suggestions for player development. In Rob Biertempfel’s piece about the Spikes moving on, he has the following comment.

Sources say the Pirates accepted very little feedback from the Spikes on things such as how to market the club.

Note that has nothing to do with player development. Yet the idea is floating around that the Spikes were offering feedback on the player development side. It might be because people took the “feedback” comment and applied it to every aspect of the team, including player development.

I spoke with Spikes General Manager Jason Dambach about this, and he noted that the Spikes never offered demands to the Pirates on player development. Whether it was pitch counts, player moves, on-field moves, or any other player development issue, the Spikes left those decisions up to the Pirates.

There was a lot of attention paid to the team record at the start of the year. However, that didn’t play a factor in the end, even though the Spikes had another losing season as a Pirates affiliate. The Spikes were still willing to sign a two-year deal as late as the deadline on Saturday at midnight, but by then the Pirates were moving in a different direction, obviously heading to Jamestown with the speculated move to Morgantown in the future.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, 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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  • wtmiller

    That wasn’t Biertempfel’s original piece. He originally wrote this:

    “Sources with the Spikes say the Pirates issued rules and requests — everything from how high players’ socks should be to pitch counts and innings limits — and accepted very little feedback.”

    Dambach himself explicitly complained in the media that the Spikes weren’t winning enough and explicitly threatened to move to a new affiliation if the team didn’t win more this year. Everything the Pirates do on the field at that level is player development, so that most definitely was a complaint about how they were approaching it. His comments now are inconsistent with what he said earlier and inconsistent with what Biertempfel originally wrote.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I didn’t see the original comment, so that makes a little more sense on how the connection could be drawn. However, the Spikes winning and player development are two different things. Player development deals with pitch counts, innings limits, what pitches to throw, etc. The Spikes were never trying to influence the player development side.

      Even with the “winning” comments in June, and another losing season, the Spikes were still willing to re-sign. I think it was blown out of proportion earlier. It was never “win this year, or we’re looking elsewhere”, even though it may have been presented that way. It was just that the Spikes were going to explore their options after the season, rather than automatically re-signing.

      • wtmiller

        “The Spikes were never trying to influence the player development side.”

        Biertempfel’s original post indicated otherwise. And I can’t imagine why he’d throw in comments about pitch counts and innings limits if whoever he was talking to didn’t bring it up.

        As for Dambach’s comments in June, I’ve never seen anything like that from a minor league affiliate. Coonelly told Corey Giger that those comments changed the Pirates’ thinking, and understandably so.


        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          There might be a reason Biertempfel changed it then.

          I’ve never seen those types of comments either. But then again, you don’t usually hear comments from minor league affiliates. It’s usually just an announcement when the deal is extended, or when the two sides split.

  • wtmiller

    Just to get the facts, here were Dambach’s comments:

    “We’re not one of these ownership groups that demands a winner every single year, but we haven’t even put playoff tickets on sale,” Spikes general manager Jason Dambach said. “We’ve never really even come close to the playoffs.

    “So the mandate has been put out there. We didn’t have a good team last year, and so it really doesn’t make any sense to re-sign with the Pirates until September, if we are to do that.”


    That’s most definitely a complaint about player development. And I’ll add that an affiliate ripping the parent organization in the media for not winning enough is something I’ve never seen before or since.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I don’t think that’s necessarily on player development. I think you can develop players and still win. The development approach in State College isn’t really much different from the GCL, West Virginia, or Bradenton. West Virginia has been losing, but the other two teams have won, even with the same approach.

      There were complaints about winning, but I don’t think you need to sacrifice player development to win. If you want to guarantee a winner, then you probably have to do that. But there were never any comments saying they wanted a guaranteed winner. Just that they weren’t satisfied with the lack of winning, and would consider other options.

  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    Morgantown? ANOTHER team in West Virginia? Great. I wish they’d feel a little more loyalty to the state they are in, rather than the owners home state. And that will make the travel that much more expensive, at least Jamestown is closer to the rest of the NY Penn league. Note that West Virginia isn’t in the name.

    • buccotime57

      morgantown is only and hour an twenty away from pittsburgh..a lot of pittsburgh citizens go to WVU..it would generate a lot of fan interest…

      • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

        And, it’s in the state of West Virginia. Along with Charleston. What, Wheeling need a team too? It adds to the travel budget to the NY PENN league, and adds to travel time. Who wants to make the bus trips longer? People in Morgantown can go to Pittsburgh.

        • buccotime57

          This new facility would be a massive improvement to the organization (jamestown is not a good facility)..the younger players would be closer to pittsburgh and if someone was promoted or demoted they would be closer to charlestown…it would also be under the control of the pirates…i am often jealous of clevelands system that is all in ohio except one(niles, akron, columbus, lake county)..morgantown would be close so people who were interested would go…do u have a differnt suggestion of somewhere to go? I mean washington/erie would be good but i am not sure it is possible.

          • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

            They were in State College, for goodness sakes. They also were in Williamsport for a long time. Morgantown just bleeds fans from Pittsburgh. If the current turmoil gets Kyle Stark fired, well at least that’s a silver lining. He is SO unqualified, it should mean Neil’s job too. I want REAL player development, not psychobabble and Seal training.

  • buccotime57

    Now if the pirates moved them to morgantown would that become the permanent home for the pirates…would they have to buy the jammers… do they own the marauders? It was my understanding they bought them and moved them…Do MLB teams own some minor league teams..i know most are independently owned

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