First Pitch: There Are Still Talented Coaches in the Pirates’ Minor League System

I wrote this a few times yesterday: Organizational philosophy does not equal organizational talent.

The Pirates have decided on Ben Cherington as the next General Manager, and on the same day fired Kyle Stark and Larry Broadway. The latter two oversaw a development system that had poor results when converting talent to the majors.

With those two gone, there are a lot of coaches, coordinators, and so on left in the development system. I wrote yesterday about how there are a lot of talented people still in the system, and the Pirates are at risk of losing some talented coaches right now, due to the delay in hiring a General Manager.

I saw a few people question whether the Pirates actually had talented coaches, as their development system results might indicate the coaches were the problem. This isn’t the case. The coaches received the development direction from above, and they have very little room to make changes to that plan.

Organizational philosophy doesn’t equal organizational talent.

I’ll give one example here: Ray Searage.

Searage was the pitching coach in Altoona in 2007, in the last year under Dave Littlefield. We know that he stuck around under Huntington, and advanced to being the pitching coach in Pittsburgh.

That 2007 Altoona pitching staff was bad. Todd Redmond might be the most notable MLB pitcher from the group, which says something. I don’t know if that’s a talent issue, or the organizational philosophy at the time.

What I do know is that Searage is a great coach. A great coach involves being able to successfully connect with and develop a player. He could do that. But the philosophy matters.

We saw how successful Searage was when the philosophy he and the Pirates were using was a good one that fit league trends. Then, after the 2015 season, we saw how much the Pirates’ pitching struggled when the philosophy became out-dated and didn’t change.

Searage isn’t coming back to the Pirates, obviously. There are other pitching coaches in the system who have been in the same situation the last few years. They’re talented pitching coaches, boxed in by an out-dated philosophy. Time will tell how many of those coaches thrive in the future with the Pirates. And you just hope the Pirates haven’t lost the next Ray Searage with this delay.

Expand that thinking to every single coaching position, and that’s the situation the Pirates are in right now. There’s talent in the system, and that talent could shine through in a more recognizable way under the next group, with a new philosophy.




By John Dreker

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus two transactions of note from 1950.

Brandon Cumpton, pitcher for the 2013-14 Pirates. He had a 4.02 ERA in 100.2 innings with the Pirates, then injuries sidetracked his career. He made it back to the majors in 2018 with the Toronto Blue Jays and is currently pitching winter ball in Mexico.

Tim Wood, pitcher for the 2011 Pirates. He went 0-3, 5.63 in 13 relief appearances, pitching a total of eight innings. His only other big league experience

Mark Corey, pitcher for the 2003-04 Pirates. He pitched 66 innings over 53 appearances with Pittsburgh, posting a 4.91 ERA. His other big league experience includes 14 games for the 2001-02 New York Mets and 14 more games for the 2002 Colorado Rockies.

Hector Fajardo, pitcher for the 1991 Pirates. He made two late season starts for the 1991 team before he was traded to the Texas Rangers as the player to be named later in the Steve Buechele trade. Fajardo pitched parts of four seasons in Texas, making 15 starts and 13 relief appearances.

Joe Quest, infielder for the 1884 Alleghenys. He played 12 games for the Alleghenys at the end of 1884, batting .209 with three doubles while splitting time between shortstop and second base. Played ten years in the majors, split between seven teams.

On this date in 1950, the Pirates picked up Dale Long and George Metkovich in the Rule 5 draft. Long had a good run with the Pirates in the late 50s, but his stint with the 1951 Pirates lasted just ten games before he was put on waivers. He was picked up by the St Louis Browns and returned to Pittsburgh in December of 1951 when they purchased him back from the Browns. Metkovich was a bit different than Long. He already had six MLB seasons in at that point and was taken off the roster of a Pacific Coast League club. He played three seasons in the outfield for the Pirates, hitting .276 in 271 games.