Monday, August 4, 2008

Pirates Finally Have The Right People In Place

This was published following the selection of Pedro Alvarez in the MLB Draft. Though Pedro has not yet signed, and the trades the team made are highly questionable right now, I stand by what I wrote here. Of course if they don't sign Alvarez...

Stop me if you've heard this before...
It's looking more and more like the Pirate organization finally seems to have found the guys at the top of the organization to lead them forward to (gasp) winning baseball and even (nearly passing out) contending in the National League on a yearly basis.
Oh, so you have heard this before then? Well, that makes two of us. In fact, chances are that you have heard this before multiple times. It was written when Cam Bonifay and Dave Littlefield both came aboard, and was certainly written in 1997 when the Freak Show Pirates team put up a stunning march into first place for most of the season that culminated in a second place finish and the team's best record since '92. It was written about Dave Littlefield upon his hiring in 2002, and also in the opening months of his reign of terror when he made deals that actually weren't completely atrocious. And now, we are seeing these articles nowadays about Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington.
Make no mistake, though, this time it seems to be real. Nutting clearly has given the go-ahead to spend, something ne never did with Dunce Littlefield or Clueless Bonifay (this is how these two will henceforth be known). Coonelly clearly has demanded more from Nutting in all departments, and I feel that it is likely that this was the only way he would have taken this job in the first place.
Coonelly's commitment and determination has trickled down to both Huntington and new skipper John Russell, both of which were hires that I questioned heavily at the time, but now certainly look significantly better with time.
Sure, the Pirates are still mired in the depressing land of sub .500 ball, but given the vast wasteland that was their organizational depth chart last fall, I have been very much impressed with all that I have seen from the Buccos this year, and think that maybe, just maybe we can turn the corner with this squad.
However, like I've said, we have all heard this before, and it is definitely concerning to note that we have all been before, excited to see the Pirates in 2-3 seasons and thinking that with all of these young players they are expected to accrue, that the Pirates can contend long-run. This only further proves that the only way these idle words will ever mean anything is to get those W's. While the '08 Pirates will likely never be confused with their late 70's and early 90's brethren but management has taken a few minor steps in the right direction over the past several months, and a biggie came yesterday in the MLB Draft.
All week long, we had heard that Pedro Alvarez was the Pirates man, and every scout was very high on him, many even going so far as to say that he was the best player in the draft. But regardless of all this, I was abjectly terrified when it came time to make the pick. I know, I know, every sign on planet earth pointed to Pedro Alvarez going here, but 15 years of losing has jaded me to the point where I was afraid of seeing "Brian Matusz RHP" pop up when they were picking or maybe even someone I'd never heard of, a la Moskos last season. When one of the longest 5 minutes periods of my life came to a conclusion and the live Draft Tracker informed me that the Pirates had, in fact, taken 3B Pedro Alvarez from Vanderbilt, it took every fiber of my being to avoid hopping up from my chair and doing multiple fist pumps and terrifying the bejesus out of my co-workers.
The rest of the day yesterday, especially the two plus hours I was still at work for, I was pondering the long-term future of the Pirates and really began to feel pretty positive about the organization for the first time in many years. This club isn't afraid to spend, as long as it's in a smart long-term investment that could pay off enormously long-term. This club knows that the best and most logical way for a small market team to contend with youth and long-term, smart cotnract. And, perhaps, most important, this club knows how to appeal to its long disenchanted fans, by being honest with the fans and not feeding us the typical B.S. that we have seen. Instead, they acknowledge the obvious, that both the fans and the team know this a long-term effort, and that signing the likes of Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders, and Jeromy Burnitz in order to win 75 games instead of 68 is a useless tactic. I mean heck, even fans who have been beaten down for 15 years and have become completely and totally apathetic can understand that, and will certainly respect the organization more when, for the first time in 15 years, they actually begin to do something right.

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