Posted by: Captain Easychord | July 16, 2009

Pirates Thursday: Unanswered Questions

As the Pirates emerge from the All-Star break, the big question in Pittsburgh is who will be staying with the team and who will be shipped off to a contender.  Most of the talk has revolved around Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson, due to their age, salary and relative talent.  A trade involving one of these two is likely to bring a return of “prospects.”

The focus on truly rebuilding the farm system and developing major league talent from within the organization is a welcome departure from the Dave Littlefield years, when the focus was on simply fielding a major league team that didn’t lose 100 games (oops!)  However, in their enthusiasm for management’s new direction, supporters of this approach seem to forget that all that glitters is not gold.

Flash back, if you will, to 1997.  In an effort to rebuild the team, the Pirates had just dealt away a veteran core that included Denny Neagle, Orlando Merced, Carlos Garcia, Dan Plesac, Jeff King and Jay Bell.  Between the bundle of prospects received and already in the organization, the Pirates’ farm system was hailed as the best in the game by Baseball America and GM Cam Bonifay was named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News.  Pirates farmhands littered the BA top 100 prospect list:  Kris Benson (8), Chad Hermansen (21), Jose Guillen (23), Aramis Ramirez (26), Ron Wright (48), Abraham Nunez (69), Jimmy Anderson (88).  What’s more, young talent such as Jason Kendall, Jason Schmidt and Francisco Cordova had already made it to Pittsburgh.

But while Cam Bonifay had a plan for putting a winner together that looks an awful lot like Neil Huntington’s, he was clearly unable to execute that plan.  Problems such as poor talent evaluation and development (Hermansen, most notably), early promotions (Guillen, Ramirez), financial issues (Ramirez) and medical care (Kendall) ended up ensuring that this group never achieved much in Pittsburgh.

Even though Bonifay’s rebuilding plan earned accolades from all corners of the baseball world, it just didn’t work.  So while Neal Huntington finishes stripping down this Pirates team and selling them for scrap, supporters of the strategy need to remember that any number of management foibles could render a perfectly good strategy worthless.  Thus far, Huntington has demonstrated strengths in approach but the results have been mixed (see, for instance, the collection of flamethrowing relievers who can’t find the plate with a map).

Ultimately, time will tell if the new management team can identify talent, develop players and keep them healthy and in Pittsburgh.  In the meantime, we shouldn’t give Huntington and crew a pass just because we like his approach.

LAST WEEK: 0-3 (0-3 @ PHI)

Bucco of the Week: Garret Jones:  While Freddy Sanchez made no outs and Zach Duke gave up no baserunners at the All-Star Game, I can’t quite give them the nod here.  They probably would have won BotW honors earlier this season, had the award existed at that point… but it didn’t.  In any case, Jones homered in all three games of a short 3 game week, so he gets the nod again.  Now we’ll see if he can keep his hot streak going into the second half.

NEXT WEEK: 3 vs. SF, 3 vs. MIL


  1. I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to be a Pirates fan. I just saw the details of the Aramis Ramirez trade the other day. Man, that’s tough. As an A’s fan… I can sort of relate. Sort of.

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