Dejan Kovacevic has a list of ten things to pay attention to in the final month of the season. I always enjoy pieces like these. A few thoughts:
That would appear to be the greatest challenge as it relates to the road, where the Pirates have lost a mind-boggling 39 of the past 44 road games.
General manager Neal Huntington has attended roughly a quarter of the Pirates' road games and was not on the just-completed 1-5 trip through Milwaukee and Chicago. No one else from the front office was seen on the trip until late in the series at Wrigley Field.
Coonelly said Thursday that he supported Huntington's decision to scout Altoona games instead, in part because the team has "some very difficult decisions" this offseason regarding protecting prospects in the Rule 5 draft.
If you're not sure why this is an issue, Kovacevic defended a few days ago his decision to report on the baseball staff's absence from road games. Kovacevic's idea is that it's rare for no one to be there, and seen from that vantage point, it's certainly newsworthy. But I don't think it's a big deal. I don't think it's much of a mystery why the Pirates have been so bad on the road - they've been bad because they're just generally bad, and because of sample-size issues, and because it's harder to win on the road! There is, from my viewpoint, no reason Neal Huntington should have to waste time in airports when he can presumably just watch the game from his hotel in Altoona.
Speaking of which, scouting in Altoona is a perfectly legitimate use of Huntington's time. Coonelly is right - the Pirates will have a number of tough decisions before the Rule 5 draft this offseason.
-P- Also, am I the only one not really worrying much about the Orioles/Pirates race to the bottom? It's been discussed ad nauseum here all summer, but as you all know, consensus top talent Anthony Rendon suffered a severe injury in July. He sounds like he thinks he can make a full recovery, but of course he says that - we'll have to wait and see. For all the times the Pirates have been in the top five in the draft over the past couple of decades, it's a shame how little luck they've had with finding a bona fide superstar, an Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., or Joe Mauer type of player. (I seem to remember someone else making this general observation before, but I can't remember who - if it's you, let me know in the comments and I'll add a link.)
Obviously, the Pirates have done a terrible job in the draft for many of the last 20 years, but often they've missed out on those players due to luck. In 1987 the Pirates had the second pick in the draft. Griffey went first, and the Pirates took Mark Merchant second overall. The Bucs had the top pick in 1996 and selected Kris Benson, who turned out to be a functional starting pitcher, but that was about it. Mauer went with the first overall pick in 2001, but the Pirates didn't get to pick first again until 2002, when there really wasn't a consensus superstar pick. (Taking B.J. Upton first overall would have made a lot more sense than picking Bryan Bullington, but B.J. isn't even the best ballplayer in his family, and he certainly isn't in a class with Rodriguez or Mauer.) The Pirates also just missed out on stud pitchers David Price and Stephen Strasburg in the 2007 and 2009 drafts, and on Bryce Harper this year.
It's very likely that the Pirates will pick first next year, but unless Rendon does make a full recovery or someone else emerges, it's likely the Bucs will be in a familiar spot - they'll have a nice draft pick, but they'll have to choose from a number of good, but non-elite, talents.