Ok, so it seems like there has been a lot of discussion over the past couple of days about just how long it could or should take the Pirates to go through a successful rebuilding process. This has come up mostly because Huntington has now been on the job for four seasons and the big league roster is not decidedly more competitive than when he took over. There was a hotly debated thread that pointed out Dave Littlefield's poor track record during his six year tenure. This got me thinking just how long is too long? So I decided to look back over the last two decades and see exactly how long it took teams to rebuild a crappy major league product.
Obviously, I am aware that the Pirates run of futility is at 19 years which is the worst...well...ever. Having said that, You can't logically fault Huntington (or Littlefield for that matter) for all 19 years so it only seems fair to look at what they did during their time in control. I will admit that I did not look into when these teams changed their GM's so it's possible that these teams fired inept GM's during their struggles. However, what I'm really trying to figure out here is just how long it takes to turn a lousy franchise into a competitive one.
In the last two decades, 20 major league teams have had stretches of at least four years without a winning season: the Jays, Rangers, Padres, Giants, Angels, Indians, Nats/Expos, Rays, Phillies, A's, Mets, Twins, Brewers, Royals, Marlins, Tigers, Rockies, Reds, O's and of course, the Pirates.
13.5 have had streaks of at least 6 years. The half is my way of pointing out that the Marlins (whose longest losing streak was actually only 5 years) only broke up a 10 year drought by breaking the bank for a one year run in '97. After that WS, they demolished the team, posted a .435 W% in the next 5 years before making another run out of the prospects that they acquired by trading away a world championship team.
The Brewers, O's and Tigers all had strings of at least 12 years (the O's is still a running count at 14). The Royals had just that one magical season in the past 17 seasons.
I'm not really writing this to try and excuse the Pirates futility or to suggest that the failures of others excuses their own shortcomings. I am only trying to point out that it is actually exceedingly difficult to turn around a crappy product in major league baseball without a substantial amount of time. The situation is only made worse in the small markets (I'm sure you noticed that the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers and Braves were absent from the list).
This is why I don't really put a specific timetable on Huntington as the GM. I think he should be evaluated on where he has the organization at that given time. Right now, I feel like the organization is headed in the right direction and I think Huntington is the reason for that. That could change in two years and it might not but I don't think that he has an expiration date stamped on his face that will tell us when his time is up...