I started writing this as a response to Charlie's article about the rumored Huntington extension, but I decided it was interesting/important enough to get its own FanShot. Forgive the conceit, please.
I think Charlie's article was very good, and my thoughts are very similar to his. However, unlike Charlie, I do think the length of this extension is worth worrying/complaining about, so I'm going to complain about it here.
A three year extension at this point is basically an endorsement of NH. If ownership were still unconvinced he was the right guy for the team right now, the extension would have been for one or two years. Going to three years on it (and of course, three years is just a rumor at this point) would be an indication that ownership is completely satisfied with the job NH has done and completely convinced that he can build a winner going forward.
The reason I think this is worth worrying about is that it changes the tone of the next few years. It essentially means that NH is under no pressure in the next couple of years to actually build a contender. He's got ownership's endorsement of his plan to sign crappy stopgaps with $45M budgets until his draft picks mature and make the team a winner. I don't think that's the right plan, and I don't think that's a good message to send to NH. We're already past the point where NH should have been making some creative moves to really improve the ML team, and giving him the mandate to avoid doing this for a few more years does not seem like the right move to me.
Just for example, there were a lot of SS available last offseason, and even though the best one, J.J. Hardy, was available for a very reasonable price, NH didn't upgrade there. He decided to stick with Ronny Cedeno. Whatever you think of Cedeno, Hardy is clearly an upgrade. But NH, for whatever reason, didn't think the Pirates should make the upgrade. Maybe there were good reasons for that, but it's also part of a pattern. NH hasn't done anything to really upgrade the ML team other than sign amateur talent and wait for it to get to Pittsburgh.
Basically, what I think is worth worrying about is that a three-year extension is a sign that the Pirates' agree with the BD posters who say that NH couldn't possibly have done anything to avert 90 loss seasons in his first four years on the job and it is impossible to build a contender in Pittsburgh before 2014 and Cedeno for $3M is a good option for the 2012 starting SS gig. That's a very pessimistic attitude, and it seems like the Pirates themselves are actively endorsing it.
I don't really think this extension is an occasion for evaluating NH so much as it's an occasion for evaluating the attitude and expectations of the organization. And it seems like the organization doesn't think there's anything they can do to build a winner other than throw a lot of money at amateur players and wait for them to develop into the 2008 Rays. That might work eventually, but it's an incredibly passive and uncreative strategy. That's not how Friedman or Anthopolous or Epstein or Beane would approach things.
Maybe Huntington does have the creativity and talent-evaluation skills and intelligence to build a competitive team, but he hasn't shown any of those things so far, and a three-year extension is a complete endorsement of what Huntington has done so far. I think that is worth worrying about (assuming you're the kind of person who thinks anything about a ball game is worth worrying about in the first place).