Since there's not much happening besides minor trades and stuff, I thought it would be interesting to see how the people foolish enough to be General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates have done and how they compare to each other. I thought a good jumping off point would be the 1979 World Series. Here's how I would rank them and I think it's just a fun little conversation starter. Go ahead and destroy my stupid opinion if you want. First of all I'm not including any interim general managers like Roy Smith and Brian Graham, as neither of them were around long enough to do anything. I am including interim General Manager Joe L. Brown, who was in charge for the draft and late season trades in 1985.
1. Neal Huntington. I sort of went back and forth on whether he was the best General Manager since the 79 World Series ended and I think that objectively it's fair to say that he is. Considering he inherited Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Starling Marte and almost nothing else, he had his work cut out for him and he's done a good job so far.
The Good: He has drafted Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, Tyler Glasnow, Jordy Mercer, Pedro Alvarez, Austin Meadows, Nick Kingham and plenty of other players who are either in Pittsburgh contributing now or will be in the future. He was unafraid to trade veterans like Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Xavier Nady and so on for prospects and young players. In the McLouth trade he got 2/5th of the 2013 rotation in Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton. He has yet to waiver from the plan he put in place and has generally not let public backlash change how he does things. Him and his staff have done a fantastic job finding under appreciated and under rated pitchers and basically got their careers jump-started. He wasn't afraid to make a change when his first manager wasn't working out and hired Clint Hurdle who has thus far done a pretty good job as manager.
The Bad: He traded Jose Bautista for basically nothing. The Gorzelanny/Grabow trade returned nothing as well. The returns in the Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez trades weren't very good. The entire 2009 draft so far looks terrible. He doesn't seem to trust having Tony Sanchez backing up Russell Martin in 2014 even though he did a perfectly fine job in 2013 when he was called up. He has trouble finding reliable bats in the lineup and 1B has been a black hole since Adam LaRoche was traded.
2. Syd Thrift. When he arrived in Pittsburgh in 1985, the major league team was a mess. But the organization itself wasn't in that bad of shape, it just needed a little work to get things going again.
The Good: He let Chuck Tanner go so he could hire Jim Leyland. He traded Tony Pena for Andy Van Slyke and Mike LaValliere. He traded for Doug Drabek. He drafted Tim Wakefield, Randy Tomlin, Stan Belinda, Moises Alou, John Wehner and a few others from those 90-92 team. He drafted Jeff Banister, the current bench coach.
The Bad: He let Bobby Bonilla and Bip Roberts go in his first Rule 5 draft and then sent starter Jose DeLeon to the White Sox to get Bonilla back. He traded Don Robinson and Rick Reuschel for very minimal return. While Jeff King worked out okay, he passed up Matt Williams, Kevin Brown and Gary Sheffield to draft him. Mark Merchant and Austin Manahan both turned out to be huge busts for the Pirates. Overall his drafts could be described as underwhelming at best.
3. Joe L. Brown To be fair, if I was including his first stint with the club, then he'd clearly be #1. But in this case, his short time with the club didn't really justify appearing any higher on this list.
The Good: He drafted Barry Bonds. He traded away Bill Madlock for Sid Bream, RJ Reynolds and Cecil Espy. He was able to get Bob Kipper in the trade of Candelaria and Hendrick to the Angels. He traded away cocaine addict Rod Scurry.
The Bad: The rest of the 85 draft class wasn't much to talk about.
4. Harding Peterson was the General Manager when the Pirates won the World Series in 1979. That summer he traded for Tim Foli who had a career season with the Bucs and got Bill Madlock to help with the pennant run and he ended up staying over five full seasons with the club.
However, his post-World Series time with the Pirates was less than stellar.
The Good: He drafted John Smiley, Tony Pena, Jay Buhner and Barry Jones. He signed Bobby Bonilla as an undrafted free agent and he signed Jose Lind on the international market.
The Bad: He traded away Jay Buhner, along with Dale Berra to the Yankees for Steve Kemp and Tim Foli. He sent John Tudor to the Cardinals for George Hendrick. He and Chuck Tanner did nothing to stop a culture of drug abuse in the clubhouse, including a mascot selling cocaine. He wasted time with old washed up players like Kemp, Hendrick, Gene Tennace and Amos Otis. He didn't try to start rebuilding after the 83 season when Dave Parker left town. He let the team slowly fall apart in the early 80's and tried to hang on to what they had in the 70's until they were on pace to lose 104 games in 1985.
5. Ted Simmons was named General Manager after the new team president Mark Sauer fired Larry Doughty.
The Good: He drafted Jason Kendall in 1992 and he didn't trade everyone away that spring, which he probably could have done.
The Bad: He let Bonds leave without offering arbitration. He traded John Smiley away. The Twins let Smiley leave via free agency and used a compensation pick to take Torii Hunter in the 93 draft. He kept Cam Bonifay around in the front office.
6. Larry Doughty was put in charge after Syd Thrift was fired for some reason.
The Good: He traded Felix Fermin and got Jay Bell. He traded for Don Slaught. He shored up the pitching staff by trading for Zane Smith.
The Bad: Oh, except I should mention that he gave away Moises Alou to get Zane Smith, probably one of the worst trades in team history. His drafts produced very little. Mostly getting guys who were little more than spare parts with the team later on like Kevin Young, Rich Aude and Tony Womack. He helped to foster bad blood with Bonds and Bonilla, never offering them what they were worth. He basically did what the stingy ownership group at the time told him to do.
7. Cam Bonifay was General Manager for what seemed like for ever. Turns out it was only a little under 8 years. Looking back now, he wasn't a complete disaster.
The Good: He started rebuilding in 1996, he actually got some good value from guys like Cordova and Rincon. He traded Rincon for Brian Giles. He drafted guys like Nate McLouth, Zach Duke, Jose Bautista and others in the later rounds of the draft his last few years.
The Bad: Where to begin? Letting Gene Lamont shred most of his pitcher's arms. He should have started rebuilding in 1993 and waited around until new ownership gave him permission to do so. Derrek Bell. Pat Meares. Terry Mulholland. The Kendall contract. Drafting John Van Benschoten as a pitcher. Clint Johnston. JJ Davis. Chad Hermansen. Trading Jon Lieber for Brant Brown. Passing up Paul Konerko, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek to take Mark Farris, oh hell the entire 1994 draft class, which produced 1 major league player: Jimmy Anderson. I'm not sure if there's a word limit on Fan Posts, but I'm sure I could go past it with all the bad that Bonifay did in Pittsburgh. He let Jack Zduriencik go (even though he's a terrible GM in Seattle, he was a pretty good scouting director in Milwaukee).
8. Dave Littlefield seemed to be General Manager even longer than Bonifay, but really his reign of horror only last a little over six years.
The Good: He drafted Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and signed Starling Marte. Of course I read that he only took McCutchen because his scouting department begged him to. He traded for Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche, which were both good trades.
The Bad: Oh man, Besides Walker and McCutchen, his drafts were almost entirely a disaster. Almost seven years after the fact, I still wonder why the hell did he drafted Moskos over Wieters and Heyward. Passing up a ton of talent in 2002 to take Bullington. Almost no impact talent in his late round selections. Trading for Matt Morris for some inexplicable reason. He wasted time with guys like Jeromy Burnitz, Reggie Sanders, Pokey Reese, Kenny Lofton, Joe Randa, Jose Hernandez, Chris Duffy etc when he could have been trying to find good young players to fill those roles.. Just left the organization in 2007 in a complete mess. Oh yeah and of course, trading Aramis Ramirez to the Cubs for a 12 pack of Old Style (I think that was the return). He hired an idiot like Jim Tracy to "manage" the club. I would say the 2013 is the complete opposite of what Littlefield would have done at every position except maybe McCutchen would have fit in to Dave Littlefield's 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates. I don't even want to think about it at this point.