There’s been a lot of angst about the 2021 Pirates lately. In five weeks’ time, the team has rid itself of arguably the face of the franchise and two guys who were supposed to head up the starting rotation. In return, the Bucs got guys who, barring any acts of God or Tommy John, won’t sniff the Show for at least two years. There is not one analyst, journalist, or blogger that gives this year’s Pirates any view other than out of the cellar window. They agree about the future brightening with the prospects, but this year? Forget it.
Even Ben Cherington, who in the past has done everything but stand on his head to avoid using the word “rebuild,” has … well, admitted it.
Here’s a question, though—would you rather know that upfront, or have it be like it was during the Neal Huntington era, where Huntington was trying to rebuild and contend at the same time?
Stephen J. Nesbitt, over at The Athletic (paywall), has a great article about how Huntington, like Cherington is now, should have been willing to blow up the current team to improve it down the road. Instead, he just hoped to get to October with what he had and tried to time prospects’ promotions to coincide with getting rid of rentals. That way, it was guaranteed that Pirates fans would be disappointed every year when the Bucs choked in the Wild Card Game. But hey, at least they got to the Wild Card Game, right?
Even the big-money teams have learned over the years that if the farm system is neglected, no amount of high-priced free agents is going to get a team where it wants to go. Ben Cherington is following the same path as he did with the Red Sox in 2012—cutting loose the large contracts and building up the prospect base. Yes, he had much more money with which to in Boston to attract free agents, but with the possible exception of Jake Peavy, he wasn’t buying superstars.
I know that it’s hard for Pirates fans to have faith. Neal Huntington sold you what it was next to impossible for the team to buy. And I’ll emphasize this because I’m not the only one saying it—if Bob Nutting didn’t indicate that he would be willing to spend money, Ben Cherington would not have taken this job. No, it won’t be Trout-like money, but it will be “keeping Ke’Bryan Hayes or Bryan Reynolds money,” should those two keep progressing (use your own example here). I do not doubt that if Cherington finds out otherwise, he’s gone, and at that point, Nutting deserves everything he’ll get.
I love baseball. Whether it’s an MLB game or the minors, going to a game is my idea of a good time. I’ve been to a little over half of the current major league parks, and PNC Park deserves every accolade it gets. And I would rather have a GM be honest and tell fans, “we’re going to be better, but it’ll be rough until we do,” than have one try to convince everyone that the team has a legitimate shot every year.
Expect the worst—you’ll never be disappointed.