baseball, Pirates, Pittsburgh Pirates, Sports

Civil War: Pittsburgh Pirates Fans

Okay, it isn’t a civil war.  It is just uncivil message boards.  You see, Pirates fans argue with each other a lot.  On one side you have the rational crowd who see the big picture such as the importance of investing in infrastructure and building a solid organizational foundation.  You can find the rational crowd in the comment sections on sites devoted entirely to the Pittsburgh Pirates such as Pirates Prospects.

On the other side you have the irrational crowd who complain about everything.  They were predicting the Pirates would lose 100 games this year after trading Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen.  To them if you don’t think Neal Huntington and Bob Nutting are the worst human beings who ever walked the Earth then you are a “kool-aid drinker” or a “Nutting apologist.”  They are even taking credit for the recent trade acquisitions of Chris Archer and Keone Kela.  You’ll find this group on sites that also cover the Steelers such as DK Pittsburgh Sports.

We’ll research some of the latter groups’ arguments here:

Huntington never makes trades except to dump salary.  He never gets anyone any good.  

Here is a list of all the players Huntington has traded away.

Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte, Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Sean Burnett, Adam LaRoche, Jack Wilson, Ian Snell, Freddy Sanchez, Jesse Chavez, Ryan Church, Bobby Crosby, D.J. Carrasco, Javier Lopez, Octavio Dotel, Exicardo Cayones, Diego Moreno, Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln, Gorkys Hernandez, Rudy Owens, Robby Grossman, Colton Cain, Joel Hanrahan, Brock Holt, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Gerrit Cole, and Andrew McCutchen.

Liriano was the only one that should be considered a salary dump, and in hindsight it probably wasn’t a bad move.  We addressed the Cole and McCutchen trades earlier this year and with the evolution of Kyle Crick and Jason Martin those are appearing to be solid trades.  Those trades even helped create the scenario for the acquisitions of Chris Archer and Keone Kela.  The Pirates will remain competitive for years.

Here is a list of many of the players Huntington has traded for:

Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Dan McCutchen, Brandon Moss, Bryan Morris, Gorkys Hernandez, Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, Lastings Milledge, Joel Hanrahan, John Buck, Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Akinori Iwamura, Josh Harrison, Chris Snyder, Pedro Ciriaco, John Bowker, Joe Martinez, James McDonald, Andrew Lambo, A.J. Burnett, Travis Snider, Gaby Sanchez, Wandy Rodriguez, Mark Melancon, Ivan Nova, Marlon Byrd, Aramis Ramirez, Joakim Soria, J.A. Happ, Michael Morse, Joe Blanton, Francisco Cervelli, Jason Martin, Bryan Reynolds, Michael Feliz, Kyle Crick, Felipe (Rivero) Vazquez, Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove, Corey Dickerson, Chris Archer, and Keone Kela.

That sure is a lot of trades.  Let’s take some of the best players traded for and compare them against some of the best players traded away for a 5 game series, no travel days since all at PNC Park.

  • Game 1 – Gerrit Cole vs. Chris Archer
  • Game 2 – Francisco Liriano vs. J.A. Happ
  • Game 3 – Ian Snell vs. A.J. Burnett
  • Game 4 – Sean Burnett (or Cole on 3-days rest) vs. Joe Musgrove/Ivan Nova/Wandy Rodriguez/Charlie Morton
  • Game 5 –  Gerrit Cole (or Liriano on 3-days rest) vs. Chris Archer

Those first two games are close, but after that the FOR is deeper and better.

How about lineups?

  • CA – NA vs. Francisco Cervelli
  • 1B – Adam LaRoche vs. Adam LaRoche
  • 2B – Freddy Sanchez vs. Josh Harrison
  • 3B – Brock Holt vs. Aramis Ramirez
  • SS – Jack Wilson vs. Ronny Codeno
  • LF – Jason Bay vs. Corey Dickerson
  • CF – Andrew McCutchen vs. Gorkys Hernandez
  • RF – Xavier Nady vs. Marlon Byrd

Wow, that is close, but the FOR team is deeper.  Benches:

  • Bench 1 – Nyjer Morgan vs. Colin Moran
  • Bench 2 – Nate McLouth vs. Gaby Sanchez
  • Bench 3 – Gorkys Hernandez vs. Travis Snider
  • Bench 4 – Bobby Crosby vs. Michael Morse
  • Bench 5 – Ryan Church vs. Andrew Lambo

Interesting…  Bullpens:

  • Closer – Mark Melancon vs. Felipe Vazquez
  • Set-up – Octavio Dotel vs. Mark Melancon
  • Set-up –  Jesse Chavez vs. Joakim Soria
  • RP – Joel Hanrahan vs. Joel Hanrahan
  • RP – Damaso Marte vs. Kyle Crick
  • RP – D.J. Carrasco vs. Keone Kela
  • RP – Javier Lopez vs. Joe Blanton

Wow!  There has been some talented relief pitches come and go during the Huntington era.

Verdict:  If these two teams played in a five-game series, it would be competitive. I don’t think there would be much scoring.  My guess is the depth of the rotation and the bullpen on the FOR team would win-out in the end.  But, that isn’t even the point.  The point is Huntington has traded a lot of talent for even more talent.  The shear depth on the FOR team, especially in pitching is far superior to the AWAY team.  Verdict is FALSE.

Yeah, but he didn’t do anything to put the 2015 team over the top.

During the 2015 season he traded for Aramis Ramirez, Joakim Soria, J.A. Happ, Michael Morse, and Joe Blanton.

Huntington has been at the Pirates’ helm for ten years.  In that time the Pirates have been to the playoffs three times.  Seven other teams have also been three times in that span, 11 teams have been four or more times, while 16 have been there two or less times.  So, in essence, the Pirates under his lead have been to the playoffs more than over half the league.

After the season, there are plenty of decisions in hindsight are worthy of criticism.  He let the oft-injured Charlie Morton go to the Phillies, Neil Walker for Jon Neise, and Keon Broxton for Jason Rogers.  Morton suffered through an injury riddled season until another year went by and he excelled in Houston.  Walker was good for NY, Neise and Rogers sucked.  It was reported he made a competitive offer for Happ, but was unable to sign him.  Aramis Ramirez decided to retire instead of finish out his contract with the Pirates so they signed David Freese, signed Juan Nicasio and Neftali Feliz.

The main problem is Huntington expected his young AAA starters such as Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow to burst onto the scene and thought he could bridge the gap with stopgaps of Niese, Locke, and Ryan Vogelsong.  Should they’ve traded Taillon and Glasnow to make one last run?

Verdict:  One can certainly fairly argue the Pirates had an elite player in McCutchen and it may have been worth it to trade the prospects and make one last run.  But, I didn’t think it was worth it at the time and I definitely do not in hindsight.  It is fair for one to make the argument, but they automatically lose the argument when they start making outlandish claims as to why the decisions made were made.  Huntington says he wants to field a competitive team each year and has gone on to prove that to be the case this year.  So….  FALSE.

But, he’s never won a division championship.  

You can’t control who is in your division.  In 2015 the Pirates won the 2nd most games in MLB with 98, but finished second in their division.  It is true that 27 teams have found a way to win their division at least once over the last ten seasons.  The Pirates are only one of three to fail in this.  Eleven have only done it once during that time frame.  Also, as Hungtington says you only need to get to the playoffs to win it.  Three wild card teams have made the World Series with two winning it.

Out of the 60 teams that have won a Division Championship, 37 have done so winning 94 games or more.  The significance of this is the Pirates won 94 games in 2013, but settled for a wild card slot.  In regards to their 2015 team that won 98 games – only ten division winners over the last ten years have won 98 games or more.

Verdict – though technically true, context says bullshit.

But, he only made it to the playoffs with the previous management’s draft picks.  

2014 Pirates players key to the playoff run:

  • Josh Harrison – traded for by Huntington
  • Jordy Mercer – drafted by Huntington
  • Andrew McCutchen – inherited
  • Russell Martin – FA signing by Huntington
  • Starling Marte – inherited
  • Neil Walker – inherited
  • Gaby Sanchez – traded for by Huntington
  • Travis Snider – traded for by Huntington
  • Pedro Alvarez – drafted by Huntington
  • Clint Barmes – FA signing by Huntington
  • Gregory Polanco – FA signing by Huntington
  • Jose Tabata – inherited
  • Edinson Volquez – FA signed by Huntington
  • Francisco Liriano – FA signed by Huntington
  • Gerrit Cole – drafted by Huntington
  • Wandy Rodriguez – traded for by Hungtington
  • Charlie Morton – traded for by Huntington
  • Mark Melancon – traded for by Huntington
  • Ernest Frieri – traded for by Huntington
  • Bryan Morris – traded for by Huntington
  • Bobby LaFromboise – traded for by Huntington
  • John Axford – traded for by Huntington
  • Tony Watson – inherited
  • Justin Wilson – drafted by Huntington
  • Jeff Locke

The only key players on the 2013 roster that weren’t on this roster were:

  • Marlon Byrd – traded for by Huntington
  • Jason Grilli – traded for by Huntington
  • Jeanmar Gomez – traded for by Huntington
  • Garrett Jones – traded for by Huntington
  • Brandon Inge – FA signed by Huntington
  • Justin Morneau – traded for by Huntington

Verdict –  So the main players over the first two playoff teams consisted of four players inherited, four drafted by Huntington, 15 traded for by Huntington,  six FA signings by Huntington.  So, yes, McCutchen was the best player on the team and inherited, but only one pitcher was inherited in Watson, so…  FALSE.

So, in essence, Huntington has utilized all avenues available to him to build a playoff team that remains competitive annually with some bright years still ahead.  So next time you hear someone spewing all this nonsense, hit them with the facts.




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