Thursday, June 19, 2008

Neal Gets It

I don't follow the Pirates as closely as I follow some other teams, but whenever I read something about Neal Huntington, I'm optimisitic that he's doing the right things for the Pittsburgh organization. Like this:
If the Pirates' management decides to keep its current roster intact all season, rather than trading key pieces for young talent, it will not be because of a wish to finish .500 or better and break the franchise's 15-year losing streak.

So spoke general manager Neal Huntington yesterday, in no uncertain terms.

"The only time we hope to get to .500 is on our way past it," Huntington said. "It is not an end result. It is not a goal. If we have this club in place and we reach 82 wins en route to our higher destination, then so be it. But I will never be the general manager of a club that has a focus on winning 82 games."
In other words, there will be no 2008 version of the Matt Morris trade or the illusion of rebuilding if he can't get decent value for his putative trade chits.

It seems so obvious to those of us who have read Bill James and Baseball Prospectus and everything, but there is nothing close to a universal appreciation of things like the success cycle among general baseball fandom. Sure, most fans know that a team is old or young, rebuilding or not, but there are just as many out there who view every move a team makes in the shortest of terms. That may be especially true in Pittsburgh, as Pirate fans have been told that their team was rebuilding so many times in the past 15 years that they can be forgiven if they don't believe such a thing exists anymore.

Huntington, it seems, is setting the right tone here by signalling to fans that he has a long term plan. That mere contention -- and 82 wins has counted for contention in the NL Central in recent years, even if it may not this year -- is not a goal. That he's trying to build a foundation for long term success as opposed to hoping for a mirage season like 1997.

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