One of the things the Pirates most needed to do this offseason is also one of the most boring, and it deals with the engine of the machine. The actual Farm Director, scouts, instructors, all in an effort to become more player centric throughout the organization.
The Pirates hired John Baker to fill the top role, he’s a former player who most recently was a mental skills coach in the Cubs system. I could go on and tell you all about his background and why I think this is a good hire but let’s be honest, most of us don’t really know if this is a good hire or not.
How many times do you see a car driving down the road with a non-factory spoiler, custom exhaust pipe, tinted windows, but the car itself sounds terrible? That’s because the engine is boring, it’s not a shiny new toy that everyone can see and understand. That’s what these system moves are like to me.
That doesn’t make them unimportant, exactly the opposite actually, but there is no way to evaluate the effectiveness of these changes in the near term and even once they’ve driven the operation for a period of time its difficult to say these good things happened because of this person.
What I can say is the Pirates have defined player centric as the ethos and I have to believe all their hires will uphold that thought process but we really won’t have tangible evidence for years. Players will come up and some will succeed, others will fail. When they succeed the farm system will get credit, even if it isn’t earned and when they fail the farm system will get blamed even if it wasn’t their fault.
What’s really important is do these new hires share the vision of Ben Cherington, is his vision the right path? We won’t know for some time. Let’s say Nick Gonzales arrives in Pittsburgh sometime in 2022 and he is everything we hoped he’d be, a rookie phenom, every bit what a 7th overall pick should be. Can you say the system did that? Or do you instead give credit to the pick itself? Maybe it’s a combination, but we’ll never really understand to what degree.
Now, we had plenty of evidence that the last regime was doing more harm than good. That was accrued over the best part of a decade. We’ve heard players leave and openly criticize the approach that was taken with them. We’ve seen players leave the system and thrive under the tutelage of different instruction. We’ve watched number one picks languish in AAA never forcing the club to call them up by either being forced to play a style they didn’t fit or focusing on one metric that just wasn’t going to ever be part of their repertoire.
From military style training to overt mental warfare Pirates prospects have been through quite a bit, so maybe the real takeaway here is change. Change was needed and even if the new hires aren’t perfect in the long run at least they aren’t the same group that mismanaged almost every player in the system in the last decade.
I look at a player like Ke’Bryan Hayes. Here’s a guy who obviously got through the system and made it to MLB obviously intact. I also wonder how much of that to attribute to the system versus his father versus himself.
It’s not like the Pirates have had nobody work out, it’s more about how many expected contributors failed, or the fact they’ve had very few come out of nowhere to become part of the solution.
I often hear from fans, “let’s hope they don’t screw him up” and while it’s a simplistic way to talk about the system, it’s also accurate beyond measure.
The moves made this off season look to correct the course, here’s hoping they’ve done exactly that.