7-27-21 – By Gary Morgan
Remember the scene from My Cousin Vinny where the indescribably beautiful Marisa Tomei knew from the difference in tire tracks that a different car was at the scene of the crime?
Well, if you’re watching a plan like this unfold with a baseball franchise and I specifically mean the way most do, meaning from a distance, you can see how someone might get the wrong identification.
Some of you absolutely have your Tomei eyes on. You’re watching deeply, intently. You notice every little move, analyze every decision, argue when you feel it deviates. And mostly, you feel a need to defend it.
The funny thing is, and you know this is true if you really think about it, this makes you one of the weird ones. Hey, I’m there with you, but if you ever really want to understand why I don’t get into fights online about stuff like this, well, understanding that I can’t expect others to invest as much time as I do in this process is the reason.
As we watch player after player get moved for prospects you continually hear things like “same old Pirates” or sometimes regardless of anything else, despite any evidence like actually sending along the remainder of this season’s salary, this all boils down to Bob Nutting not wanting to pay a guy.
Take something like this year’s draft. Let’s follow the bouncing goalposts shall we?
First it was they would take a lesser pick number one to save money, you know, because Bob’s cheap. Maybe you argued about this making sure whoever said it knew the Pirates record of spending in the draft.
Next it was, hey if they don’t sign all these picks none of it matters! That one guy will absolutely play for Clemson! That guy is locked in at Penn State! They made these picks because they knew they wouldn’t sign so, you know, cheap.
Now they’ve signed all of those first round talents and for that matter a few more they “had no chance at” and left with no recourse we find ourselves at “They still have to develop them” which is certainly true, and impossible to really qualify for several years. AKA, they’ve found an argument that sticks. Rather than say, well credit where due, Ben got them to sign…
Point is, you could argue every single step of the way, but with each successful argument or each new milestone passed they’ll simply give you another. For instance, say they do develop all of those players (you and I both know that’s a tall ask, if not impossible) it’ll simply be that they weren’t good enough picks, or there’s a reason they “fell down the board”.
You can’t win this fight. So stop fighting.
You know this build is different because you weren’t just watching players get traded and blindly believing before any more than you are now. You understand the plan as it sits, and what you hope the Pirates understand is that even for you there is a line.
One of the questions I get most often is “When is this Team Going to Stop Trading Good Players for Prospects?”
Well, I’m an honest guy, the answer is never.
This doesn’t mean Bryan Reynolds is getting moved anytime soon in fact he’ll very likely be extended. It means under baseball’s current system this team is never going to keep everyone. They’ll keep some core pieces, not unlike what they did with Cutch, Polanco, Marte, even Harrison. And when that core stops being enough, or they stop having anyone in the system coming they’ll have to break it up.
The Pirates aren’t alone in this.
Look to the North side of Chicago right now. I mean, what are those bums doing? How could they not keep Rizzo, Bryant, Baez, Contreras, Schwarber? Well, they have next to nothing in their system, specifically on the mound, and even the Cubs with all that money know they can’t pay all those guys AND buy enough pitching to make it count.
That’s the truth. They’re anything but a small market, and it won’t take them nearly as long to turn it around as a team like the Pirates because they can get to the point where they feel they’re close enough to go buy patches long before a team like Pittsburgh could.
it’s the reality of baseball under this system.
What Ben Cherington is trying to do, and yes, TRYING, still has to be used, is stock the system so deeply that by the time they start making the big club there are more knocking on the door.
In other words, they don’t want to have to go get a Kolten Wong to backfill the bench. They don’t want to have to go buy a Top of the rotation starter, instead they want to maybe go get a Tyler Anderson Type.
As the prospects start coming up the vision will start to become more clear. Rodolfo Castro who just hit his fifth homerun with his fifth hit, a MLB modern era record by the way, is an exciting young player who still has much to learn, but if you really want to get excited about him, how about this, he isn’t even one of their top 30 prospects.
In other words, while nerds like me or Craig have been excited about him, the team isn’t counting on him to be the next big thing. Oh, they’d take it if he turned into that but they’ve built in a ton of protection against that happening.
This isn’t like drafting Pedro Alvarez and feeling 3B needs no other attention. This isn’t like drafting Taillon and Cole, sitting back and waiting for them to develop knowing full well even if they both turned into stars they’d need more.
As we speak, 14 of the Pirates top 30 are starting pitchers. Sounds like a ton, but rest assured, they aren’t done adding them. They want more like 20, to increase the odds that most of their pitching staff is internally developed. If you want the whole truth, it’s also so should they desire, they can take a guy like Max Kranick 4 years from now and move him yes for more prospects but also because they have 5 pitchers knocking on the door.
It’s what Tampa does. It’s what Boston does. It’s what teams that have learned to work with the system understand.
All that aside, what it really is to you the fan, is different.
It doesn’t feel different if you only watch the big club, but much like a pond covered in scum it says nothing about the thriving environment just beneath the surface.
Now, if indeed this still looks the same, I get it.
If someone tells you this is the same, let them.
Because the system isn’t fair, and our owner makes it harder than it needs to be, the rebuild needs to be deeper than a team like Chicago, well, the North Side anyway.
No, this doesn’t make you or I “real fans” and those who don’t get it “fake”, it just means there are some that are going to watch a good team play baseball and know how the sausage was made, while others just offer simple platitudes like “they finally drafted better”, or they learned how to develop.
Some won’t understand when they trade players in the future anymore than they do now, and it won’t be your job then to make sure they know that’s how they got good in the first place. If you trust the process, cool.
We really must stop arguing over this stuff.
The next time this team is in a pennant race, the crowd will be made up of those who have watched every agonizing move, those who haven’t understood a damn thing the entire way, it’ll even have plenty of people who simply haven’t watched in 3 or 4 years. Here’s the thing though, all those cheers will sound the same.
You’ll just be able to look back and remember the whole movie, not just the Tomei moment.