11-23-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Language is so important, so note I’m not saying we will absolutely see improvement, I’m specifically saying we should expect it.
As fans dug in on what Ben Cherington has been doing, it’s actually a little weird just how infallible some require his every transaction be viewed. Ask a simple question about the motivation behind some move he made and be met with a chorus of “Trust the process”, or “Ben knows what he’s doing”. Listen, I think the guy’s done a great job here, but I’m tired of the endless defense of every single move, we have to have room to discuss this stuff.
Sure, to a degree you do have to trust the process, it’s not like you have much choice anyhow, and yes I’ve seen Ben Cherington’s resume too. That said, I’m more than a little shocked to see a fan base so recently burned by the best management team in baseball to willingly swallow again that these guys are smarter than everyone else.
OK, I suppose I should explain my position here a bit better.
The reason you rebuild is less about the team you have on the field as it is realizing the team on the field in MLB isn’t good enough, doesn’t have the room left in development to get good and furthermore doesn’t have the talent coming from the minors to enhance the product.
That’s what Ben Cherington walked into, an MLB product that had some good players, nearing the end of their time here and nothing (c’mon I know they had Cruz and Hayes) coming.
So the teardown had to happen. What I’ve particularly liked is that this GM didn’t go half way, instead he tore it down, all the way. they needed to do this for draft picks, they needed to do this to bring in prospects, they needed to do this because let’s be completely honest, the guys we called “stars” weren’t stars. Starling Marte, there’s the list of actual MLB stars that were moved from this team. No, not Josh Bell, not Joe Musgrove, not Jameson Taillon, sorry, nice guys, some really nice skill sets, not stars. Add in that this owner, in this market wasn’t going to, and probably wasn’t capable of buying the patches needed.
That’s all been done now. We’re entering the third year with this management group and I’ll readily tell you I don’t see this team improving all that much in 2022, but I think it’s garbage to say we shouldn’t expect some.
The teardown is over. The payroll is bottomed out. The prospects have been acquired, and in some cases developed. So they’re out of reasons to not add actual players to this roster. There’s no rule saying because they tore it down you have to wait for all those guys to be here before you start addressing needs.
Now here’s a caveat. I’m willing to believe they have more pieces here than most of us are thinking. Meaning, I’m ok with entering 2022 with the current rotation options if Cherington really believes there’s enough improvement coming simply from letting them continue the maturation process, but my point is it doesn’t HAVE to be this way. They don’t HAVE to not spend anything this year or risk screwing up the rebuild. They don’t HAVE to field a team full of prospects and never were’s, or destroy what they’ve built.
To me, I can believe in this GM, like what he’s doing and still say loud and proud if they enter 2022 with the roster looking like it does, it’s been done willingly. There is no mechanism of a rebuild preventing them from doing something as relatively insignificant as bringing in some real live tangible bullpen arms.
I’ve said since 2020, I expect bad in 2020, bad in 2021, “fun” in 2022 meaning we’ll start to see some of the prospects break through, and starting to compete in 2023.
Let’s say via nature they get 10 games better in 2022, well it’s a lot to ask that in 2023 they suddenly get another 15-20 game improvement without some kind of investment. Sure they could do that next off season, but they could do some of it right now too. Basically, just because you don’t expect to compete this year, the fans don’t need to see you compete for a top 5 pick again.
For me, part of the development process is surrounding youngsters with veterans. Having a more steady bullpen is the cheapest and arguably most impactful way they could improve the product and arguably more important, give these kids a better chance to experience winning or dare I say learn to win.
That’s really the point, they could.
People have gotten so defensive of Ben Cherington that we suddenly can’t question his moves or lack thereof. I look at this roster and I can reasonably say, yes, some of the young starters should grow this year. I can look at the fielders and feel there are at least so many options that we could find a decent lineup from the cream rising to the top. That bullpen though, man that’s not good. I’m not willing to believe all the holes will be filled by starters not making the rotation, and quite honestly, if the Pirates do I think they’re fooling themselves.
It’s early, the byline up there says November 23rd, not even Thanksgiving yet, so it’s early to complain about what has been done this off season when it really just started, but I’d rather voice my concern now when there’s still time to address it than complain when they get to Bradenton.
Again, real competitiveness isn’t a thing in 2022, even if they spend money, but I don’t think they’re all that far from a little investment in the right area making this team at least capitalize on the talent they do have. They have to strike a balance as you don’t want to block prospects, but that’s kinda why I identify the bullpen, there isn’t anyone to block. The two guys I’d put in that category Yerry De Los Santos and Hunter Stratton weren’t even protected from the rule five draft, and consequently aren’t on the 40-man so they aren’t being blocked.
To me, go get some guys and at least reward the players you have and consider to be part of the group that you’re building can experience winning more games they played well in. Insulate yourself from the growing pains of a very young rotation by not having them hand the ball to a very young bullpen.
Again, it’s early, maybe they have this stuff in the works, but the point stands, just because Cherington does it, doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Just because the team is in a rebuild doesn’t mean you can’t try to help your youth by providing some north stars to guide them.
Bullpen guys aren’t going to put butts in seats, but bullpen guys might put W’s on the board. David Bednar can’t be asked to be essentially a starter in the back end, get some help.
This GM stuff has almost become like politics. You voted for him and now you suddenly can’t see, or at least publicly admit, that he isn’t doing everything you’d like, deserve or in some cases were promised.
The team, I believe, is on a good path. I believe fully if they do nothing but let everything they brought in grow and develop this team will get back to competitiveness. I just also happen to believe this doesn’t have to be an abomination of a baseball team for the entire ride.
Now, are you mature enough to allow me to offer critique without resorting to calling me a hater of Ben Cherington? Can I say I don’t like a certain thought process without being told I’ll be proven wrong when his master plan comes to fruition? I like to think so with this audience, lord knows you can’t get away with it on social media.
Not accepting that something could be done does nothing but feed the Nutting Nutting Nutting folks that people following this rebuild are stooges. Doesn’t mean you have to think he’s a failure if he doesn’t bring anything else in, as I said there are other ways to do things, up to and including actually adding MLB talent right now.
The stated goal of this website is “Fair Pirates Coverage” so I’ll take being disliked by the extremes on either side as a badge of honor and proof we’re doing exactly what we set out to do. To achieve that goal, I can’t do it without asking questions, calling out what I see and being honest about some things that are uncomfortable. This is one of those realities, they could spend some money here strategically and it wouldn’t hurt this rebuild in any way.
We as fans have to start expecting more. Not the moon, but more.