Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Pirates GM Huntington not doubling down on errors

August 1, 2016

Francisco Liriano (6-11, 5.46 ERA) was shipped to the Blue Jays on Monday

Do you know what happens on a farm?
I didn't, but one day during spring training, the son of a dairy farmer explained it in a way that hit home.
“My dad was up before the sun every day, and he still is,” Neal Huntington said. “It amazed me. Still does. Sometimes I think, ‘Would it be such a big deal to sleep in just once?'
“But if you're a farmer, you and your family depend on that farm. Think about that. Think about all the things a farmer can't control, things that can go wrong, how many times things don't happen like you planned. And what do you do all of those times?
“You do the only thing you can: deal with it and wake up the next day.”
Do you know what happened to the Pirates on Monday? Their general manager started dealing with it.
Every move Huntington made before the expiration of baseball's non-waiver trade deadline was aimed at fixing mistakes he must own, even if he could not control many circumstances that led to the errors.
In dealing Francisco Liriano and Jon Niese, Huntington rid himself of two pitchers he believed would help the Pirates keep contending even as he was reconfiguring the franchise. However you view the return for those pitchers, at least credit Huntington for not sticking by a flailing plan.
As we've seen with the Penguins' Jim Rutherford, the best builder is one who will change the blueprint.
Helps, though, if a general manager can get lucky.
Rutherford did, by his own admission. And going back to our spring training chat, Huntington acknowledged that fortune plays a role in every Pirates season.
“You expect injuries, slumps, bad calls,” he said. “You can't have too many injuries, too many slumps and too many bad calls.”
Generally, Huntington's trades — starting with shipping closer Mark Melancon to the Nationals on Saturday — have been assessed as bad calls by frustrated Pirates fans, not to mention many so-called experts. He is thought to have sold too early, sold too low and sold out the remaining players despite the Pirates being in contention for the National League's final postseason spot.
Perhaps those criticisms are fair. Please, though, spare the second-guessing of decisions to re-sign Liriano, trade Neil Walker and cut ties with Pedro Alvarez. At least two of those were obvious calls, and if anything, the decision to deal Walker should have been made sooner. (Had Walker, who was clearly not in Huntington's long-term plans, been traded before last season, his return surely would have netted better than the underwhelming Niese.)
Publicly slaying Huntington for supposedly bailing on these Pirates is fair only if you were praising him for exhausting all resources provided by owner Bob Nutting to chase a championship with the Pirates of last summer.
And those Pirates did chase a championship. Their 98 wins were second most in the major leagues. They were deep in all areas. They were built to win in the playoffs with a really good staff, a shutdown bullpen and a sneakily stealth lineup.
They lost a best-of-luck game.
They also lost their best shot to win the World Series.
Now, not even a full year later, the Pirates simply seem lost.
No Pirate embodies their current state of being quite like Andrew McCutchen.
What once was a curious regression on the field has become an apparent regression as the franchise player. What started as rolled eyes after being squeezed by umpires has become fits in the dugouts and what only can be considered passive-aggressive criticism of his organization on social media.
It's an awful appearance for an all-time Pirate, and it's not helping anybody.
Not teammates counting on him to lead. Not coaches counting on him to produce. Not representatives counting on him to score a big, fat contract.
Do you know what's happening with Cutch?
If Huntington can't answer that question, then nothing the dairy farmer's son has done, is doing or will do can possibly make summer great again in Pittsburgh.
Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter@RobRossi_Trib.

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