So young, so naive...
I know I've completely neglected the Pirates, and as one half of the unofficial Pirates' apologists around here, I feel kind of bad about it. I mean, we just hired two people for two of the most critical positions in the entire organization, and nary a word was mentioned on the site. I like to think that I only put things up when I have something to add to the discussion, and I didn't think I knew Coonelly or Huntington well enough to really give an informed opinion.
Both new hires are baseball people, an undeniable positive. McClatchy is obviously a great businessman, but his lack of baseball knowledge hurt the team. Don't you think Ken Sawyer/Mario and the Rooneys know a bit more about their respective sports than McClatchy, that the GMs bounced ideas off them and they can give informed opinions? I have been moderately pleased with the message the new brain trust has been broadcasting. We're supposedly going to really focus on the minors and international talent...you know, things successful teams do. I also doubt there will be a free agent signing this winter, which is fine with me. Littlefield never really said anything about the international players, and the results speak for themselves.
Saying things and doing things are two completely things, as Smizik noted in a column the other day, so I wanted to see what Littlefield was saying when he was hired back in July of 2001. First off, the 2 day period of July 11-13 2001 is a very underrated turning point in the history of Pittsburgh sports that I really had no idea about. July 11th, Jagr was sold to the Capitals for $5 million. July 12th, Bill Cowher's contract was extended after going 7-9, 6-10, and 9-7 for three seasons. On Friday the 13th (figures), there was a news conference where the Pirates announced Littlefield would be the one to carry on Cam Bonifay's legacy of ineptitude. Out of all those moves, the Littlefield one was probably the least controversial, the most supported by the fans. Yet, in the end, it was far and away the worst thing to happen in Pittsburgh sports that summer. I had no idea all these events happened so close to each other, and I'm sure our 56k modems would have exploded if we had to blog all of that on the same day.
Anyway, here are some choice quotes from an article by Paul Meyer about the Littlefield hiring:
"I think I have a decent grasp of the Pirates' minor-league system. Sometimes the perception may not be the reality. When I look at the Pirates, I see a lot of positives. I think the positives far outweigh the negatives."
In reference to taking advantage of the short right field: "We have to analyze if that's an area where a lot of home runs are hit. We'll be looking at it as something we can do a little more aggressively in our scouting."
From those comments, one can conclude that Littlefield will want a pitching-oriented team -- perhaps heavy on left-handers -- that will include more team speed than the Pirates have now and probably be fully equipped with left-handed batters.
-Paul Meyer, PG
My absolute favorite remarks came from eternal optimist Ron Cook. Seriously, if you have nothing better to do read this article:
On Frank Wren not accepting the job which led to Littlefield's hiring: "Littlefield is a better choice."
In reference to Littlefield learning from uber-GM Dave Dombrowski:
"Seifert won two Super Bowls. Mike Holmgren won one and lost in another. Dennis Green coached in two NFC championship games.
The Pirates should be so lucky with Littlefield."
I don't blame Cook, or anyone excited back then. Hell, I was one of them. We were only knee deep in pessimism at that point. Plus, on paper Littlefield did look good, and he was not nearly as specific on his plan as the new guys. He definitely seemed to be a lot more of a normal guy, just shootin' the bull with the media. Relative to Littlefield, Huntington and Coonelly sound like the would enjoy addressing Congress on a daily basis.
Huntington absolutely loves modifiers. We are apparently going to tirelessly, aggressively, diligently, tremendously, systematically, win in a process-oriented, excellent, elite fashion that demands accountability on all levels. This guy is a thesaurus of strong adjectives and adverbs, which when it comes down to it is all that really matters. If this whole GM thing doesn't work out, we may have just found the 5th staff writer for Doubt About It. If you think I just made all those words up, please read Huntington's first press release. What kills me is that all these promises should already be assumed. Process-oriented? I hope so!
WPXI and KDKA: Notice the free advertising. We expect the favor returned.
He also made one of the most ridiculous promises in awhile: "My message to the players and to the fans is that every move the Pittsburgh Pirates make will be aimed at what's best for the team in the short and long term."
He's going to help the team in the short and the long term. And we're going to keep the money invested in the team at near the same level. Trying to envision both outcomes hurts my brain. Helping in the short term would be buying a high priced free agent, but he's already said they won't do that (thankfully).
Before writing this I was optimistic. Now, not so much.
On to the results of the Steelers' "Would You Rather.." poll:
Remarkably, and in one of my worse errors in judgement, the Steelers lost by 2 votes. Blueline1925 summed up my feelings on what I thought the general consensus of Pittsburgh would be:
"The Steelers define our region more than the others do, and by cutting the Steelers out of my life, I'd be removing a part of who I am and how I'm identified.Could Not have said it better myself.
The Pirates are that friendly, girl-next-door type, who's always inviting you over to hang out, but when you think you're in with her, she starts to get fat, becomes bitchy, and all the sudden, you don't care if you schtupe her or not. Always good for a tease, but leaves you with blueballs.
Penguins: this is where it hurts. Missing a whole year of these guys would be PAINFUL, and being unable to watch Sidney would be almost unbearable. It would be the equivalent to having 3 children under 5 years old and missing an entire year of their lives as they went through some of the biggest changes pre-puberty. (I think of this and sympathize with the US servicemen who live this reality right now.) But, sometimes, you have to make sacrifices."
It looks like I seriously misjudged the Penguins. My apologies to Pat, Seth at EN, Pensblog, and every other fan who knew the popularity of this team in relation to the Steelers. The crazy part was the Steelers were up by around 15 votes last night. What happened? Next week: Steelers vs Pens. We'll see just how badly I underestimated hockey in relation to football in the Steel City.
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