Should the Pirates be in “Win Now” Mode?


Jul 13, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) singles in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

I was sitting at work on Friday with nothing to do, so I decided to tune into 105.9 ‘The X’ and listen to the Mark Madden show. An immediate feeling of regret and disgust flooded my body. When I tuned in, Mark was blathering on about how Pirates management has failed to go out and acquire a real difference maker, claiming that the Pirates are “just a bunch of losers.” I’m not going to turn this into an anti-Mark Madden rant, because that isn’t the point I am trying to make. What I am trying to say is that the best run franchises in pro sports commit themselves to long-term plans. They don’t break the bank, they don’t trade top prospects for rentals, they simply do business discreetly and efficiently. Mark is not the only Pirates “fan” to advocate going for it all no matter the cost this season, but that doesn’t make him or any one else right. It’s time to trust Pirates management.

Take the Pittsburgh Steelers, for example. Different sport, same concept. I cannot remember the last time the Steelers made a headline grabbing trade. They haven’t signed a big name free agent in years. Yet they quietly go about their business. The result? The most successful franchise in NFL history.

Jul 20, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle watches from the dugout during a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Apply this same concept to the Pittsburgh Pirates. There is no need to go out and trade Polanco, Lambo, Hanson, or any other big name prospects for a player that may be established now, but will only be with the team for one or two years. Unless you are the Yankees – and the Pirates certainly are not – then it is just not possible to win consistently without sticking to your long-term plan. I think that is where Mark is missing the point. Sure, trading for Alex Rios or Giancarlo Stanton would give the team a huge boost right now, but what about three, four, or five years from now? Why not give Lambo a chance? He is slugging at a ridiculous percentage right now. Everyone wants this team to win and get the “no winning season in 20 years” monkey off their back, but management must stick to the plan. That is what top franchises such as the Cardinals do. Besides the Beltran signing (which they only had the money for because they didn’t re-sign Albert), they never make big deadline deals involving top prospects. They are consistently good because they stick to their long-term plans and do not go into “win now” mode.

I am not saying management has had it right all along. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite. They messed up a lot, for a long time. For years the Pirates have been “building for the future.” Fans saw players like Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche, Xavier Nady, Jason Kendall, and Jose Bautista traded away in their primes. But management sure does look smart now, don’t they? For all the abuse Neil Huntington takes, he sure has put together one heck of a team through those trades. Both Charlie Morton and ace Jeff Locke are products of the McLouth trade. Melancon, easily the best setup man by the numbers in the NL, is a product of the Joel Hanrahan trade (who is on the DL for the rest of the season). Most of the players traded away bottomed out immediately. Except for McLouth’s inexplicable resurgence in Baltimore (after we released him, anyway) and Bautista’s baffling home run numbers, Huntington has the Pirates looking like winners in his trades.

It’s finally time to trust management. It’s time to trust in Nutting and Huntington. It may seem difficult at first, but they have this team on the up. We must trust them to build the winner that we have been promised.