Great Scot – Episode 17: Pirates: Neal Huntington – Egomaniac?
By Eric Scot
It’s been quite a negative week so far for Pirates GM Neal Huntington, at least from the perspective of the fans. It was first reported that top prospect Gregory Polanco would be coming up Friday and in the lineup against the Brewers. This was first reported by Pirates Prospects Tim Williams and then backed up quickly by several other outlets including Ken Rosenthal and Fox Sports.
Very quickly after the reports surfaced and news started to spread, other media types started citing high ranking Pirates officials state those reports to be false and Polanco would not be joining the team this weekend. It was a lot of fun on Twitter for the hour or so debating on whose reports were correct and at the end of the day, it seems as though Polanco will not be coming up and there “are no details on a timetable”.
The MLB draft happened Thursday night and the Pirates had four picks in the Top 73 selections. While the team was drafting much lower than normal, the extra picks from the Bryan Morris trade and the competitive balance pick in the 2nd round got fans excited for a re-stocking of an already really good minor league system. However, the next day, fans have to be wondering how the Pirates have come away so poorly based upon where guys were ranked.
You have a guy who was taken 24th in SS Cole Tucker that was ranked by Baseball America at #84 and then the Pirates selected OF/1B Connor Joe with the 39th pick while ranked by BA at #102. The first pick of the 2nd round for the Pirates was RHP Mitch Keller with the 64th pick while BA ranked him #76 and finally, the team selected RHP Trey Supak with the 73rd selection and BA ranked him #99 overall.
Granted, I don’t know much about these guys but I have to wonder how all the “experts” can rank guys so low, yet the Pirates, Neal Huntington and staff rank them so high. Of course, Huntington is going to come out and give the typical “They were the best players on our boards at the time.” and “We didn’t think they would be there with our next selection.” lines.
It’s these types of statements that have become commonplace for the Pirates front office and it can get very frustrated because fans just want to know the lines of thinking when it comes to these selections. Maybe Huntington can say, “We feel we reached a little bit with this selection, however we also feel as though this player will grow to be something more than maybe he is right now.” Granted, Huntington did say that these players project to be better than most outlets gave them credit for but an 84th ranked player going 24th is certainly worth questioning the “best front office staff in the game”.
Here is what I’m concerned about, that Neal Huntington and his staff have built up such a wall around themselves and have owner Bob Nutting convinced they know exactly what they are doing at every turn, based upon making the playoffs last year, they pretty much have free reign to do whatever they want to do, including making some questionable and moreso maddening decisions. Is this a product of an egotistical and very arrogant general manager or is this a bumbling Opie type move that could set the team back once they start dealing from the current minor league system.
Sure, the Pirates have one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball and yes, they did make the playoffs last season and yes, their top prospect is on the verge of being called up. Not only that, next season, another top prospect who will be returning from injury should be ready to come up in Jameson Taillon and there is a good streamline of prospects that can fill voids all over the diamond(except SS, 1B and 3B).
However, while building that best minor league system, the team operated in a way that seemed to be positive, even when it happened(except the Tony Sanchez draft year). The moves the team made at the trade deadlines helped get the team over the hump and even a couple of surprise moves(Russell Martin and AJ Burnett) really got the team back on the map.
You also have to question the reasoning as to why Polanco hasn’t joined the team just yet. Everyone is saying that the Super Two deadline should have passed at this point and people are begging for him to arrive, however maybe Huntington has a different date in mind that safely surpasses the Super Two deadline. It’s difficult to say because we aren’t in those meetings and we don’t know what they are saying behind closed doors.
The point is, that they are either being very smart for the short-term and long-term or there is some serious ego taking hold and when reports get leaked about someone coming up, they instantly change course just to prove those reports wrong and the Pirates front office will not be swayed by outside sources calling for something to happen.
Now it seems as though they are making moves that doesn’t seem to have explanation except for whatever makes sense to them. Are these guys the best evaluators of talent? Can we trust that they will continue to make the right decisions for the short-term and the long-term? Or can we chalk up the recent decisions by the front office as we need to trust their decision making because after all, they have gotten the Pirates back to relevance?
Maybe they do have more information than any of us and maybe they do get paid to make these decisions but what they can’t do is alienate the fans of the team who show up to the games, watch them on TV, buy the merchandise because ultimately, that is what pays their salaries and I am getting increasingly frustrated with the decision making and based upon social media, it seems a lot of people are also questioning the motives. It’s dangerous waters they are swimming right now and it could blow up in their faces by way of losing those jobs. But maybe they know exactly what they are doing.