Photo by Alise submitted via the Pittsburgh Beautiful App
What the fans want should not matter to Neal Huntington.
They are not experts at running a baseball team, he is. He is much better at his job than most fans believe. He is handcuffed by market size, ownership and the current economics of baseball which is not a level playing field.
With a hard trade deadline approaching, Huntington is in the soup. He holds the two best potential trading pieces of any general manager in Felipe Vasquez and Starling Marte. Until yesterday, I thought the Pirates might have just enough to hold on Vasquez and Marte trades to keep the band together for a run at the NL Central.
Then Clint Hurdle reminded me that he actually cannot get any team over the hump.
He’s just not good enough.
One of my beefs with Hurdle is that following mind-blowing decisions – like the one yesterday to bring quad-A scrub Michael Feliz into a high-leverage situation in a game against a divisional opponent who is ahead of the Pirates in the standings – he vomits out comments like:
“The Goldschmidt matchup is not a good matchup. Francisco (Liriano, whom Hurdle lifted for Feliz) is capable of getting anybody out, but there’s also six walks in Goldschmidt over the course of time.”
Excuse me, what?
No, don’t risk the walk – heavens no – bring in the groove master to throw one of the best hitters in baseball the past seven seasons a dead middle fastball.
Not enough space here to document the number of games Hurdle has managed to outmagage himself. He spews analytics like the old Commodore 64, and his managing is about as antiquated. Another analytic led decision yesterday – resting Josh Bell.
You know – the team MVP.
Yep, he’s slumping a bit. So what? You are playing the freaking Cardinals in a game to decide an important series. This isn’t some throw away exhibition against Bradenton Community College in March – this is the Cardinals!
But yet, Bell sat and watched while lesser bats toiled. Bell – who had two days of a week ago and a day off today. Bell – a 28-year-old in the absolute prime of his physical life. He was made to rest instead of playing in what might have been the biggest game of the season to this point for many reasons.
But he’s signed for two more seasons. Huntington too. Both are impeccable apologists for Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly, the Pirates’ dynamic profiteering duo, so neither are going anywhere fast.
As I said earlier – I mostly like what Huntington has done against impossible odds – but a team that thinks they are close, and shows flashes of being able to stay in a bad division’s race, cannot afford to sit the team MVP and run out unproven relief pitchers in games against divisional opponents.
The Pirates are stuck in the middle of buying and selling.
- Wimbledon brings back some great memories. 1981 – John McEnroe, the brash, cocky young American, takes out the legendary Swede, Bjorn Borg in the men’s finals. My mother washing and pitting cherries as we prepared for a July 4 cookout. Tennis meant more then – maybe because the American won – but this year’s men’s finals between Novak Djokovic, as likeable as a flesh-eating bacteria – and Roger Federer was epic. It was the kind of match that should put tennis back on the map. Sadly, it won’t, and tennis is likely to continue to trend downwards.
- Training camp is just around the corner. Much more on the Steelers to come in future musings, but for now, I am intrigued. Mike Tomlin’s coaching mettle will be tested, as will Big Ben’s leadership and precarious status as an elite NFL quarterback. James Connor needs to prove he can stay healthy and productive for 16 games, somebody needs to step up as a number two receiver, and Juju needs to take the next step to be a number one, which I am not sure he can. Devin Bush needs to be everything and more as the leader of the defense – probably too much to ask of a rookie – and the secondary needs to be better, much better, if the Steelers are to return to the playoffs in 2019.
David Moio appears on a special SPORTS edition BONUS episode of the Pittsburgh Beautiful Podcast tomorrow.
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