NEW YORK — Here’s what’s truly scary: Now, these guys get to do what they really wanted to do all along.
And, in turn, do even more damage.
Dispensing with all the requisite disaster updates from this otherwise sunny Sunday afternoon at Citi Field: Chris Archer was slapped around for six runs and 48 pitches in the first inning, the no-quit offense roared back with another futile rally, and the Pirates’ 8-7 loss to the Mets was their eighth in a row, as well as their 14th in 16 games since the All-Star break.
Plenty more on that below.
What matters most now, to repeat from my Saturday night sermon, is the macro. And in this case, the macro is that Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington now, finally, get a chance to pursue the one true objective I believe had been in place going back to last fall: Blow it all up, buy themselves a few more years through another rebuild and, ideally, bury the badness of the Archer trade by bringing big-time prospects back when they sell.
I’ve heard this for months. I’ve written it for months. But don’t take my word for it and, instead, watch their actions.
This group of players, against all odds with a roster-sized list of injuries, with Jameson Taillon going down for the year, with other starting pitchers shelved, had still somehow clawed within 2.5 games of first place in the Central at the break. A whole lot of energy and emotion went into that. A whole lot of faith in each other.
None of that was supported, much less rewarded.
When Taillon and Trevor Williams went down in rapid succession a couple months back, this front office’s reaction was to claim Chris Stratton off waivers and to try out Montana DuRapau and Michael Feliz as one-inning starters.
My God. Let that one sentence above suffice to summarize this entire summer.
Nothing else was done, apart from having Dovydas Neverauskas wear tire tracks into I-70 to and from Indianapolis and, of course, Huntington repeatedly citing arcane statistics about how few trades are made in April, May, even June. That was it. They sat.
They watched. And they waited. And that wait, in reality, extended all the way back to this past offseason with payroll being slashed by nearly $30 million at the same time Nutting, Coonelly and Huntington were all speaking, hilariously, of a ‘World Series’ goal.
That’s who they are. This is what they do. It’s a money-making enterprise first, all else second.
Oh, they want to win. Much in the same way I want to win the lottery. But I’m not about to go buy rolls of Pick-6 tickets any more than they’re about to add to payroll to make our respective dreams come true. If the Pirates had kept winning out of the break, the front office would’ve had its hand forced, plain and simple.
They would’ve had to illustrate that they want to win by picking up a random reliever or, more likely, merely holding onto Melky Cabrera, Corey Dickerson, Francisco Liriano and others on expiring contracts. But that would’ve been the end.
So here we are now. The team is 46-59 and barely breathing. And on this Sunday afternoon, Huntington, who didn’t accompany the team on this trip — he seldom does — was interviewed by team-employed announcer Greg Brown on his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan, and was finally free to say what he’d wanted to say all along.
“Unfortunately, with the way the club has played, the club I’ve put together has played coming out of the All-Star break … we’ve been challenged,” Huntington said. “Is there an opportunity to add to future clubs? Do we look to talk about players on expiring contracts?
We like this club. We like the core of the club. We like the players coming up behind them. It’s our job to listen, to put this team in position to contend and, eventually, a World Series. We’re in the process in looking at future clubs.”
Wow. There’s another ‘World Series’ reference. As well as the obligatory ‘unfortunately’ right off the top.
Well, buckle up. Or rather, buckle down. Because here comes the worst of it.
See, the same people who brought you Archer for Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and another first-round pick … they’re now virtually certain to move Felipe Vazquez. And with Huntington’s history of never being able to secure anything close to another organization’s top prospects regardless of the value involved — say, Gerrit Cole — they’re almost certain to weaken themselves further.
That doesn’t matter to them, though. What matters is that they can perpetuate the charade. And by selling some bold, new fresh start with the younger talent at hand — Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman — plus the couple legit prospects in Indy, plus whatever prospects can be culled from Vazquez … they extend their own licenses, essentially.
Nutting keeps milking Major League Baseball’s revenue sharing, which makes him plenty before the first ticket’s sold. Coonelly keeps collecting his paycheck to keep the business process as silent as possible. And Huntington extends his tenure, already the longest among active National League GMs even though every other team in the Central has won the division twice in his tenure against his zero.