It seems as if part of an interview I leaked yesterday struck a chord with a reader, if ever so slightly:
Sports Weekly: If you bought [the Pirates], who would you fire first?
CH: Ed Creech, the Pirates’ scouting director: We haven’t had a solid draft in the entirety of Dave Littlefield’s reign as general manager, and the farm system is hurting as a result. But Brian Graham, director of player development, and Littlefield himself would be able to join Creech on the first plane out of town.
How in the world can you blame the director of player development? Blame who then? How about the monies the Pirates do not have to actually pay the good players … Have you seen the attendance record?
Cindy, Brian Graham’s wife (I kid), would like you to know that the Pirates drew 1,583,031 fans in 2004; 1,794,237 in 2005; 1,861,549 in 2006 (all averages between 21-23,000 per game); and are on pace to draw 1,812,861 fans (an average of 22,381) to PNC Park in 2007. While below league average, I think it’s safe to say that fans are still supporting this team—perhaps surprisingly so, given the on-field product we’re forced to watch.
Cindy would also like you to ignore the fact that the Pirates actually acquired $15 million worth of player contracts during the 2007 season when they traded for Cesar Izturis and Matt Morris. Again, while still below league average, I think it’s safe to say that the Pirates during the new Nutting era have spent encouragingly (if not wisely); obviously we won’t know truly what the 2008 payroll will look like until the upcoming hot stove season, but it’s a positive sign when they’re making moves they believe will positively impact the team.
But, all that said, we’re still left with three men:
- Ed Creech, who scouts prospects,
- David Littlefield, who signs those prospects, and
- Brian Graham, whose job it is to bring them along through the system,
who need to be examined.
Those three are the ones who have been failing the Pirates. Even working on a limited budget—and taking into account that good trades and free agent signings need to be made, too—the results of the Pirate farm system are embarrassingly poor.
Of the top-10 Pirate picks from the four drafts between 2002 and 2005, the number of players who can reasonably expect to play in the major leagues:
- 2002: Brian Bullington, Brad Eldred, Matt Capps, Dave Davidson (only one of any impact)
- 2003: Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny and Craig Stansberry (two of impact)
- 2004: Neil Walker and Brian Bixler (one of impact)
- 2005: Andrew McCutchen, Brent Lillibridge, Steven Pearce (three of impact)
Four drafts, 40 top-10 picks, and 12 potential major leaguers. Of those 12, only seven should—or could—contribute significantly.
Again, much blame is shouldered by Creech and Littlefield for being poor evaluators of talent. But at the same time, we can’t discount the work Graham is doing with these prospects. It’s his job to prepare them for major-league play, and he’s failing miserably.
It ties directly into all the CEO talk: This is why it’s important that Bob Nutting hires a candidate familiar with baseball operations. A team with limited resources must invest them properly, and a smart executive would presumably take the steps necessary to ensure that happens.
We need to pull players like Matt Wieters into the organization and ensure that they make it to Pittsburgh in one piece.