Fans of the Pirates, until recently, saw the rebuilding effort with the team as if it were one long process. As one five-year-plan merged into the next, as the streak of futility continued, it was easy to get dragged into seeing it that way. But that, of course, wasn’t the case.
Recent articles featuring Bob Nutting and Neal Huntington point to the specific efforts that they made to build the team the way that it was last night when the game was won. Further, they point out the efforts in the direction of making the team as sustainable as a small-market team can be in the economic nightmare that is Major League Baseball. Sure, there were quick fixes that could have been made along the way. Previous regimes attempted to do just that, and Pirates fans know the names that were tied to those bad contracts and unproductive players.
This front office developed a rebuilding plan and stuck to it, knowing that results would speak for themselves – if their decisions were the right ones.
Similarly, it’s easy to look at the drought faced by the Dukes in that light. One long string of futility. Of course that isn’t the case and many would draw the line of reemergence at Everhart’s second season. I sort of would too, but only sort of. It was no small task to show that a winner was possible on the Bluff, but that wasn’t the only road to hoe.
See, the success never was sustainable. JUCO reliance was a quick fix. Young, talented players didn’t stay on the Bluff. The NIT year first made it appear that good things were right around the corner, but they never materialized. This was more like the Pirates “freak show” season rather than a true step forward.
The Dukes are still rebuilding, but this is a much different effort. Ferry hasn’t shown a willingness to fill a slot with just anyone the way that Dave Littlefield did with the inexplicable Matt Morris trade. JUCOs added to the team are complimentary pieces. Tall players are recruited that are likely to fit the system and aren’t just here because they’re tall and saw a basketball once.
It feels different even if the results aren’t shown in the record yet. We mentioned this on the recent podcast, noting that the recruitment and development of a PG in Derrick Colter was the most important element to the Dukes season last year and makes it successful despite the record. This is the first time in a long time where a plan is evident and the focus is on finding the right pieces rather than forcing square pegs into round holes as best as possible.
Is the plan the right one, though? That’s the question that needs to be answered as the games begin. Moving forward in a way that can be lasting isn’t always quick and progress isn’t always immediately discernible even when it is being made – just ask Neal Huntington.
Perhaps the success of the Pirates rebuild can inform the way that we examine the efforts of Duquesne and Jim Ferry.