New leadership looks to bring Pirates back to relevance

Courtesy of Pirates Twitter | New Pirates’ manager Derek Shelton addresses the media during his introductory press conference at PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon. Shelton spent the last two seasons with the Minnesota Twins’ staff.
Courtesy of Pirates Twitter | New Pirates’ manager Derek Shelton addresses the media during his introductory press conference at PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon. Shelton spent the last two seasons with the Minnesota Twins’ staff.

Jason Mignanelli | Staff Writer

Dec. 5, 2019

As the Pittsburgh Steelers are enjoying one of their most exciting seasons to date and Mike Tomlin is arguably the NFL’s coach of the year, it is difficult to care about what is happening in the other stadium over on the North Shore.

Only the truest and most loyal baseball fans are following the Pittsburgh Pirates this off-season. If you are one of those loyal fans, then you already know that the Pirates are back at it again, cleaning house and starting over from the top down within the organization.

The only problem is that the actual top (Bob Nutting) is still in place as the team’s owner. However, he has made whole sale changes again and after firing Neil Huntington and Clint Hurdle this off-season he has hired Ben Cherington as General Manager and Derek Shelton as the club’s manager.

So, what do we need to know about both of these names? First, Ben Cherington previously served as the vice-president of baseball operations for the Toronto Blue Jays. Prior to working for the Blue Jays, he was the executive vice president and general manager of the Boston Red Sox from 2011 to 2015.

Looking at his resume, he seems to have all of the qualities needed to succeed in Pittsburgh. Anyone who has worked for a team like the Boston Red Sox should be a pretty accomplished and intelligent baseball mind. Cherington is best known for constructing the 2013 Boston Red Sox roster that won the World Series. However, things did not end well in Boston for Cherington.

After a couple of really bad contracts, Boston brought in Dave Dombrowski as the President of Baseball Operations which was essentially the end for Cherington.

Most recently, things were on the upswing in Toronto under Cherington. One of his latest moves after hiring Shelton as Manager was to hire Steve Sanders as his Assistant General Manager. Sanders was the Scouting Director for the Toronto Blue Jays under Cherington and has a pretty good reputation for spotting young talent.

As many Pirates fans can acknowledge, it isn’t so much of the lack of spotting young talent that has haunted this franchise as much as the inability to mesh that young talent with some substantial veterans and free agent pitcher signings.
The Pirates have a solid young core to work with and Cherington actually has a decent team to begin his tenure. Players like Josh Bell, Adam Frazier, Kevin Newman, Bryan Reynolds, Jose Osuna and a list of other young guys that can contribute right away next year.

Not to mention, the team still has some veteran guys like Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Jung Ho Kang as a foundation. It will surely be interesting if nothing else to see what Cherington plans to do with this roster before next season.

Mission number one should be pitching and mission number two should be find better pitching. This team is lacking legitimate starting pitchers. Gerrit Cole is a faded memory and now it is time to rebuild that pitching staff from the ground up.

Rebuilding the roster will be primarily Cherington’s responsibility but getting these guys to play well on the field will be the responsibility of newly hired Manager Derek Shelton.

Shelton is a former catcher in the major leagues and has operated as a hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays. Most recently, Shelton was on the staff in Minnesota as the Twins’ bench coach, but he worked under Cherington in Toronto in 2017.

It seems as though Cherington has great faith in his previous employees and Pirates fans will be intrigued to see the many new faces at PNC Park.

Hopefully, it all comes together this year. There is nothing better than playoff baseball in Pittsburgh.

Despite all of the changes, the big question remains, will Bob Nutting give Cherington the money needed to put a competitive team on the field? Or, will we again see a few season of mediocrity followed by another wholesale house cleaning.

Many of the loyal Pirates fans are just about out of patience with Bob Nutting and if something does not look better this year, things may boil over here in Pittsburgh.

This is a sports town with a great tradition of winning. Teams like the Penguins and Steelers regularly field competitive teams. There is no excuse for the Pirates to be so terrible.

The fans in this town would once again go crazy for baseball if the Pirates were actually in a pennant race again come September of next year.

Let this be a call to action from all of us loyal Pirates fans, help this team Mr. Nutting. Let the young children in this town experience a winning baseball team and hopefully another World Series.