I don’t know when it happened, but there was a point in time where I started trusting everything J.J. Abrams was associated with. LOST is one of my all-time favorite shows. Person of Interest is criminally underrated, and might be my favorite show, period. It’s basically how it would be if there was a real life version of Batman, which kind of makes sense, because the show was created by Jonathan Nolan, who was a writer for The Dark Knight. If you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix, give POI a shot. Let them get through the “case a week” format for the first half of the first season, and you’ll end up with the quality of show that you don’t usually get on network TV.
Back to the Abrams topic.
At this point, it’s easy to look back on his track record and see why I trust anything he does in the future. He revived the Mission: Impossible franchise with MI3 after Mission: Impossible II was a nightmare. The TV side of things have produced some hits, even including shows I haven’t seen, such as Alias or Fringe. The movie side had a few smaller success stories like Cloverfield and Super 8 (with both sticking to a monster/Sci-fi theme).
Then there was the big breakthrough, when Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchise. I was never a Star Trek fan at all, but the new movies have been outstanding.
Finally, there was the new Star Wars movie, which was just as good as the original movies, and made you wish that Abrams was in charge of the prequel trilogy. After that, I reached the point where he could be attached to any project, and my response upon hearing about the project would be “Please, take my money.”
I bring all of this up in part to get you to watch Person of Interest, but also because this is somewhat similar to my approach with evaluating Neal Huntington’s moves. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I just assumed that future moves would work out, based on a strong track record.
I didn’t have that feeling at first. I liked the direction the Pirates were going when Huntington and company first took over. I thought they were making the right types of moves that a small market team needed to make in order to rebuild and become a playoff team. But I wasn’t sure if it would work. In fact, after the 2012 season, I wrote that Huntington should have one more shot at turning the team into a contender, and that the Pirates needed to move on if it didn’t work out at that point.
Huntington went from having me cautiously optimistic about his moves and direction, to the point where I now go in with the expectation that a move will work for them, especially with pitchers. That’s not to ridiculous extremes. For example, Kyle Lobstein was acquired today and projects as early season rotation depth, and not much more than that. I wouldn’t expect him to become a key player on the team. But expecting Jon Niese to bounce back from his down 2015 season, and return to the 2.0+ WAR player that he was from 2011-14 is totally reasonable.
Looking back, it’s easy to see how I got to this point.
A.J. Burnett was the first big breakthrough in the pitching market, after a few success stories before him. We’ll call Burnett the “LOST” of this comparison.
Then there was Francisco Liriano, who would probably get a Star Trek comparison if we’re going on the quality of the pitcher. But I’m focusing on the added trust that the move brought. In this case, it would be Person of Interest level. It’s something that made me think the first big success wasn’t a fluke.
The smaller movies like Super 8 or Cloverfield would be the equivalent to the small moves like Jeanmar Gomez, Vin Mazzaro, and Vance Worley. They were minor in comparison, they were good at the time, but they’re not something you want to see over and over, year after year.
Edinson Volquez would be Star Trek in this example. That’s probably the point where things were on the verge of “I expect every pitching move to go right”. And if that was the Star Trek example, then J.A. Happ would be Star Wars, where after the move, I was left amazed, saying I would expect every pitching move Huntington made in the future to work out.
I can’t say I’m there yet with the position players. Sure, Russell Martin was a massive steal, and Francisco Cervelli was a great follow-up. Jung-ho Kang has also been a huge addition. Maybe if Jason Rogers turns out to be the next big steal, I’ll get there. For now, I’m in pre-Volquez territory, where they’ve had some success, and you let them prove that this wasn’t just luck, but you don’t expect anything big.
The reality about this is that not every move Huntington makes — pitching or hitting — will work out. It’s entirely possible that Niese won’t revert to that 2.0+ WAR pitcher. It’s possible that Ryan Vogelsong won’t be a good swingman, or fifth starter, or whatever his role is expected to be. It’s possible that the next Star Trek sequel won’t be good at all. But the track records trump the bad year that Niese is coming off of, the seemingly zero value that Vogelsong has, and a trailer heavily focused on a Beastie Boys song.
I’m not going to tell anyone how they should think. But I am going to tell you how I think. I’ve already written that I think the Pirates have earned trust to complete an off-season and let their plan play out. Because of that, I’m not going to be complaining on December 21st, and probably won’t be complaining on January 21st or February 21st. For one, I don’t see the point of complaining in advance. I also feel like it’s acceptable to let the Pirates complete their off-season, see how the moves play out, and then criticize the moves if that criticism is warranted.
I often see a common line from people criticizing the team, saying they will gladly go back and admit they were wrong if it turns out the Pirates made a good move. My though is, why can’t you do the opposite? Why can’t you let the off-season play out, assume the Pirates know what they’re doing, and then admit they had a bad off-season if that was the case? Based on their history, it makes a lot more sense to give them the benefit of the doubt at this point.
Regardless of which side of this debate you fall on (shoot first vs wait it out), we’re all just waiting for things to play out. Some of us are waiting, expecting more to come. Some are waiting, and fearing that the Pirates are done already. I personally don’t think they’re finished, and that’s backed by the approach they’ve taken in previous years. Only time will tell if I’m eventually looking back at this and saying they should have done a better job.
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**Making Sense of the Recent Moves by the Pirates. Today I looked at the moves from last week, trying to make sense of a situation that is largely unclear, due to the fact that there is still so much time left in the off-season.
**Pirates Acquire LHP Kyle Lobstein From Detroit. This was a glorified waiver claim, and adds emergency early season rotation depth to the system.
**Pirates Looking For a Left-Handed Bat at First Base. The Pirates clearly aren’t done at first base, although I wouldn’t expect any huge moves here.
**Breaking Down Jose Osuna’s Winter Ball Success. John Dreker broke down Osuna’s big off-season over the weekend.