Have you ever chopped the head off a snake?
When I was a kid, I mowed for an older lady that lived down the street. Our neighborhood was not far from the base of the Blue Ridge mountains, and maybe 5-10 minutes from an entrance to the Blue Ridge parkway.
One day as I’m mowing, the lady I’m mowing for comes up to me worried about a snake in her flower bed. This was before the internet, and I couldn’t instantly tell if the snake was poisonous. There were definitely poisonous snakes in the area. So I didn’t take any chances, took a shovel, and chopped his head off, saving the life of dear, sweet Mrs. Kitchen.
That quick action of chopping off the head kills the snake, but the fun isn’t over. The snake is dead, but the body reacts involuntarily as the dying nerves fire off. The head sent the signal, and that’s all the body knows what to do.
This is all a very graphic description, and I’m very much like Indiana Jones in my disdain for snakes. Writing the above three paragraphs was the toughest thing I’ve had to write in 11 years on this site, and I covered the organization at a time when stuff like “Maybe Andy LaRoche could be a key part of the future” was a thing.
About two and a half weeks ago, Bob Nutting fired Neal Huntington, effectively cutting the head off the previous front office. But what about the body?
There’s so much focus right now on the key roles with the team. Ben Cherington looks to be the next GM. The next steps will be hiring the people directly under Cherington, and hiring a manager.
Those decisions will take time. It took over half a month to find a GM. How long until the Pirates have a complete front office? How long until they have a manager? How long until they make decisions on all of the minor league coaches, coordinators, and everyone else in the development system stuck in limbo?
Dejan Kovacevic reported on Omar Moreno this week, saying that he was told by Larry Broadway that he would not be returning. He later was brought back by Travis Williams.
I was discussing this with John Dreker earlier this morning, and he brought up a great point. If Dejan hadn’t caught and reported on that, Moreno likely would have been one of the guys who just doesn’t show up at Spring Training next year. By finding out immediately, there could be immediate action.
This is happening to more than just Moreno. John Dreker has spoken with members of the Pirates’ minor league organization who have discussed the concern shared in the organization right now.
Minor league coaches are on annual contracts, unless otherwise specified. Almost every Pirates minor league coach is waiting to hear whether they will be returning to the Pirates, or whether they will be going elsewhere.
Meanwhile, other teams have already started hiring coaches for next season. The Pirates have already lost Jacob Cruz to the Brewers. He was the assistant hitting coach in the majors, and is a very talented coach with a ton of knowledge about hitting, and most importantly, modern hitting and modern hitting philosophies.
That’s a loss which is going to hurt the Pirates, not just by losing a talented coach, but by losing him to a division rival. It might have been avoided if Bob Nutting had made a decision on Neal Huntington at the end of September instead of the end of October. That one month won’t cost the Pirates at the top with the GM or manager, but it will cost them talent throughout the development system, which is not an area that needs any setbacks right now.
As it stands right now, every coach still in the organization has a choice to make. They can stick with the Pirates and hope that the new front office brings them back when they eventually get to those decisions. The risk here is that all of the other good jobs might be gone by then, and if the Pirates move on, the coach could see a career setback. To avoid this, more coaches might leave, opting for personal security with their careers over showing goodwill to an organization that left them in limbo thanks to disorganization starting from the very top.
The Moreno story seemed kind of normal to me, considering what is going on. We don’t know what specifically was said between him and Broadway. What we do know is that Broadway — and everyone not named Ben Cherington right now — should not be making any moves. Moreno seems to have been left in limbo like everyone else, and you don’t want Broadway making personnel decisions in either direction right now.
Because of who he is, Moreno got the immediate attention, and Travis Williams stepped up and retained him, per Dejan’s reporting, and because of Dejan’s reporting. That’s great.
Because of who he is, and the positions he had, we know about Jacob Cruz already. Great that we know, but the situation sucks.
There are so many other coaches stuck in limbo right now. Some of them might already be gone. Others might decide to move on before the Pirates get to them. And all of that potential loss in talent lies squarely on the poor leadership from Bob Nutting throughout all of this.
Nutting waited a month to fire Huntington after saying he was the right guy to lead the team going forward. He then cited reasons for firing Huntington. All of those reasons were painfully obvious when he committed to retaining Huntington. I wrote about many of them when criticizing that decision after Nutting retained Huntington.
A month doesn’t sound like much, but it’s an eternity in the coaching world, where positions are limited and filled rapidly. The Pirates aren’t going to be hurt by this immediately at the top. They’ll probably get the same GM and manager they would have gotten one month earlier.
The damage here comes down the line, when they feel the impacts of the loss of so many talented coaches who moved on elsewhere, all because Nutting chopped the head off a snake, then left it flailing on the ground for the next GM to clean up at a later date, only one month after saying the head was the right thing to lead the snake going forward. All talent that is lost from this, potentially starting with Jacob Cruz, falls squarely on that bad series of decisions from the ultimate guy in charge of this organization.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.