Words are Nice, but New Pirates’ Front Office Must Follow with Actions

“We’re in the Endgame now.”

For those who may not remember, or have no idea what I’m referencing, these words were uttered by Dr. Strange in Avengers: Infinity War as justification as to why he willingly gave up the Time Stone, despite an allegiance and pledge to protect it at all costs.

Of course, it was evident that earlier in the film, after he looked into different futures, he knew it was the only way they would end up winning out of 14,000,605 different possible outcomes.

This begs the question—did Neal Huntington get his now infamous simulations quote from FanGraphs or Stephen Strange? We may never know…

Aside from wanting to prove that Tim doesn’t corner the market on Marvel content around here, why do I bring any of this up? It’s to prove that, in the end(game), words are nice, but they ultimately mean nothing.

One of my favorite examples of this involves this very topic, which is why I chose it specifically. For those not in the know on their pop culture news, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame started out on the release calendar as Infinity War – Parts 1 & 2. It made big news when Part 2 underwent a name change and was no longer going by Part 2. Of course, after Infinity War was released, fans clamored for any clues they could get as to what would happen in the follow-up, which of course would eventually become Avengers: Endgame.

Notably, in one interview, the Russo brothers—directors of both films—when asked if the name of the upcoming sequel was ever said in Infinity War, responded with a flat-out no. When producer Kevin Feige later stated that the title was in place before production began and Strange uttered those very words because they knew it was going to be the title, the jig was up, and it was obvious the Russo’s were not being forthcoming.

Executives in positions of power over an extremely valuable commodity being intentionally vague or misleading in a public forum—why does that sound familiar?

Of course, this was seen as a specialty of former General Manager Neal Huntington’s among fans, and it rubbed a lot of them the wrong way. The Pirates now employ a GM who has very strong ties to his predecessor, who quite literally got his start in baseball from his connections with Huntington. Watching or listening to Monday’s introductory press conference, it’s not hard to imagine Huntington giving many of the same answers new Pirates’ GM Ben Cherington did. Was this simply a cookie cutter presser, or a sign of things to come?

I certainly don’t want to put too much stock into a 28 minute, 47 second introductory news conference. If I wanted to do that, I would still be hanging on to something as benign as “the best management team in baseball” eleven years later. That’s just an example of why I, personally, tune out when it comes time for athletes, coaches, or executives to say anything. The platitudes are all but standard at this point—“We play to win the game” (well duh). “Taking it one game at a time”. “Get better each and every day.”

Uh oh, wait a second:

Not even an hour in to the job, and questions are being sidestepped and clichés are flying!

I quote tweeted this Monday, questioning why fans would be expecting anything different, and I received a little push-back. Of course, this comes from my point of view that interviews, press conferences, or pretty much anywhere that questions are being answered are pointless.

I can understand the argument that the Pirates aren’t in a position to serve up the same-old, same-old, and that they need to get fans back on board with a clear, concise message. While that may be preferred, I was simply stating I wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed that we were hearing exactly what we’ve heard in the past, because this is Public Speaking 101—the only thing that is said is what’s nice, what people want to hear. What is the point of that song and dance?

I’ve seen a lot of applause for the way the front office—or really, Bob Nutting—has handled this transition over the last couple of weeks, at least with what he’s said. He is being seen as more human, more passionate about the team than he’s ever been. He’s saying all the right things about seeing a problem and doing what he felt he needed to do to fix it, while seeming to truly consider how the fans are feeling about the team at this current moment in time.

Of course, he backed up his words with his initial actions—clearing the entire front office and starting fresh—even if the timing can certainly be questioned. It remains to be seen if that is as far as the change will go, and that’s ultimately what’s important—not the words, but the actions to support them.

From listening to the Monday’s press conference, Cherington said all the right things. He’s happy and excited to be in Pittsburgh. It was the only job for him. Talent procurement and development will be how the team ultimately succeeds. Really though, there wasn’t much substance to what was said. Honestly, what else do you expect to hear?

“I’m excited to be in Pittsburgh, because I never could quite grasp the metric system.”

“Pittsburgh is cold, not a very exciting city, but the pay was nice, and no one else was offering full control, so here we are!”

“Yeah, we are committing to a rebuild, mostly because it means definite job security, at least for a few years!”

“I was left with a pile of mediocre players, and I have no idea how I’m going to turn this around guys.”

“I’m going to need those prospects I’m so good at developing, because cost-controlled talent is the best way to come under budget!”

Truly, I don’t want this to come off as overly negative, because it’s not meant to be. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the Cherington hire. I want to be excited about a new direction—a World Series winning executive with what appears to be a very strong track record in player procurement and development.

However, there’s a nagging voice in the back of mind, saying that this is the safe hire, the business-as-usual hire. The idea that this is nothing more than Huntington Lite or Huntington 2.0, while maybe unfair, certainly seems to fit, at least at the start. Of course, if that is to be considered criticism, it is far too early to levy that as a negative against Cherington.

I want to give him a chance, see what it is he has to offer. However, I plan to reserve all my judgement until actions begin to be taken; the words mean very little—if anything—to me. Sure, they are a start, and give us a guide as to where things may go, but what steps will tangibly be taken to get this club headed in the right direction? That’s what matters, and it will take time to see if Cherington is really a “talent magnet” or “the right person.”

Really though, all he has to do is get better every day, and inevitably, there will truly be no one better for the job.

A longtime Pirates Prospects reader, Ethan has been covering payroll, transactions, and rules in-depth since 2018 and dabbling in these topics for as long as he can remember. He started writing about the Pirates at The Point of Pittsburgh before moving over to Pirates Prospects at the start of the 2019 season.

Always a lover of numbers and finding an answer, Ethan much prefers diving into these topics over what’s actually happening on the field. These under and often incorrectly covered topics are truly his passion, and he does his best to educate fans on subjects they may not always understand, but are important nonetheless.

When he’s not updating his beloved spreadsheets, Ethan works full-time as an accountant, while being a dad to two young daughters and watching too many movies and TV shows at night.

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