One of the most influential shows on television in the last twenty years has been LOST.
For six seasons, the show did something that no other show at the time did. In an era before streaming and binge-watching, LOST gave a full season of shows that you had to watch in order, on network TV, when DVRs weren’t widely used. If you missed an episode, it would be hard to follow the series and understand what everyone was talking about.
The show ended up being one of the biggest and most influential shows on TV. It fueled a wave of shows to follow that didn’t rely on an “episode of the week” format, but instead trusted that viewers would tune in each week to stick with a good story like an appointment.
As for that story, the way it was developed was interesting. This oral history of the pilot explains how the entire process came together through the creative input of a lot of people. This wasn’t just an idea from one person that worked out from the start. It was an idea that was developed by an entire creative team over time, with many adjustments making it the hit show it became.
And, for the record, they weren’t dead the entire time. That was clearly explained in the show.
I like the way that Ben Cherington is building the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
I like it to the extent that I am even willing to adopt his preferred term of “Build” rather than “Rebuild” to describe the process.
Full disclaimer, I also liked the process that Neal Huntington had when he was the General Manager of the Pirates. I liked that process beyond when it fell apart, mostly to see if Huntington and his crew could adapt to the changes across the game. They didn’t.
One of the biggest changes? Bigger organizations.
At the start of Ben Cherington’s tenure, I said that the Pirates needed more than a General Manager. They need a President of Baseball Operations, who can oversee the entire long-term vision of the team. They also need a General Manager who can execute the daily functions of the job under that long-term vision. And, in each department, they essentially need a General Manager to run the growing branches of baseball development systems.
The biggest trend I’ve seen under Cherington is that he’s building this type of bigger organization.
In the past, the Pirates operated in a more top-down fashion in terms of how the organization would be run. There was less influence and autonomy in the way each person ran their departments.
John Baker currently has the job that Larry Broadway had under Huntington. Despite the similar roles, my observation is that Baker now has as much power as Kyle Stark had positioned above Broadway in the past. There were ideas that Broadway had as the farm director which weren’t implemented throughout the system. As one example, he was a big proponent of the changeup being developed and used more at a younger age, and that didn’t immediately start happening. On the flip side, Baker seems more free to implement any of his ideas.
Speaking of Broadway, he represents this growing organization.
The Pirates built up their pro scouting — the department that scouts existing pro minor league players for potential trades or for a game plan. Broadway is one of three Pro Evaluation Team Leaders. Each team covers a different part of the minors, with ten pro scouts working under the team leaders. Most of the people in this department are like Broadway — holdovers from the previous front office, but in a new role.
Considering the Pirates have shown a trend under Cherington of finding guys right when something clicked — Roansy Contreras is the biggest example of a sleeper find from a trade — we might already be seeing the results of growth in the scouting department. The Pirates were also busy adding scouts during the pandemic, at a time when other teams were cutting costs. I’m sure the Pirates bought a lot of information with those hires, which may have helped the trades that followed.
Overall, each department in the system is getting bigger, and more independent from Cherington. The system has also gotten more collaborative, with methods in place to allow input from everyone involved in the development process.
In the end, the biggest thing the Pirates have done is to establish an individually focused development system.
They have increased the amount of minds contributing to the development of a player. They’ve streamlined that process to allow for easier input from all parties. Most importantly, the player has the decision in how he wants his development to go, which will definitely help morale.
That could help with the most important thing: Building a winner in Pittsburgh.
Networks don’t go through all of the effort to plan and develop a hit show, only to run it for just three seasons.
If they’re going to go through the painful effort of putting on a product that people want to watch, they want it going for as long as possible.
That’s what the creators of LOST were told when their original plan was to create a show that would only run for three seasons.
Almost everyone I know who has watched LOST ends up binging the first two seasons, then running out of gas midway through the third. It’s painfully obvious that the creators didn’t have a long-term plan at that point, and were just trying to stretch things out as long as possible.
The creators of the show and the studio executives at ABC got together for a rare negotiation to end the show. The studio originally wanted ten seasons. The creators eventually talked that down to six seasons, with a few shortened seasons — one of them further shortened by the writer’s strike.
Once that deal was reached, the creators were able to plan the final seasons in the same way they planned the first two seasons. Only this time, they were planning a show that was already a hit.
There were criticisms about the time travel aspect, and people who watched the show live got too caught up in the weekly mysteries that were introduced — not all of them revealed by the end of the series. The final season required following and understanding the events of two different dimensions at the same time. This was way early. That is a concept that Marvel Studios is currently trying to attempt almost two decades later, and it has rarely been done otherwise.
The collaborative story that was built by the LOST creators is what made the show so appealing. The planning and execution of that story is what made the show an actual hit.
I think Ben Cherington has a plan.
I think the biggest knock against this plan is how slow it is running.
I can’t complain. For the final years of Neal Huntington’s tenure, I argued for exactly this.
A bigger organization. A more concentrated build where the team was either all-in or all-out. Ideally, a window of contention longer than three seasons.
We can easily say that the Pirates have been all-out at the Major League level for the first three years under Cherington. They were the worst team in baseball in the shortened 2020 season, one of the worst in 2021, and they’re only showing promise in 2022. There has been little effort to add to the MLB team.
This has all coincided with a massive boost to the farm system. The Pirates traded Starling Marte, Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Adam Frazier, Jacob Stallings, and others in a two-year span leading up to the 2022 season. Some of the players who came back from those deals are already making an impact in Pittsburgh.
The 2021 draft gave a huge boost to the farm system. The Pirates potentially filled one of their system needs by drafting catcher Henry Davis. They used the rest of their bonus money to land a group of big bonus prep players, essentially getting multiple first round talents from one draft.
Davis could fill the vacant catching hole in Pittsburgh, but he’s not the only option. Endy Rodriguez was acquired in the Joe Musgrove trade prior to 2021. The Pirates also added Carter Bins and Abrahan Gutierrez as catching options around the same time they drafted Davis. Their plan isn’t focused on one player, and they’ve been adding depth to each position in this way.
Under Cherington, the Pirates have done a good job of filling every potential system need with a lot of prospect options.
We are starting to see the early results of a large convergence of prospects in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have seen a lot of young players make the jump to the majors this year, including top prospects Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras.
Another group will join the mix next year, potentially including Davis, Mike Burrows, Quinn Priester, Liover Peguero, and other players from the growing group of upper-level talent.
This convergence of young players will do two things.
First, it will make it easier for the Pirates to build a long-term contender, with so many of their young players on the same service time schedule.
Second, it will make it obvious where the Pirates need to add from the outside.
The Pirates spent a lot of time in 2020 building up and reorganizing their scouting department. That was followed by the “rebuild” process of trading MLB veterans for younger, high upside players who might help in the future.
My thought is that we are in the final month of this particular process in the “build.” I don’t think the Pirates will ever stop adding talent, but this might be their last chance to add so much in such a short amount of time.
The Pirates will have a lot of opportunities to add talent this month. They have the fourth pick in the draft, and the fourth biggest draft bonus pool. That’s all they need to have a smaller scale repeat of last year’s draft.
The trade deadline could provide additional opportunities to add talent, with the biggest potential return coming from a potential Bryan Reynolds trade. The Pirates haven’t shown an urgency to extend Reynolds beyond his normal team control, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he’s not part of the long-term plans.
I have no doubt that the Pirates will add a good amount of talent in the next month, helping to replenish a farm system that has graduated a lot of prospects.
Ultimately, we’re at the point where this “build” needs to progress to the next stages.
We’ve reached the point where we are starting to see the early results from the individually-focused development system. The Pirates struggled to turn a top farm system into contending MLB talent in the past. We don’t know if Cherington and Baker can improve this area. This plan seems more sound and the early results are promising.
Most importantly, it’s time for Cherington to start focus on building at the MLB level. This offseason will provide the Pirates with an opportunity to add in key places, if they are aggressive. This is a team that has been putting up rock bottom payrolls, with a lackadaisical approach to adding in the majors. Despite this, they’ve managed to find some sleeper talent at budget prices.
Going forward, it would be nice to continue finding that sleeper talent.
It would be even better to see the Pirates get aggressive and target some potential impact pieces to send them into contending territory.
This is a team that has a lot of prospects quickly filling up long-term positions. Their biggest needs are obvious — they could use a veteran starter, a reliable reliever to pair with David Bednar, and a first baseman wouldn’t hurt. Their prospects will be cheap, and they’re building up from a very low payroll. They have the money.
The build has gone well so far.
It should be focused heavily on the Major League team going forward.
Perhaps the end result will be a product that we can enjoy watching for more than three seasons.
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Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.