Monday, October 4, 2010

Another One Bites The Dust

GW will be at work when this becomes official, but a handful of media reports say that JR will walk the plank today. (EDIT - It was officially announced at noon.)

We're of two schools of thought regarding his canning. He made some calls on the field that were beyond comprehension, so as a tactical leader, well, he wasn't. As a teacher, his team's baseball fundamentals were practically non-existent. And he does have that 186-299 record; somebody's head had to roll after those three seasons. His neck certainly stuck out the furthest.

But he did have to put up with constant meddling by the FO, leading to his baffling decisions to keep Aki Iwamura at the top of the order and Jeff Clement at first base, among others. Add in some chain-of-command issues with his staff going over his head, plus opp scouting heavy on data but lacking eyeball confirmation, and he was often handcuffed strategically.

Despite being tasked to make chicken salad out of chicken feathers after having his original roster decimated, he did keep his team playing hard, and the current players seemed to make an effort for him; we didn't notice games being mailed in this season like they were late in 2009. (In fact, we suspect Neil Walker is playing only because JR stuck up for him.) And his quiet demeanor didn't go over with the fans, but worked well with the team.

Still, it's a needed move for the Pirate organization. They brought in some new blood, and are planning to turn the page in a couple of seasons. It makes sense to bring in a new field leader for what the organization hopes is a new baseball era.

Neal Huntington may have gotten a pass this time around, but we'd guess he's skating on thin ice, too. His minor league system has risen from the ashes to middle of the pack, but is lacking in star power after this year's call-ups. And his evaluation skills have to be questioned; otherwise Brandon Moss would have locked down right field, Andy LaRoche would be starting, and Charlie Morton would be the staff ace.

He's also had his share of good acquisitions - Evan Meek, Joel Hanrahan, Garrett Jones, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez immediately leap to mind - but he needs to cobble together a roster that can compete at the major league level, and soon, to calm the rumors swirling about his job.

Interesting times are ahead for the Pirates.

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