Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/8/14
Read part 1 of the series here, and part 2 here. We’ve laid out the key decision makers of the Pittsburgh Pirates that have contributed to two of the worst collapses in MLB history- in consecutive years no less (2011 and 2012)!  In the conclusion of this 3-part series, this author shares his opinions on who are accountable, from the least responsible to the most.   Least Responsible:  The Pirates’ Players Themselves Image credit post-gazette This seems counterintuitive, as the players are the ones deciding games on the field, while the front office types watch from their luxury boxes.  Further, the team clearly went through the motions in September, despite being 2 games or less out of the Wild Card race for much of the month. But as you examine the roster, it’s difficult to find many players that performed well below expectations.  SS Clint Barmes and C Rod Barajas obviously jump out, but both were also clearly in decline when the Pirates spent $15,500,000 signing them in the offseason, and Manager Clint Hurdle could’ve benched the pair at any point if he chose.  Further, you could argue that outside of Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, A.J. Burnett, Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli, and perhaps Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones, the Pirates were thin on players that would actually start for competitive MLB teams. In short, the front office has done a poor job assembling a competitive team.  Yet the majority of 2012 roster performed at or beyond their expectations.   Slightly More Responsible:  Manager Clint Hurdle Image credit Scott Halleran, Getty Images Even though an average MLB manager has a minimal effect on a team’s success over a 162-game season, Hurdle negatively affected the team on multiple fronts.  He insisted on an archaic “small ball” approach that generated countless automatic outs through excessive sacrifice bunting, and reckless abandon on the basepaths.  His categorical bullpen management often left his best relievers in Joel Hanrahan and Jason Grilli seated on the bench, watching weaker arms blew critical leads prior to the 8th inning. But most importantly, Hurdle continued to run Barmes and Barajas out game after game, despite both being 2 of the worst regulars in all of baseball.  Hurdle’s insistence on old school gumption over basic statistical analysis limited him as a manager, and cost the Pirates games. Still, not even Michangelo could carve a beautiful statue if he was handed pumice instead of marble.  Until the front office can assemble a better roster of players for Hurdle’s disposal, it’s difficult to consider him among the most responsible.   A Little More Responsible, But Still a Minor Player:  President Frank Coonelly Were this a list of PR embarrassments, Coonelly would head the list without doubt.  But in terms of baseball moves, the President’s influence is minimal.  However, Coonelly cannot be totally absolved from blame, because when he has intervened in baseball matters, they’ve often ended poorly.  From vetoing the original Jason Bay trade that would’ve landed the Pirates SP Cliff Lee, C Kelly Shoppach, and OF Franklyn Gutierrez, to trying to cuckold prospect Miguel Sano’s agent, to botching the Pedro Alvarez negotiations with Scott Boras, Coonelly’s baseball interventions have backfired, and cost the Pirates quality players.   Significantly Responsible:  Assistant GMs Kyle Stark and Greg Smith Stark has had his own Coonelly-level PR gaffes lately, but the greater concern is the lack of development many Pirates’ prospects have shown over the past 5 years.  Many of the team’s highly-touted above-slot selections flamed out quickly, former 1st round pick C Tony Sanchez continues to regress, and despite picking at or near the top of the draft during GM Neal Huntington’s entire tenure, the team has yet to develop a truly dominant, elite-level prospect, although Pedro Alvarez was certainly a very good prospect, and current SP prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon will make many a prospect list in 2013. While hundreds of personnel are involved in the growth of Pirates’ prospects, a great deal of success hinges on the correct scouting and selection (Smith) and eventual development (Stark) of the young men GM Huntington drafts.   Very Responsible:  GM Neal Huntington Image credit Pirates Prospects Unfortunately, a significant amount of this author’s isportsweb articles have detailed the many missteps of the Pirates’ current GM.  However, all of these bad personnel decisions have 3 themes in common: 1)  Poor evaluation of existing talent, and talent pursued 2)  Unwillingness to reflect on previous bad decisions, and alter future strategy 3)  Poor allocation of limited resources During the 2012-2013 offseason, Huntington continues to echo the same style of poor decisions that have led him to a worse cumulative W-L record to date than former GM Dave Littlefield.  Non-tendering a solid 29-year old SP in Jeff Karstens.  Pursuing a 33-year old SP in Chris Capuano that is only a marginal upgrade over Karstens, makes more money, and may require a significant chip in trade.  Publicly insulting closer Joel Hanrahan, and driving down his trade value.  Spending $14,000,000 to sign a below-average catcher in Russell Martin to a multi-year deal.  Swap out the names, and this could be any Huntington offseason since 2007. The bottom line is that a very small payroll makes it difficult to contend at the MLB level.  Difficult, but not impossible.  Over the past 5 years, nearly every one of Pittsburgh’s small market, small payroll teams has either made the playoffs, or at least finished above .500.  The window for contention is small, but with Huntington at the helm, it may be nonexistant.   Most Responsible:  Owner Bob Nutting Image credit bleacher report Initially, Huntington was poised to top the list of responsibility, until a friend brought up a good point:  Ultimately, it’s Nutting’s decision to keep Huntington employed, despite a growing mountain of evidence that perhaps he shouldn’t be.  Bob Nutting has kept the Pirates’ payroll among the lowest in baseball, yet yearly profits are among the highest. Despite his talk of accountability, Nutting has yet to place definitive numbers on spending, nor a concrete year or timeframe in which he expects the Pirates to contend.  Pirates’ fans have yet to see the competitive payrolls they were promised when their tax dollars largely financed PNC Park in the early 2000′s. Nutting is clearly an effective, successful businessman in his other ventures.  So as a fan, it’s incredibly frustrating to watch him allow the continuance of unsuccessful practices and personnel on the baseball front.  As much as fans lost faith in the ability of former President Kevin McClatchey, they ultimately knew he wanted a winning team in Pittsburgh, but simply didn’t know how to accomplish it. Years after assuming majority control, Pirates’ fans still aren’t sure whether Bob Nutting truly desires a winner in Pittsburgh, or simply enjoys the profitability of his investment.   Thanks for reading.  Here’s hoping for brighter times ahead.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Tom Brady: 'My feelings got hurt' in Deflategate controversy

Odell Beckham Jr. says he played with two hamstring tears

Report: A-Rod apologized to new MLB commissioner

Pete Carroll empathizes with Belichick, Pats in Deflategate

Max Scherzer thanks Tigers with full page newspaper ad

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ray Lewis: Patriots should have asterisk for cheating

Report: Cavs players believed team lacked depth

Richard Sherman calls out Kraft, Goodell over their friendship

Brandon Jennings to miss 6-9 months with Achilles injury

Report: Josh Gordon tests positive for alcohol

Report: Yankees reject A-Rod's request for apology meeting

Six X-factors who could make an impact in Super Bowl XLIX

Five potentially fatal flaws for Patriots in the Super Bowl

49 Stops to Super Bowl XLIX

WATCH: Opposing Packers celebrate Pro Bowl TD

WATCH: Sherman, Peterson hug it out at Pro Bowl

WATCH: Chris Berman is not happy at the Pro Bowl

PHOTO: Brock Lesnar's tramp stamp says ‘Kill ‘em All’

WATCH: Hassan Whiteside blocks five shots in 7 minutes

Duke unveils 'K' hats after Coach K's 1,000th victory

Irina Shayk dumped Ronaldo over cheating rumors?

Mike Napoli almost retired because of sleep apnea

WATCH: 'Saturday Night Live' takes on Deflategate

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Tom Brady: 'My feelings got hurt'

Potential 'X-factor' Super Bowl players

Potential fatal flaws for Pats in SB XLIX

49 Stops to Super Bowl XLIX

Chris Berman isn't happy at the Pro Bowl

Brandon Jennings out 6-9 months

Josh Gordon tests positive for alcohol

Report: A-Rod's apology meeting request gets rejected

Harbaugh rapidly landing recruits

WATCH: 'SNL' spoofs Deflategate

NFL tried to catch Pats in act?

Bill Nye: Belichick didn't make sense

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.