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Joe Starkey: Pirates' tank job served its purpose. Now Bob Nutting needs to step up

Joe Starkey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Baseball

It's a bloody shame this needed to happen. But it needed to happen.

Pirates general manager Ben Cherington inherited a wasteland of an organization. He immediately recognized that a total rebuild was in order.

Neal Huntington had a similar revelation 11 years earlier and executed his plan perfectly but was unable to sustain it. Which is a compassionate way of saying Huntington eventually steered the ship into an iceberg.

The Pirates sank back into hopeless, future-less oblivion. And that led to what you have endured for the past three years: a tank job the likes of which this town had not seen since the early 1980s Penguins.

These Pirates were designed to lose, and lose is what they did (and what they're still doing), often in unimaginable fashion. Rundowns between home and first. Cell phones falling out of pockets. Missing first base on a homer. Men named VanMeter and Spitzbarth attempting to play baseball. In-game meals at third base. Dropped pop-ups in the infield.

This season alone, the Pirates lost 21-0 and 19-2 and 18-4 and 16-0 and 14-2 (twice). They are just now completing the third-worst three-year stretch in the franchise's 141 years, in terms of winning percentage (the early 1950s were worse, believe it or not).

 

For all major league managers who've worked at least 300 games, third-year skipper Derek Shelton has the worst non-expansion team winning percentage of the modern era.

Shelty entered Wednesday's fray 101 games under .500 for a winning percentage of .366. According to Baseball Reference, the only manager since 1946 with a lower mark was Roy Hartsfield who "led" the expansion Toronto Blue Jays to a 166-318 record (.343) in their first three years of existence.

So, yeah, things haven't gone real well.

They have, however, gone according to plan. It's still amazing to me that people attempt to analyze these Pirates, this season, as if they were designed to win.

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