Colin Dunlap: Pirates Go “All In” With Morneau
This feels like Penguins season, huh?
Well, at least that part before the playoff breakdown — you know, the part when general manager Ray Shero went out and cobbled together a club that was supposed to make a run toward a title.
Iginla, Murray, Morrow — this sure feels like it again.
Only this time — and it is almost impossible to believe — Pirates general manager Neal Huntington is the man going “all in.”
My, how times have changed with this not-so-long-ago woebegone franchise that used to sell off more assets than a liquidation sale or a guy going through his seventh divorce.
Or, well, a guy going through his seventh divorce having a liquidation sale.
On Saturday afternoon, Huntington continued to signify the wide-gripping change with the Pirates, as he went out and acquired first baseman Justin Morneau in a trade with the Minnesota Twins, shipping away often-maligned outfielder Alex Presley and a player to be named later or cash.
All this as the Pirates were locked atop the National League Central with the St. Louis Cardinals and set to play the middle game of a vital three-game series against that organization.
Morneau is a former American League MVP who, at 32, still has more than enough pop left from that left side to greatly help the Pirates through this stretch run.
Who knows what will happen beyond this season between the Pirates and Morneau.
And, here is the truth: Who cares?
The Pirates need to worry about now.
Not Bradenton in the Spring, not the 2014 season, not five years down the road — but now.
Kudos to the organization for understanding this and, as much as they can, going “all in.”
Morneau is playing out the final month of a six-year $80 million contract with the Minnesota Twins, the club he has played with his entire career before a deal was completed on Saturday afternoon.
Again, I couldn’t care less what happens between the Pirates and Morneau over the winter — I’m worried about what happens with him in a Pirates uniform over the next month.
Same with Marlon Byrd and John Buck, a veteran outfielder and catcher, respectively, acquired by the club in the past week to aid in the pennant chase.
Byrd is playing out the string as this season winds down on a one-year, $700,000 contract he inked with the Mets back over the winter while Buck will also be a free agent when this season comes to a close.
In this era of free agency and players bouncing from team to team in mercenary form, one shouldn’t care about the long-term ramifications of the triumvirate of Morneau, Byrd and Buck acquired by the Pirates over the past week. Instead, there should be a clear and concise focus by the fan base (because the Pirates obviously understand this) and that’s to take the deepest stab at an opportunity when it presents itself.
But there is even more reason we all need to savor what Huntington did today — and by extension the next month of baseball.
Does anyone old enough to remember Sid Bream sliding across that Fulton County home plate truly think it would have been this long before this organization would be in a position to make such moves? To go “all in” as they were in the real throes of a pennant chase, this deep in the season with the months churning from August to September?
I know, harkening back to my thoughts as a teenager when Bream scored that run that ripped the heart from our city, never in a gazillion years did I think it would take this long for the Pirates to be in this serious contention — this late in the season — again.
But here they are.
And here is Morneau in a Pirates uniform. And Byrd. And Buck.
No one can accurately predict what is going to happen with this club moving forward with the newly-acquired talent. Heck, just ask Ray Shero if grabbing players equates to the results you really want when the season pushes into the postseason.
However, I do know a couple of things based on the Pirates’ actions of late …
They were in a position to pretty much go “all in” and did it and, maybe more important, they understand the time is now and a window of opportunity this wide might not come around for another 20 years.
Some will say they did what they should have done. I’ll say for an organization that, over the past 20 years failed to do as such so many times, that’s a big step.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.