By Matt Popchock

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Having finally brought winning baseball back to Pittsburgh, the Pirates have made the dissolution of their 20-year skid the talk of baseball, and the national media continues to credit the steadfast leadership of general manager Neal Huntington.

“Not all of Huntington’s decisions have paid dividends…but he at least was following a strategy that had proven successful for other small-market teams,” Matt Schiavenza of The Atlantic writes in a piece called ‘How Life Got Good Again for the Pittsburgh Pirates.’

“He drafted Pedro Alvarez, a highly touted third baseman, and stuck with him when Alvarez struggled early in his career. And when outfielder Andrew McCutchen emerged as one of the game’s best young players in 2011, Huntington rewarded him with a 6 year, $51.5 million dollar contract that is now regarded as a bargain.

“In a previous era, the Pirates might have traded McCutchen—and probably never would have drafted the high-profile Alvarez in the first place. Now, both form the core of the team’s lineup.”

Through further losing and unpopular decisions to unload such players as Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Jason Bay, and, most recently, Joel Hanrahan, Huntington persevered and saw the Pirates go from being the team that time forgot to a contender, and, at the very least, a team with long-term direction.

They entered Wednesday a single game behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central Division, and carrying a magic number of 11–any combination of 11 Pirate victories and/or losses by the red-hot Washington Nationals–until they end a two-decade playoff drought.

They entered the 2013 regular season with the No. 7 farm system in the majors according to Baseball America–surpassed in the National League by only the Cardinals and Miami Marlins–which would have been unfathomable under the ignominious regime of former GM Dave Littlefield.

“In 2007, the Pirates fired Littlefield and hired Huntington, who went about a systematic re-build of the organization,” Schiavenza writes. “Huntington invested millions of dollars into the Pirates’ long-neglected scouting division and placed a renewed emphasis on the amateur draft. Rather than hold onto middling veterans in an attempt to salvage a respectable record, a hallmark of the Littlefield era, Huntington traded away older players and stockpiled the Pirates’ farm system.”

Click here to read the full post by Schiavenza, which also examines some of the low points–not to mention the more bizarre ones–of “The Streak.”

The Bucs begin their final homestand of the regular season against the Chicago Cubs Thursday at 7:05 on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan, your flagship home for Pirates baseball.


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