Colin Dunlap: Nutting Should Face The Polanco Questions
In some ways, I have sympathy for Frank Coonelly, Neal Huntington and Kyle Stark.
Honestly, I do.
The Pirates’ President, General Manager and Director of Player Development — respectively — have been made to carry on with an easy-to-see-through charade because of an owner who simply doesn’t want to spend enough money.
It would be nice, however, if Nutting — the true puppeteer of this mockery — would stand in front of the cameras and offer an explanation, rather than relegate his henchmen to such duty.
Again, I feel a sense of compassion for Coonelly, Huntington and Stark. In this instance, how can you not?
The latest installment of the Gregory Polanco sham came on The Fan Morning Show on Tuesday, when Stark was kind enough — and brave enough — to stand in the line of fire for questions that, in truth, should be ones answered by Pirates principal owner Bob Nutting.
As the Pirates’ play has dwindled in the past few weeks — with an 18-26 record headed into Wednesday night against the Orioles and losers of six of the last eight — the shouts have again grown loudly for a Polanco promotion.
The national media has chimed in, the fans have offered their discontent and, without question, one can see with great clearness this isn’t a talent issue, but a monetary one.
It seems that pesky Super Two status — wherein the Pirates don’t want to start Polanco’s Major League service time now because they might be made to pay more down the road — has stepped in the way of having the best 25 players in Pittsburgh.
And what was one of the reasons Stark offered during his radio appearance on 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday morning?
“I think we’re looking for consistency,” Stark said.
Well, that’s cute. Really, it is. Cute as can be.
How’s this for consistency? Through 43 games this season in Indianapolis, Polanco is hitting .382 (65 for 170) with 14 doubles and 5 home runs to go along with 5 triples. He has also driven in 38 runs, has an on-base percentage of .444, an OPS of 1.056 and scored 31 times.
Seems like a model of consistency to me. Impeccable consistency.
Granted, these numbers have come at the Class AAA level, but it is unfathomable to use a lack of “consistency” as any part of the reason Polanco remains in Indianapolis and not penciled into the lineup with the big club.
Listen to Stark on 93-7 The Fan:
This is a money decision; that much is clear. Nutting is the money man for this franchise and, even if he only offers only innocuous or shifty responses to the Polanco situation, he should be the one facing the questions here.
Instead, in what has to be an emasculating exercise, he forces underlings to do their best Pinocchio when the whole baseball world can see that Polanco should be in the Major Leagues right now.
Here’s the thing: No one organizationally is going to come out and say that Polanco being stunted back has anything to do with Super Two. If they even so much as hinted at that, the Major League Baseball Players Association would have a field day filing a grievance and using such comments as their ammunition.
Simply, the Pirates have to do this; they cannot come out and say keeping Polanco in Indy is for the money. If someone in the organization did, there would be hell to pay with the MLBPA and, quite possibly, a lawsuit to answer to.
Nutting should be the face of this, though.
Nutting should, however, be the man to stand there — or at least be on a phone line — as those questions are posed, rather than push them off to his “baseball men” who must counter with what we can clearly see is falsehood.
And here’s another thing: Polanco doesn’t need to be the best outfielder in baseball to get promoted; he simply needs to be better — or give the Pirates a better chance at winning — than Travis Snider does right now.
Snider is hitting .215 with 23 strikeouts in 93 at-bats.
Snider has four hits since May 3 and no home runs this month.
Perhaps Snider is expendable and Polanco could be a suitable replacement.
Just a crazy thought, you know?
“Every single day, we are looking for how we can improve this club, both tonight but also over the course of the season,” Stark said. “And trying to balance all those different factors. I think it’s easy for all of us to sit there and say, ‘Well, this is a simple decision, he’s better than that guy.’”
I like Travis Snider — a lot. Good guy, good teammate.
But looking at this objectively, it’s awfully tough to say Polanco doesn’t give the Pirates a better chance to win than Snider does.
That’s the crux of all of this; we don’t have to read too deep to understand what this situation is all about. Sure, Polanco should be up — this is all about money, this is all about the owner not wanting to pony up the cash.
At the very least, because he’s the man who isn’t doing that, he should be the man to answer the questions about it.
Instead, Nutting has his attendants do all the dirty work for him.
They have my sympathy here, they truly do.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.