A letter to Pirates GM Neal Huntington

Scheduled day off for Andrew McCutchen? How about scheduled season off for Dusty Brown and Mike McKenry instead? (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Dear Mr. Huntington,

Over the past couple of days, you’ve made a few moves (or lack thereof) that have caused a little bit of anxiety among the faithful Pirates fan base. I’m writing this to you because your actions are making us all a little bit nervous about what it is that you’re trying to accomplish this season.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the franchise is starting to reap the rewards of your hard efforts over the past three years. A lot of the young talent you’ve acquired is blossoming before our eyes, and the farm system looks better than it has in quite some time. The on-field product at the major league level is something to be proud of — they’re ahead of where most people envisioned them to be this season, and are staying competitive. Normally, around this time of the year, most of Pittsburgh is analyzing the Steelers’ depth chart and looking for hidden training camp gems. Instead, people in Pittsburgh are hyped about the Pirates, and that’s something you should be even more proud of. So, why is it that you seem to be pulling the plug on the season with no justifiable cause?

Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder are hurt, and they will be for at least the next six weeks. You know it and I know it. So, why is it that you’re trying to replace their production with Dusty Brown and Mike McKenry? Both, to be literal with you, are turds. They’re outcasts from the Red Sox organization who weren’t good enough to take pre-historic Jason Varitek‘s and overrated Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s positions. When either one is in the line-up, it’s as close to an automatic out as a pitcher can get. And to boot, neither can capably call a game. Since Snyder’s injury late last week, we’ve seen Charlie Morton and James McDonald struggle, and Kevin Correia fall apart in the seventh inning of Sunday’s game against the Mets.

The fact that you thought McKenry was a suitable replacement for Snyder when you acquired him on Monday is baffling. He was the backup catcher for the Red Sox triple-A affiliate. He has nine career major league batting appearances to his name, recording zero hits, one walk and five strikeouts. What would possibly make you think that he’ll suddenly figure it out now? I’m aware that you’re in an ugly situation and teams are giving you a hard time in your pursuit of a catcher, but I think that some where you could have done better than a backup triple-A player! You essentially have the equivalent of Baltic and Mediterranean Avenue as your two major league catchers. The only way this could possibly be worse would be if you rushed top catching prospect Tony Sanchez to the majors and completely ruined his development. At this point, I’d go as far as to say that you’d be better of using Neil Walker behind the plate, a position he gave up in high-A ball.

Paul Maholm, right, could be perfect trade bait for a new catcher to replace short-term solution Mike McKenry, left. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

You can’t tell me that there isn’t a team out there looking for a good pitcher in exchange for a catcher with some major league moxy. May I remind you, Mr. Huntington, that you have a pitching commodity in Paul Maholm who is clearly not part of the future and is likely priced out of your range next year. May I also remind you that he is pitching wonderfully this season, better than he has in the past few seasons. With no viable catcher on the roster, odds are that his production is going to drop off. Perhaps now would be a good time to see what you can get for him. The Yankees are desperate for pitching. The Diamondbacks are desperate, too. So are at least a half dozen other teams that are still in the hunt. Surely, one of them has something that could be of some value to Pirates, or at least not be a guaranteed out every time they come to the plate. Brown and McKenry have zero career home runs between them, and your offense is as anemic as they come this season. So let’s make it a catcher with a little bit of pop in his bat, too.

On another topic, I have to question your willingness to allow Clint Hurdle give Andrew McCutchen a “scheduled day off” on Monday. He’s been on a tear recently, riding an 11-game hitting streak. He’s one of only two players on the roster right now that are hitting the ball (Jose Tabata being the other) and he has seen his average rise from .256 on June 1 to .289 on June 12. That’s 30 points in 12 days! To boot, he has a .500 career average against New York’s Monday starter, Mike Pelfrey. He’s knocking the cover off of the ball, and you allowed Hurdle to do exactly what he needed to do to turn this hot steak into a slump. You had absolutely no problems telling John Russell how to manage a baseball team; I have a hard time believing you suddenly forgot how to do that. McCutchen is 24 years young, and his body is in pristine shape. He can play everyday, and he wants to. A “scheduled day off” for him is an absurd idea any time, no less than when he’s on the best hitting tear of his career.

I want to believe in you, Mr. Huntington, but your actions over the past couple days are making that hard to do right now. It looks to me like you’re mailing it in on the season, calling it quits because the team is backed into a corner. The idea of it makes me sick. You’ve got something special here, and they’re one good bat away from having an offense to go with the strikingly good pitching staff. Let’s see what this team can do this year and put them into a position to succeed, give them a taste of winning. Not only do the players deserve it, the entire city of Pittsburgh deserves it.

Don’t let us down now, Neal.

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