When new Pirates general manager Neal Huntington took over the organization last month, it seemed to be only a matter of time before he made moves to take the club into a different—and hopefully winning—direction.
Huntington cleaned house in a big way over the weekend, firing manager Jim Tracy, farm director Brian Graham and scouting director Ed Creech.
The most surprising firing is Graham, who Huntington was extremely familiar with from their days in the Indians organization. Graham, 47, had a solid reputation throughout the game for working with what he had been given from the scouting department, and the Pirates had one of the most homegrown rosters in the majors.
The problem was, the majority of those players aren’t everyday big leaguers and the organization frequently misevaluated talent that moved on to other clubs. In addressing Graham’s firing, Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the club wanted to have a more ‘cohesive’ approach to player development. “I’ll leave it at this,” Huntington told the paper. “It’s important to have that cohesiveness.”
Creech, 55, had overseen six drafts since he took over as scouting director in 2001. His tenure has produced two above-average big league talents in lefthander Tom Gorzelanny and righthander Matt Capps, but the system lacks depth on all fronts. Perhaps the greatest criticism of the organization’s player-development track record has been the high number of injuries for its highly-drafted pitchers, a problem that predates Creech but one that also includes 2006 first-rounder Brad Lincoln.
The Pirates’ search to replace Tracy will likely lead them to the minor leagues for a younger, energetic skipper. On the short list is Triple-A Indianapolis manager Trent Jewett and Buffalo manager Torey Lovullo—both of whom have interviewed for big league jobs in the last two years—and Indians third base coach Joel Skinner.
"I’m looking for a manager with passion," Huntington told the Gazette. "I’m looking for a manager who is a tireless instructor, I’m looking for a manager who is going to instill some discipline, I’m looking for a manager who is an exhaustive communicator, and I’m looking for a manager who wants to return the pride to the Pittsburgh Pirates with how we wear the uniform and how we play the game."
While four major players were fired—including director of operations Jon Mecurio—it might not be the last of Huntington’s purge.
Only two members of the current front office will retain their positions. Assistant GM Doug Strange was reassigned to special assistant and director of international operations Rene Gayo will also remain at his post for a fifth season.
Another executive in the Pirates organization with ties to Cleveland, Gayo’s stock has risen considerably over the last two seasons as Tribe righthander Fausto Carmona and lefty Rafael Perez—both Gayo signs from his days with the Indians at a minimal cost—emerged as outstanding talents in 2007. Gayo also signed Danys Baez, Willy Taveras and Jhonny Peralta while he was with Cleveland.