During Ben Cherington's introduction as the Pirates' new general manager earlier this month, he kept stressing that the Pirates were going to establish a "player-centered culture." If they do that, they are going to win and then, eventually, WIN.
This week, he made his first staffing decision, hiring Derek Shelton to be the 41st manager in the club's history. He too immediately started talking about the culture of the franchise.
“It is going to be an exciting change of culture in the clubhouse," Shelton said in the press release announcing his hiring. "It is going to be a fun environment in which we will all be held accountable to each other. It will be a player-centric culture built on strong communication and relationships with our players, our staff and the entire organization."
It is no question the Pirates are in dire need of a culture change. Not just because there were brawls between players and coaches — and teammates and coaches with players and coaches from other teams — but because of the egregious amount of talent they let slip through their fingers in recent years and how they had fallen behind the rest of the league; the prospects who never reached their potential in Pittsburgh, only to do so elsewhere; the major-league pitchers who found another gear once they left; how they were built on defense and pitch framing but had become steadily worse in the field for years, all the while preaching the importance of outs on three pitches or fewer. Each of these transgressions were potentially fireable offenses by themselves.
The previous regime was not on the same page. That is not entirely Clint Hurdle's fault, nor is it entirely Neal Huntington's, Ray Searage's or anyone else's. But there is no question it was a fractured baseball-operations department. Those fractures bred multiple extended losing streaks and turmoil. There was no quality control.
When Pirates owner Bob Nutting spoke with DKPittsburghSports.com on Oct. 28, he explained that he wanted to pause the managerial search until a general manager was in place since the relationship between the two is "critically important." If the Pirates are going to be a player-centered development machine, they are going to need someone who can connect with players and the front office at the major league level.