Building a championship-caliber Major League Baseball team isn’t as simple as dishing out $200 million contracts left and right or building completely within the farm system. Some balance is needed in the spending department, as well as fostering a development plan for young talent in the farm.
Sports fans here in Pittsburgh have been blessed with several championships between the Steelers and the Penguins. When it comes to the Pittsburgh Pirates and championships, it has become more of a dream than a reality over the past several decades. On November 19th, 2019, the Pirates hired Ben Cherington to try and change that dream into a reality.
The Pirates’ farm system has seen a noticeable boost since Cherington’s hiring, with the Pirates in several top-five farm system lists. The Major League club, however, to put it nicely, has been less than desirable. The mentality as of now is a rebuild, but with several top prospects near the doorstep, the rebuild should be almost finished, well, in theory.
“You need great players, and you need those great players to come together to perform as a team,” said Cherington on building a championship-caliber team. “They don’t need to be household names. There are teams right now that are really good teams full of great players. Those great players are supporting each other and getting more collectively out of each other than they would as individuals.”
Cherington seems to be discussing more of an “all for one and one for all” mentality with the Pirates. With a small market team, there are instances that this has worked out, but there needs to be more than the usual DFA acquisitions. The lottery ticket method is fun, but eventually, the rush loses the feeling it once had.
“I’m confident that we can build something similar here,” said Cherington on using non-household names. “We might build with players that are even younger than some cases, and that can be just as effective.”
Cherington continued about how the Pirates can use younger talent to build a winning product is practicing in the Minor Leagues. Cherington wants to give the younger players opportunities in the minors to learn what it means to be a complete teammate while making winning the glue that holds it together.
“So much of the leadership and the firepower in the clubhouse really can be through young players,” said Cherington. “We just have to focus on training that mentality in the Minor Leagues.
Towards the end of the interview, Cherington left the door open on making veteran acquisitions but seemed dead set on developing the farm talent to become the clubhouse leaders. Does Cherington’s philosophy harbor a championship formula? We shall see in the next year or so if this mentality works.