Sometimes it pays to listen.
Whether it’s about office politics or the latest stock market tip, it’s always good to have your ears open.
I was listening this spring, high atop a Pittsburgh skyscraper, in a mahogany-drenched social club fit for lawyers and doctors.
President Frank Coonelly of the Pittsburgh Pirates filled the room with a new vision, signaling a fresh direction for a bruised and rotting franchise.
After 16 straight losing seasons, a new direction couldn’t hurt. But the only thing the 2009 Pirates have offered is more of the same. It has been a year filled with hemorrhaging top talent and a record 10 games under .500 at 42-52.
Some new direction.
On Wednesday, the Pirates traded first baseman Adam LaRoche, which won’t be the final move on their trade-deadline chessboard. The move also spelled the end to my world-famous game: Name that LaRoche.
Three weeks ago, it was outfielder Nyjer Morgan and reliever Sean Burnett who were shipped off to the Nationals. Morgan has gone on to steal bases and solidify the Nationals defensively in centerfield, while Burnett has a 1.08 ERA in 8 1/3 IP.
Outfielder Lastings Milledge, known for his lukewarm determination and immense potential, has yet to join the Pirates off a rehab stint in AAA Indianapolis.
The Nationals took a big step in the right direction with this deal, jettisoning dead weight for a live arm in the bullpen and a defensive ranger in the outfield.
For the Pirates, it was more of the same: Trading away stars for stars of the future (or never).
Coonelly presented a scenario in which home-grown talent brought up through the farm system was the key to winning as a small-market team. He said they had to hit on a few prospects to become competitive.
They did with center fielder Nate McLouth. He’s now an Atlanta Brave.
In the 2000 MLB Draft, McLouth was selected by the Pirates in the 25th round. By 2005, he made his major league debut, and in 2008 took over as the starter. From rookie ball to the majors, all in the Pirates farm system. He was a testament to management’s plans.
McLouth was the Pirates’ lone representative at the 2008 MLB All-Star Game. He also won a Gold Glove last year as the best defensive center fielder in the National League.
But on June 3, he was no longer a Pirate.
They had to make room for the next big thing: Andrew McCutcheon.
Eventually, the turnover has to stop. Eventually, the Pirates have to be content with the stars they’ve made.
Or else there may not be anyone left to listen.