New Faces In New Places: The 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates

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Since the 2019 season ended, the Pittsburgh Pirates have seen a of changes to their organization. After having a horrendous second half last season, going 25-48, the Pirates fired then manager, Clint Hurdle, due to the slump.  The mantra for the future? New faces in new places.

Changes are coming

Along with the managerial changes, some front office alterations took place as well. Frank Coonelly, the team’s president, who took office in 2007, had left the team at the end of the year. While general manager, Neal Huntington was fired prior to the final game, along with Hurdle.

The second half slump did much more to the team than most fans realize. It changed and dictated the culture of the Pirates. With the alarming controversy surrounding Felipe Vázquez hanging over the team, the Bucs needed a transformation. And what better time to start the imminent change than the new decade? 

Derek Shelton – Manager

After the firing of Hurdle in late September, the Pirates announced the hiring of Derek Shelton in November. Before receiving the Pirates job, Shelton was a hitting coach for five years for the Cleveland Indians. 

After his time in Cleveland, Shelton went to the Tampa Bay Rays and was hired for the same job. Shelton was fired by the Rays in 2016, however, he was picked up as a quality control coach for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017. Shortly after his time in Toronto, he became a bench coach for the Minnesota Twins in 2018. 

Shelton has managing experience in the minor leagues as well. Having managed the Yankees minor league team from 2000-2002, his team attained a .624 winning percentage. Derek Shelton is perfect for the Pirates, he knows how to work with young players and get them to their full potential. Shelton helped stars like Robinson Canó in the minors. 

Travis Williams – President

When Frank Coonelly left the team after nearly 13 years as president, the Pirates hired Travis Williams. Williams is not only an executive in the sports world, he’s also an attorney. He has some history in the Pirates organization before this hiring. Williams, who was a partner at the Reed Smith Law Firm, severed as outside counsel for Pittsburgh’s MLB club. 

Williams also had a brief stint in the NHL, first joining the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008. He went on to be chief operating officer for the Penguins in 2011. Williams left Pittsburgh before the 2018 season, next accepting the job of President of Business Operations for the New York Islanders. 

Since Williams’ was already counsel for the Pirates prior to his hiring, it makes him that much more notable. He knows the team and he knows what they need. Plus, having experience outside of baseball is valuable. Williams is looking to bring his knowledge into the Pirates front office, in order to turn this team around. 

Ben Cherington – General Manager

After firing Neal Huntington just before the last game of the 2019 season, the Pirates then hired Ben Cherington in November to replace him. Cherington’s resume is impressive to say the least. He’s had a lot of success in his past, having been apart of a World Series winning team. He was also instrumental in drafting future some of today’s current stars.

In 2011, Cherington joined the Boston Red Sox as Executive Vice President and general manager. Cherington won a World Series with Boston in 2013, and he would also win MLB Executive of the Year by The Sporting News that same year. He became just the third Red Sox executive to win the award since it’s formation in 1936.  He was also responsible for drafting Mookie Betts in 2014. 

Cherington left Boston in 2015, and in September of 2016 he joined the Toronto Blue Jays as Vice President of Baseball Operations. Again, he had a hand in drafting stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette. 

Pirates fans should be very excited to have Cherington as their general manager. He’s a proven leader and winner. He’s drafted very well the last 19 years, since he began his time in MLB. Cherington has been recognized for his work and knows young talent when he sees it. The future of the Pirates is in good hands with Cherington at the helm. 

The Future

Looking into the 2020 season and beyond, the Pirates are in a good place. Maybe the second-half slump of 2019 was meant to be. The Pirates just hired a number of experienced faces to join their team. From Shelton to Cherington, along with several young players waiting to make their debut. Pittsburgh could be a force in the National League for years to come. 

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