The Pirates blew it up by trading most of their best players for prospects, and it takes only one word to analyze what they did.
The Bucs should have done this a long, long time ago.
Instead, the organization kept trying to piecemeal everything together with a mass collection of mediocre stopgap players.
To name a few: Kenny Lofton. Reggie Sanders. Matt Stairs. Pokey Reese. Daryle Ward. Matt Lawton. Sean Casey. Chris Gomez. Doug Mientkiewicz.
Waste of time.
Waste of money.
Some of those were good players, but none were long-term solutions for the Pirates. Everybody knew that.
Rather than waste tons of playing time on marginally effective veteran fill-ins, the Pirates should have sucked it up and gone with a youth movement. Trade away the veterans and play the young guys, just like they're doing now.
That probably would have meant a total collapse at some point, like a 110-loss season, but those young players would have developed collectively.
The Bucs may not have pulled off a miraculous Detroit Tigers turnaround - 119 losses in 2003 to the World Series three years later - but the organization would be much further along right now. And this ridiculous losing streak would not have reached 17 seasons.
There is a huge amount of frustration for some Pirates fans who are angry at the team's management for getting rid of their favorite players. That's understandable.
If you loved watching Jack Wilson or Freddy Sanchez play, you're ticked off and may be vowing to never support the Bucs again. Hey, that's your right.
You're loyal to the Pirates, you want them to be loyal to you and keep the guys you cheer for and pay to watch. Makes sense.
But keep this in mind, an old quote attributed to former Pirates general manager Branch Rickey during a contract negotiation with Ralph Kiner in the 1950s:
"We finished last with you, and we can finish last without you."
The Pirates lost 95, 94, 95 and 95 games the past four years, finishing last in the NL Central three times with Wilson and Sanchez both on the team.
The organization's No. 1 need, without question, is depth, and losing one or two key players usually has sent the Pirates into a tailspin in recent years.
The Bucs' firesale this season was orchestrated to bring quality and most importantly quantity back to the organization. They've dealt 10 regulars and received 18 players in return, including 10 pitchers.
Now there are three factors in play:
n 1. How many of these prospects will pan out? If it's six out of 18, the Pirates got gypped and some scouts should be fired for misevaluating talent.
n 2. How quickly will they pan out? It can't take five or six years.
n 3. Will the ones who pan out come into their own together? If enough of them - say 10-12 - prove to be quality major leaguers all within the same two-year span, then the Pirates should have a nice window of opportunity in 2012 and 2013.
But that's it. Two years. That's pretty much all the Bucs will get, and it may not even be that long.
The window of opportunity is so small because there's no reason to believe the Pirates will be able to afford the key young players still left once they approach free agency. And they won't be able to afford any premier free agents.
Same old, same old on both fronts.
There is a standout already in place in Andrew McCutchen, a potential star on the way in Pedro Alvarez and a bunch of prospects acquired through all the trades. The Pirates may stink the rest of this season and all of next as these young guys get valuable experience, but at least there's a little hope for the not-too-distant future.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.