Pedro Alvarez is not a savior for the current edition of the Pirates.
He is hope for the future. The long-term future, not the short-term of 2010.
The Bucs have now dropped 10 games in a row, and at 23-42, they are doomed to suffer their 18th consecutive losing season. So the present stinks.
The Associated Press
Pedro Alvarez jokes around with Andrew McCutchen in the dugout prior to his major league debut Wednesday.
That may not change a great deal in the coming weeks, either, even with a stud prospect like Alvarez in the lineup. The team still has enormous pitching problems, and until those are solved, this season may continue to spiral out of control.
So when we evaluate Alvarez and his impact on the club, we should keep things in perspective. We should realize everything he does, everything he learns may not pay off for two or three years, which is when hope finally may turn into results for the Pirates.
Alvarez is the primary reason to be hopeful, although not the only one. With him, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker and Brad Lincoln, the Bucs have a crop of potential standouts to serve as the franchise's foundation.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you've heard all that before with names like Chad Hermansen, Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Chris Duffy, Brad Eldred, etc., etc.
Can anyone promise this batch will fare better than those disappointments? No.
This is baseball, and prized prospects fall flat on their faces all the time. There are no guarantees these guys won't fail, too, in which case we may be talking about a 25-year losing streak in 2017.
Still, there's every reason to be hopeful that Alvarez and McCutchen, especially, will live up to their billing and be legitimate cornerstones. They and all the young players will gain valuable experience this season, and even if they take their lumps and lose a lot, they will learn the game at that level, learn how to make adjustments and be better off for the long haul.
The Pirates have a good plan in place, and it is working. That's right - it is working.
The organization has done a terrific job the past few years of scouting young talent, building through the draft and developing minor leaguers. The front office deserves credit for many moves that have yet to pay off at the major league level.
As long as they stick to the plan - and the prospects pan out - this albatross of a losing streak could end as early as 2012.
The issue is not the plan. The issue is the same thing that it has been for nearly two decades with the payroll-deprived Pirates.
They simply cannot make a big mistake at the major league level. Not one.
This year they made three:
1. They stuck with pitcher Charlie Morton way too long, and he was flat out awful (1-9, 9.35 ERA).
2. They gave the first base job to Jeff Clement, who didn't earn it, didn't deserve it and didn't hit at all (.189).
3. They wasted nearly $5 million on second baseman Aki Iwamura, the team's highest-paid player who hit .182.
General manager Neal Huntington has overseen a massive overhaul throughout the organization, and he gets kudos for helping develop the grand plan. Credit also goes to farm director Kyle Stark and his staff as they have done an outstanding job.
The problem has come with bad decisions at the major league level, and the blame there falls on Huntington.
The plan can work to perfection from draft day until the day every home-grown player reaches the major leagues. But all of that hard work and dedication will go for naught every time a glaring mistake like Iwamura or Morton is made.
The Yankees can afford those kinds of flops. The Pirates can't.
Huntington, who's in the final year of his contract, should have learned some hard lessons by now, and if he returns he should be the wiser for each and every future transaction.
For the Pirates to restore the pride and passion - as their slogan constantly reminds us - they must stay true to their plan.
But if they keep making one or two big personnel mistakes every year, even bright young stars like Alvarez and McCutchen won't be able to end the losing ways.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.