Giger: Firing of Ryan simply makes no sense at all
This makes no sense whatsoever and is a totally disgraceful move by the Pirates organization, which has so many people who are bad at their jobs, yet they decided to scapegoat the wrong guy.
Curve manager Michael Ryan got fired Tuesday, and he was told the news by Bucs farm director Larry Broadway.
Ryan is better at his job than Broadway is at his.
So the wrong person got fired.
The decision apparently was made by GM Neal Huntington and assistant GM Kyle Stark.
Ryan is better at his job than Huntington and Stark are at theirs.
So the wrong person got fired.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle will still have a job next season.
Ryan is a better minor league manager than Hurdle is a big league manager.
So the wrong person got fired.
Hurdle is under contract through 2021. He’s safe. There’s no way Pirates ownership will fire a manager just to go away and still pay him for two years.
Huntington is under contract through 2021. He’s safe. Ditto the reasons above.
The Pirates are terrible this season — sporting a 60-78 record — and the front office needed someone to blame. So they picked the best manager in their minor league system, the best manager in Curve history and a fantastic human being who just so happens to be a western PA guy and who loves all things Pittsburgh — including the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins.
It’s just such a dumb move on so many levels by the Pirates to fire Ryan, if for no other reason than it makes them look absolutely awful.
Ryan wins. The Pirates lose. So yeah, go fire the guy who wins. That’s good PR.
This is not, by the way, a repeat of the infamous Matt Walbeck situation in 2010. Walbeck was an odd bird who was disliked by many players and defied the Pirates’ wishes in a lot of important ways, so the organization cut him loose a week after he led the Curve to the 2010 Eastern League title.
You won’t find anyone with bad words to say about Michael Ryan.
He is humble, has a great baseball mind and works his butt off.
He is beloved by the Curve front office staff and highly respected by Eastern League personnel.
He has acted in an honorable and professional way at every step during his three years with the Curve.
He was a wonderful representative of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was a wonderful representative of the Altoona Curve. He is a very bright guy who gets the big picture, can explain the big picture of baseball — and things far more important than baseball — and he understands his role in the grand scheme of things as a minor league manager.
OK. So what the heck happened?
How does a guy that I and everyone I know in this industry have tremendous respect for, a guy who honestly felt like he actually might be promoted to the Pirates’ big league staff next season — or possibly offered a chance for the second time to manage in Triple-A next year — wind up getting fired?
There is always — ALWAYS — more to every story than meets the eye. The only people who know the truth here are the Pirates’ executives who made the call, and maybe someday they’ll bother to fully level with Ryan about why they did it.
Here’s the best answer I can give you, and it involves three words: The Pirate Way.
Here’s how I decipher The Pirate Way: It’s their way or the highway.
No in between.
The organization has policies in place, and you’d better follow all of them. Or else.
Hey, every organization needs policies. Every company. You can’t just allow anything and everything. There have to be rules, standards, practices.
But there also needs to be some common sense when it comes to those policies.
This is where the Pirates fail. I’m not just talking about why they lose baseball games — although parallel connections can be made — but rather, they fail because the higher ups in the organization think the world is black and white, right or wrong. No middle ground. No gray area.
Huntington, Stark and Broadway preside over a cookie cutter organization that tries to stuff everyone into a predisposed way of doing things. They worry too much about minor leaguers all having to wear their pant legs up and not enough about whether their ridiculous pitching philosophy of having everyone pitch to contact even if they have unhittable stuff is why they failed miserably getting guys such as Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow to fully realize their potential.
Michael Ryan abided by the Pirates’ rules and won with their prospects, capturing two league championships. He developed them very well in Altoona, and he managed many of the players currently on the Pirates’ roster.
Yes, some of those players struggle with fundamentals in the big leagues. That, however, has more to do with the fact that the Pirates rush their guys through the minor leagues too quickly at times, when they could use more seasoning — first at high-A before coming to Altoona, then here before going to Triple-A.
Ryan has won with those guys in Double-A. He has done his job, extremely well. You simply will not find anyone who can say otherwise.
Did Ryan care too much about winning in the minors? Did he somehow sidestep the Pirates’ development philosophies for a win-at-all-cost approach?
Yes, Ryan wants to win. And he hates losing. But I cannot recall any single instance of the manager putting a player in any situation where development was sacrificed for the sake of winning.
If anything, Ryan may have ruffled feathers with the Pirates by calling out players publicly. I’m in the media, and I’ve written repeatedly how much I enjoy that he’s honest with the press, but the way the Pirates operate, I can totally see how that would rub them the wrong way.
Holding players accountable is not The Pirate Way.
Clint Hurdle tries to be everybody’s buddy and is a rah-rah manager who makes baffling decisions during games. There’s no way, no how he should have gotten a four-year contract extension two years ago. It was absurd.
Same with Huntington, who also got four extra years.
Those guys should be forced to prove themselves every year in order to keep their jobs.
Instead, the Pirates fire a guy like Michael Ryan, who doesn’t make a ton of money and has no long-term contract, in an effort to show that they are willing to make some changes because the big league team is awful.
They made the wrong change, plain and simple.
They’re too busy focusing on the unyielding, inflexible silliness of The Pirate Way to realize that.
Cory Giger can be reached at email@example.com.