This is the opening part of the post where I acknowledge that you don't really want to read excuses about how busy I've been lately but where I also say that this is how things are probably going to be all winter and that I'll do my best to post about things that I think are important, even if I can't get the posts up in a timely fashion, while saying that I'll do better to get the really big news, like this week's impending awards, written up on time.
There are a lot of stories that get bandied about in the early offseason that are of dubious importance, but the one that might be the most important to the PIrates didn't get much attention at all: Rob Biertempfel reported last week that Jim Benedict would not be leaving the Pirates' organization to take the Phillies' pitching coach job under Ryne Sandberg in 2014. Figuring out the exact role that Benedict's played in the success of the Pirates' pitching staff (Benedict is listed as a special assistant to Neal Huntington right now, and he's been the minor league pitching coordinator in the past) over the last couple of years is hard (this is partially because Ray Searage obviously also deserves a ton of credit), but it's clear that he's got a hand in a lot of the reclamation projects that have turned out well for the Pirates in recent years. I say that mainly because his work with Charlie Morton is very well-documented, and because you can see how reshaping Morton into a groundball pitcher lines up nicely with what they've done with AJ Burnett and Francisco Liriano and Mark Melancon, among others. In any case, I'm certain that the Pirates are better off with Benedict on their payroll, and so while I'd never begrudge him the chance to move into a dugout and take a pitching coach's job, I'm awfully happy he's back with the Pirates for 2014.
One person that won't be back with the Pirates is Jay Bell, as Ken Rosenthal is reporting tonight (or, I guess last night now) that the Reds have hired Bell to be their bench coach. Just before the Pirates hired Bell last year I read this story about him on Deadspin and thought that he sounded like a big league manager in the making; I'm guessing that that's his ultimate goal and that being a bench coach gets him closer to that goal than being a hitting coach does. I also remain skeptical about the effects of hitting coaches in general (watch how many get fired when each season ends, because they're the easy scapegoat and also the one coach a manager is sacrifice), so I'm not sure that this is going to adversely affect the Pirates a whole lot (or, that, on the flip side, that it will positively affect them much, or that it will make any difference at all in terms of hitting). Anyway; if Bell's goal is to become a manager, I hope he gets his shot. He really does seem like a smart young baseball guy. The recent trend has been to hire smart young baseball guys without managerial experience, so Bell's well positioned for another promotion in the next few years, I suspect.
In terms of player news, Neal Huntington told David Todd that they don't have $14 million in the budget for AJ Burnett. That sure doesn't seem true from where things stand right now (Burnett has pitched well enough to be paid $14 million and the Pirates have talked quite a bit about spending more money), but I really hate to read too much into statements like this from the early off-season. Really, that sort of comment is just something to be filed away for later, once we get a better idea of where the off-season is headed.
As far as awards go, both Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez won Silver Sluggers last week, and Neal Huntington finished second to Ben Cherington in the Executive of the Year vote on Monday night. I'm obviously biased here, but I'd argue that while what Cherington accomplished between last August and the end of this World Series is obviously impressive and deserving of the award, the degree of difficulty on a total organizational overhaul with the Pirates' payroll is just a bit higher. Really, it almost seems silly to talk about Huntington and Cherington like they have the same jobs, because the constraints on them are so different.
Manager of the Year will be awarded Tuesday evening. I expect Clint Hurdle to win, and will have a post about it. The MVP Awards come later in the week. We'll have something to talk about then, too, either way.