If that was the equivalent of getting pick pocketed, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington’s runner-up finish in the Sporting News’ executive of the year award is more like grand larceny.
Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington was the recipient of this honor, which was determined by a panel of MLB front-office executives and based on the regular season alone. Maybe if the postseason was included, I could see Cherington winning it. Not only did his Sox win 97 games during the regular year, they also showed their strength through an impressive run to the championship.
Huntington’s Pirates, meanwhile, lost in the National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. However, much of the success that came before the Bucs’ playoff ouster bore the fingerprints of their sixth-year GM.
While Cherington was tasked with resuscitating a Red Sox franchise that dipped below .500 in 2012 for the first time in 15 years, Huntington completed a climb from the rock-bottom of 105 losses in 2010 to a 94-68 record and the Pirates’ first playoff berth since 1992.
Yes, Boston’s one-year turnaround was more impressive, but Huntington’s shrewd moves over the past four years should’ve been enough to earn him a new plaque for his mantel. I suppose the slow burn of the Pirates’ revival didn’t impress his peers enough, but Huntington has done just as well as Cherington with less than half the money to spend.
Just look at Huntington’s last 12 months. He signed catcher Russell Martin, who played a key role all year for the Pirates, when no one else wanted to pony up the cash. He took a chance on pitcher Francisco Liriano, who went on to win the NL comeback player of the year award after anchoring the Pittsburgh starting staff.
Late in the season, Huntington traded for Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau to bolster the Pirates’ lineup for the stretch run, giving up insignificant prospects in return. And speaking of deals, the acquisition of Mark Melancon and three others from Cherington’s Red Sox for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt at Christmastime last year turned out quite swimmingly for the Bucs’ bullpen in 2013.
Huntington certainly doesn’t need an award to validate what he’s done during his tenure in Pittsburgh. It’s just surprising that he took second place when no one in MLB made the most of limited resources quite like him.