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    Default USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    [They mentioned the Pirates so I put it here even though the Nats and Bluejays were mentioned as well]

    Blueprints for rebuilding a franchise not uniform

    By Mel Antonen, USA TODAY
    Although fans don't like to hear the dreaded r-word, rebuilding projects are a staple in baseball.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven't had a winning season since Barry Bonds played in their outfield in 1992, are the most extreme example of a team that is starting to build from the ground up.

    But tearing down comes in various degrees. Baseball executives say the first step in rebuilding a franchise is to invest in scouting and player development. Then you find depth, hire as many pitchers as possible and support them with good defensive players.
    Rebuilding programs come in piece-by-piece increments and not with headline-grabbing free agent signings. And, executives say, the most productive rebuilding programs start before they appear necessary.
    "You have to know where your club is at," says Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, who, in several cases, has traded established players before they reach free agency to acquire prospects.

    "The worst thing that you can do is pretend that you don't need to rebuild. You have to be honest with your team, staff, fans and the media. You have to know that sometimes starting over is a necessary step."

    Sports Weekly's Mel Antonen takes a closer look at how several teams are incorporating these ideas into their rebuilding or, in one case, "building" efforts.
    ***

    Pirates say optimism not far-fetched after overhaul
    During approximately the last two years of their run of a record 17 consecutive losing seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates have undertaken a seemingly never-ending rebuilding program that has seen them tear down their major league roster to bare essentials.

    The Pirates have traded 16 players, eight of them potential free agents, and gotten 29 in return. Twenty-two of the Pirates' 30 top prospects were not in the organization two years ago.

    The Pirates also have added 25 scouts, tripled their budget to sign international players and doubled their budget to sign draft picks. They've invested in an academy in the Dominican Republic.

    "The mass exodus is over," says John Russell, the manager hired by President Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington when they began the overhaul.

    "I've gotten to where it is fun to dream, because we couldn't do that before. What we had is what we had. Now we can look at what we have and be excited about the future. I can walk into spring training and say, 'This is pretty good.' But I can also look at our depth chart and say, 'This is going to be pretty good when these guys are ready to go.' We know how talented we are."

    Since 1992, the year they won 96 games and lost in the National League Championship Series for a third consecutive season, the Pirates have been tearing down and rebuilding on a regular basis.
    After that season, they lost pitcher Doug Drabek and outfielder Barry Bonds in the free agent market and started to dismantle the team before the 1993 season. Four seasons later, the Pirates started over again. Then, before they moved into PNC Park in 2001, management signed free agents such as pitcher Terry Mulholland and outfielder Derek Bell to pump up the roster, but the quick fix didn't work.

    The Pirates struggled with a combination of high-salaried players and average prospects until 2009, when Huntington blew up the roster again, trading, among others, established players such as Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Jack Wilson, Nate McLouth and Ian Snell.
    The Pirates see reason to be optimistic. In less than a month, they will report to camp in Bradenton, Fla., with a good chance of having the first four slots in their rotation settled with Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf and Charlie Morton. All four had an ERA of 4.55 or lower last season, and two of them (Duke and Ohlendorf) won 11 games for a team that finished 62-99.

    And the Pirates are deep in pitching prospects, such as Daniel McCutchen (acquired from the New York Yankees in 2008) and Tim Alderson (acquired from the San Francisco Giants last season), so that any pitcher who makes the rotation "is going to have to earn it," Russell says. "We are not going to hand it to him."

    With confidence in the pitching, the Pirates are starting to focus on improving the offense, following the classic blueprint for a team that has torn everything apart and is starting over. The Pirates have gotten a head start on the hitting by acquiring three outfield prospects (Jose Tabata, Brandon Moss and Lastings Milledge) and a third baseman (Andy LaRoche) who are expected to start or contend for starting jobs in 2010.

    "We feel we have the group we are going to move forward with, and we expect these guys to win more games," Russell says.
    "We need to step up and be a good team. We are in the major leagues, and it is time. Now is the time to start building that winning atmosphere."
    ***

    Nationals put capital into pitching to lead them out of basement

    he Washington Nationals say they aren't rebuilding.
    "We are building, and it's not easy to do," says Nationals President Stan Kasten, also a former team president in the NBA and NHL. "It is not like the NBA. You can't draft Shaquille (O'Neal) and get to the Finals in the same year. In baseball, it takes a long time and a lot of players. One wrong move can set you back years."

    In the first half of the decade, when the Nationals were the Montreal Expos and owned by Major League Baseball, the franchise, from the big-league roster to the lower minor league teams, went barren through a combination of trades, free agency and neglect.

    The Nationals were first-half division leaders in 2005, their first season in D.C., but that was a mirage. They finished 81-81, but since then the closest they've come to .500 for a season is 73-89 in 2007. They have finished last in every season in D.C. and are trying to dig out from two consecutive seasons of 100-plus losses, including 103 in 2009.

    The building process started when MLB approved the ownership of the Lerner family, a move that became official in July 2006. Since then, the Nationals have started to build through their farm system.
    They signed two key right-handed pitchers after drafting them last year: No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg (to a record $15.1 million contract) and first-rounder Drew Storen, the 10th selection in the draft.

    This offseason, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, for whom the team removed the interim tag shortly after he signed Strasburg, has beefed up Washington's scouting department and added parts to the big-league club.

    He signed pitcher Jason Marquis, a 15-game winner last season, to a rotation that has lefty John Lannan (3.88 ERA last year) and a list of prospects competing for jobs. They include Strasburg, Ross Detwiler and Garrett Mock. Detwiler is a first-rounder from 2007. Mock was acquired in a trade for former ace Livan Hernandez in 2006.

    Rizzo added Brian Bruney, who had been a key setup man for the New York Yankees, and closer Matt Capps, who has saved 84% of his opportunities in the last three years, to the bullpen and signed an experienced catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, to help the young pitching staff.
    Rizzo was working for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1999, the season they won 100 games after going 65-97 the season prior. But he says that was rare and thinks the Nationals aren't at a point where success can be measured by wins and losses.

    "As a major league team, we are judged by wins and losses, but there are so many nuances that have to fall into place," Rizzo says. "We need to play the game better. We have to be more efficient on defense. We have to walk fewer batters. When we do things like that, the big things will take care of themselves. We are building for 2010 and beyond."

    A former president of the Atlanta Braves, Kasten knows the importance of pitching for a team to sustain winning: "We had three No. 1s (pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz) and nobody got hurt for a decade, but I don't know how you do that."
    So how does a team know when it has turned the corner?
    "When you have pitchers going seven innings four or five days," Kasten says. "That's when you're holding the other team's scoring down and you're resting your bullpen."

    He adds, "Last year, we weren't there. We had pitchers going five or six innings too often.

    "It's taking longer than I thought, but we will get there. And when we do, we are going to stay good for a while."
    ***

    Blue Jays pinning hopes on new faces, more scouts
    The Toronto Blue Jays tried to contend in the American League East with pitchers Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett at the front of the rotation. The team won 87 games in 2006 and 86 in 2008 but couldn't make the playoffs.

    Burnett left as a free agent after 2008, and the Blue Jays traded Halladay in December.

    Rookie general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who took over when J.P. Ricciardi was fired in October, thought it was best to trade Halladay, who was set to make $15.75 million in 2010 before becoming a free agent, and develop for the future. The Blue Jays wound up with three prospects who were first-round picks in the deal — pitcher Kyle Drabek, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and infielder Brett Wallace — and said none of the three were expected to be on the roster on opening day.
    "Our No. 1 goal is to do what's best for the team in the long term and our job is to build our system with young players and look toward the future," Anthopoulos says. "We're never going to concede. We're always trying to win and put the best team on the field. But I think we've been clear.

    "It's important that we're transparent, and we're honest that we're shooting for more than a .500 club. ... We're looking to be a great club, and we need to build toward that. There's really no quick fix."
    Anthopoulos hired 16 amateur scouts and 11 professional scouts so he could get more opinions on players and, ultimately, increase his chances of getting accurate readings on them.

    There's better information in "20 at-bats instead of four at-bats," the GM says.

    And the increased manpower helps cut down on scouts' travel time. "They were spending more time in their car than at the baseball field," he says.

    This season, with an offense led by Adam Lind (.305 average, 35 home runs, 114 RBI in 2009) and Aaron Hill (.286-36-108), the Blue Jays will be remaking their rotation. Halladay led the league with nine complete games last year, virtually giving the bullpen a day off or much lesser workload every time he took the mound.

    No slots are guaranteed in the rotation, but three top candidates are Ricky Romero, who had a promising season as a rookie last year; Brandon Morrow, a hard-throwing 25-year-old acquired from the Seattle Mariners this offseason who has started and relieved in three major league seasons; and Shaun Marcum, who is coming back from elbow surgery. There's also a list of prospects competing, including Marc Rzepczynski and Brett Cecil.

    Manager Cito Gaston, who led the Blue Jays to World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, says in 2010, his last season as Toronto's manager before moving into an advisory role, he will focus on teaching the young players.

    "It's going to take a little bit," Gaston says. "We need to get the farm system back together, getting back to places like the Dominican and Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

    "My job this year is to continue to teach and talk to guys about being a winner, wanting to win and not accept anything else but winning. That's part of my job this season, making sure the kids learn something."

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseb...Top+Stories%29

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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    It still a little misleading and doesn't quite get into the extent of the rebuild, but at least the Pirates are getting some positive press lately, on a national scale. Too bad there is more positive news on a national level than locally. You would think the reverse would be the case.
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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    It wasn't a bad article. It shines some light on rebuilding schemes. I thought if anything was inaccurate it was the fluff about the Pirates neverending "rebuilding". I question whether we ever truly had a plan to rebuild before huntington came along. at least there wasn't any plan that anyone could point to...

    Until Huntington came, this organization went through the motions almost seemingly praying for and relying on "luck" because they certainly weren't doing anything proactive to stop the bleeding.

    I think the closest there was to some sort of rebuild was starting in 1993 when we went with a youth movement after the best players were gone but even then, it was almost like the Organization never expected that and just "went" with what they had to replace the Bonds', Drabeks' etc...

    This is the FIRST true rebuild attempt I've ever personally witnessed in 17 years

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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    Twenty-two of the Pirates' 30 top prospects were not in the organization two years ago.

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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    The changes that have taken place in the last two seasons are pretty dramatic. This has to be the most aggressive rebuild in MLB in the last 20 years, and definitely in Pirates history. It may never get the true press it deserves, but I bet alot of people and mediots will pay attention to the results, even though most will initially call the turnaround a fluke. we'll know better though.
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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    Lemme just say I agree with ya'll with regards to the first TRUE REBUILD since I can remember. However, having said that, unless they are willing to keep spending money on the best draft picks each and every year the rebuilding process is futile. I can accept the Tony Sanchez choice of last year. However, this year I want to see them pony up and take Taillon or Ranaudo assuming Harper is the #1 choice which is not guaranteed by any means.

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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    Quote Originally Posted by dcm8299 View Post
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    Lemme just say I agree with ya'll with regards to the first TRUE REBUILD since I can remember. However, having said that, unless they are willing to keep spending money on the best draft picks each and every year the rebuilding process is futile. I can accept the Tony Sanchez choice of last year. However, this year I want to see them pony up and take Taillon or Ranaudo assuming Harper is the #1 choice which is not guaranteed by any means.
    I don't disagree, but what over the last two years has made you think that will be an issue?

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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    Quote Originally Posted by Steelreign View Post
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    The changes that have taken place in the last two seasons are pretty dramatic. This has to be the most aggressive rebuild in MLB in the last 20 years, and definitely in Pirates history. It may never get the true press it deserves, but I bet alot of people and mediots will pay attention to the results, even though most will initially call the turnaround a fluke. we'll know better though.
    The Pirates have gone through several similar rebuilds. You just have to go back to the early 50s, for example to find a team that was winning as few as 42 games; the only reason to show up at the games in the early 50s was to watch Ralph Kiner to see if he'd hit a home run. Another similar rebuild happened in 1986-1988. Not trying to quibble but if you're older than 30 years old you've seen it all before.
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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    I think they'll be among the big spenders on the draft, as they have been in each of the past two years. Their whole system is now built upon the premise of developing young players, so why wouldn't they?

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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    Quote Originally Posted by Steelreign View Post
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    The changes that have taken place in the last two seasons are pretty dramatic. This has to be the most aggressive rebuild in MLB in the last 20 years, and definitely in Pirates history. It may never get the true press it deserves, but I bet alot of people and mediots will pay attention to the results, even though most will initially call the turnaround a fluke. we'll know better though.
    The 1997-98 Marlins is one I can think of. A team that was completely bought for, won a world series and then completely dismantled to rebuild. Kind of different general but it was a major gutting.

    In general though I agree

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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    Quote Originally Posted by dcm8299 View Post
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    Lemme just say I agree with ya'll with regards to the first TRUE REBUILD since I can remember. However, having said that, unless they are willing to keep spending money on the best draft picks each and every year the rebuilding process is futile. I can accept the Tony Sanchez choice of last year. However, this year I want to see them pony up and take Taillon or Ranaudo assuming Harper is the #1 choice which is not guaranteed by any means.
    Taillon and Ranaudo are some nice picks. I think it will take a pretty sure thing for Huntington to take a pitcher in the first round and despite what a lot of whiners think... it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with Huntington simply not liking First Round pitchers unless they are sure things due to the high risk and failure rate in general of Top 5 pitchers living up to their draft billing.

    Part of me thinks that Huntington will take what they think is the best bat with pretty solid defense first overall. the whiners will complain about money but it's better risk and better gamble and long term you have a higher chance of perhaps seeing that return... which is the goal of course - projecting long term. What looks good on paper now usually doesn't down the road. albert frckin' Pujols was a 13th round pick.

    I saw a tweet yesterday that said Taillon was hitting 97 mph with consistently recently with a changeup in the high 80's but it won't matter, Tyler Matzek was doing similar last year. The risk in drafting and throwing big money to a HS arm is high. If Huntington DOES pick an arm in the first Round and I'll have to see it to believe it will be a college arm in Renauldo. Huntington will likely stick to what I personally believe is a better idea in taking some HS arms later on, paying them overslot and having more options and risks than busting a large amount of his wad into one player who has a high tendency to bust in a top 5 HS arm

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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    I am of the philosophy that pitching is the way to rebuild...so I like what Washington is doing...but they do need some hitting too.
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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBen2112 View Post
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    I am of the philosophy that pitching is the way to rebuild...so I like what Washington is doing...but they do need some hitting too.
    Didn't the last regime try that?

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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBen2112 View Post
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    I am of the philosophy that pitching is the way to rebuild...so I like what Washington is doing...but they do need some hitting too.
    Then you must be ecstatic when you look at what Pirate management is doing.

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    Default Re: USA Today Article on Rebuilding

    Quote Originally Posted by buccoman View Post
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    Didn't the last regime try that?
    I think he means with good pitchers!

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