In the past few weeks news of the Pirates having their minor leaguers do Navy Seal drills have been a buzz all over the Internet but Battling Bucs has remained quiet; today I break my silence. This will be the first and last thing I have to say on the subject so read carefully.
The events I have heard discussed certainly seem odd and irrelevant. There is probably no reason for the Pirates to have their minor leaguers participating in them. I’ve read that other teams and athletes go through this type of training but I really think that is not pertinent to this discussion. The bottom line is that this training method is probably unnecessary.
With all that being said though I feel the coverage of this has been blown out of proportion. Nearly everyone who has knowledge of the actual workouts, including several players, have called them not rigorous workouts. Players have come out and stated that their work outs are more strenuous. The activities being done are nothing that should put a typical professional baseball player’s health in any danger. Yes there are risks associated with it but there are risks associated with normal workouts and driving a car. The difference between the Pirates odd methods and traditional methods when it comes to injury risks seem insignificant. Another negative that is often raised is that this time would be better served teaching the Pirates players fundamentals of the game. On its surface that seems to have some validity but most of these players have been learning about baseball since they were pre-teens and the vast majority of instructs was devoted to baseball activities. The bottom line is that if these players do not know fundamentals by now another 3 days of working on them isn’t going to make any difference. I have yet to see anyone actually present a definitive negative that comes from the training methods themselves. I will concede the subsequent coverage has furthered the Pirates reputation as a laughing stock in the league but that isn’t on the work outs themselves.
The absence of negative side effects however is not in itself reason to do these training methods. For it to be beneficial for the Pirates or any team to have their players go through these odd methods there must not only be minimal negative side effects but tangible positive side effects. Aside from the talk of team building and leadership which I largely dismiss in this instance I have heard nothing of that sort.
Some other people seem to be criticizing the Pirates simply because these training methods are different. Just because they are different doesn’t make them bad. The Pirates are in a position where they need to think outside of the box. Be it in free agency, in trades, in contract extensions, in the draft, in the international market, in player development or whatever the Pirates need to consider alternative methods because of the disadvantage the baseball economic system puts them at. This is a reality for all small market teams. The fact that this is different and outside the box is the best thing about it.
The Pirates training methods are bizarre, odd and outside the box but that in itself doesn’t make it bad. There appears to be no real negative side effects, outside of bad publicity, stemming from holding these workouts but that doesn’t make it good. What makes the Pirates decision to conduct these workouts questionable and why we should all be critical of the front office on this front is the absence of positives. Being critical of this is fair but calling for people to be fired over this is not. Look if you want to make a case that Neal Huntington and the rest of the front office you could make a very strong case, I myself straddle that fence but this particular incident shouldn’t appear anywhere on your list or reasons why. What the Pirates are doing is probably unnecessary and it is fair to be critical (unless the Pirates or someone else can produce a positive side effect) and it is also fair to have a good laugh at this but calling for someone to get fired for this or acting like this is the front office neglecting the prospects is pushing this too far. Some people (fans and reporters) have made too much of this issue and that needs to stop. By all means make your jokes about this and be critical of the front office but do not carry this too far.