Pirates' GM Search: Hiring Arnold or Cherington Would be an Encouraging Sign
It was reported last night by Joel Sherman of the NY Post that the Pirates are down to three finalists for their vacant GM role, and that Matt Arnold and Ben Cherington are among those three. The third candidate was not named in the report. If the report is accurate, the Pirates have moved quickly to get the list down to three names, and the quality of the candidates mentioned above have me thinking that maybe the recent upheaval in the Pirates' front office has the team heading in a new, positive direction.
I'm not going to get into each candidate all that much. I've already made it clear from the start that Matt Arnold is my preference for the Pirates' GM job. I wrote over the weekend that, while Ben Cherington did amazing work to get the Red Sox a World Series title, I have doubts that the environment and conditions in Pittsburgh will be conducive to him replicating that success. Rather, I'd like to offer some thoughts on what hiring either of these men would mean for the organization.
If Arnold and Cherington are indeed finalists, there is an implied mutual interest. It would be odd for an organization to narrow a group of candidates for a critical hire down without confirming with their top choices that they would take, or at the very least seriously consider, the job if offered.
A year ago, Ben Cherington withdrew from his name from consideration for two, high-profile general manager jobs because they weren't the right situations for him. He expressed that he would prefer to take a job where a complete rebuild is needed.
Matt Arnold, on the other hand, doesn't have the name-recognition that winning a World Series would bring. He hasn't yet been as hot of a name in recent general manager searches as Cherington. However, it's just a matter of time before he is. Arnold is only 40 years old, but his resume is packed full of high-quality, successful experience in winning small-market organizations. He has spent the last four years as the right-hand man to David Stearns, who has made the Milwaukee Brewers one of the best small-market success stories the league has. In other words, Matt Arnold is going to be a GM in Major League Baseball. If it's not this year with the Pirates, it will be another time with a different team. He's too impressive not to get a chance, and soon.
Now back to the implied interest these two have in the Pirates' job. Ben Cherington has been waiting on the "right situation" to be a GM again. What would make him think the Pirates are that situation? Matt Arnold is looking for his first opportunity. What would give him the confidence to make the Pirates his first effort to show the league what he could do as a general manager? Could it be that the Pirates, with Travis Williams as President, have a new perspective that gains the interest of people I wouldn't have thought they had a chance of hiring?
A major component of a GM's success is the willingness of the owner to provide the freedom and cash to build a successful roster. I know it seems far-fetched, but could it be that these candidates have received the assurance that they will have both?
Now, all this day-dreaming could be for not. Like I said in the opening paragraph, there is an unknown third name in the mix, and that name could be the one a cynical Pirate fan would expect to be the next GM (I have a hunch that it's Kevan Graves). Regardless, the Pirates have cast their nets where the big fish are in this search. That alone is encouraging. If they are able to land one of those fish, I may feel something towards this front office that I haven't in quite some time - optimism.
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife