BRADENTON, Florida (93-7 THE FAN) – After being called out by two of its own players, Neal Huntington stood up for the organization he’s the General Manager of, saying the Pittsburgh Pirates are focused on winning now, and even went so far as to insist the team is better now than it was before he traded Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen.
“We want to win. We have the exact same goals they do. It’s to win a World Series,” Huntington said. “It’s why we made the moves we made, is to put this team in a position to win a World Series.”
Pirate fans will undoubtedly be confused when they hear the team’s GM once again insist that dispatching their two best players will somehow give them a better chance to win a championship.
“[For] 10 years here, we’ve talked a lot about teams that win the offseason. We’ve talked a lot about teams that win the trade deadline,” said Huntington. “And then we’ve talked about how few of them actually win the World Series.”
The problem is, nobody ever asked Huntington to win the offseason. Fans simply wanted their management team to show up for the offseason and bolster a 98-win team that, following 2015, seemed on the verge of ending a World Series drought that is now 38 years old.
“We won a lot of games for a three year stretch with very good players. We didn’t win enough the last two years, for a variety of reasons. It starts with me, and ends with me,” Huntington said.
Above and beyond taking accountability though – which is admirable – Huntington, nor anyone else in the organization, has yet to stand in front of microphones and cameras and give people what they want: The cold, hard truth.
And the truth is, this team is not championship caliber right now. They may have an offensively talented outfield, two up-and-coming corner infielders, a fireballing closer, and a young rotation that’s on the rise. They may be better than some expect in 2018.
To insist it’s a team that’s better than it was on Jan. 12 is pure folly, though.
“Obviously we’re missing something with the message publicly, and we’re working to find out what that is,” said Huntington.
However, it’s not just the fans that want to hear exactly what the plans for the team are, but players such as David Freese, Josh Harrison, and the recently departed Cole, who have all voiced their displeasure with the culture of the organization, from the top down.
“There are some criticisms that would be awfully hard to address in a very public, or a very meaningful way,” said Huntington on Sunday. “When you announce to the world what your intentions are, you don’t always get the best results. The lack of transparency is not an intentional misleading or misrepresentation, it’s working to be the best that we can be in terms of an organization.
“In terms of communication, in terms of connection with David, with Gerrit, with Josh, again, we’ve done some really good things here. We’re focused on getting back to doing some really good things again with respect to their perspective and perception,” Huntington said.
Yet, despite saying he respected the thoughts and perspectives of Freese and Harrison, Huntington also seemed to want to put blame on the coverage of the offseason and the coverage of the players’ reactions to it.
“[You] make sure … [that they] understand beyond what just you guys are writing, and understand the true intent of the message,” Huntington said, “and the true foundation of the message, and make sure we do everything we can to get back to where we were.
“I have a ton of respect for what those guys have said,” continued Huntington. “I have a ton of respect for their passion, for their intent. I know what was relayed to me. I know what came out publicly. When you stand in front of microphones for twenty minutes, you’re going to say some things that may not have come out the way that you wanted them to.”
In the end though, that may be the problem for the entire organization, from Huntington on down: Too many words and not enough action.
As Harrison put it earlier in the day, “My actions on the field speak for itself. Pittsburgh is a championship city, and to feel like we haven’t given them what they wanted, has definitely fallen short of the marker.”
Will the organization’s actions now live up to the words they’ve put out that insist this is a team now closer to a title than it was five weeks ago? And if so, when can we expect them?
If the Pirates are fully committed to winning, when will it look like it again?