Pirates owner Nutting angry but keeps status quo in front office
After another second-half collapse stuck the Pirates with their 20th consecutive losing season, owner Bob Nutting considered firing the entire front office.
Although general manager Neal Huntington and his lieutenants were not purged, they will have to modify their approach to player acquisition and development. The first step, Nutting said, is abolishing the controversial, military-style drills for the club's minor leaguers.
During an hour-long interview Tuesday at PNC Park, Nutting revealed — in general terms — the findings of his ongoing personal evaluation of the Pirates' personnel and procedures. Nutting began the process after the Pirates tumbled from first place in the NL Central on July 18 to a 79-83 record good only for a fourth-place finish.
Nutting resisted a strong urge to make dramatic changes immediately after the season.
“Like every fan, I was angry,” Nutting said. “But that's not when you make your best decisions. If you're angry, you count to 10. If you're really angry, you count to 100. If you're incredibly infuriated and frustrated, you wait four weeks.”
Tuesday was the first time since mid-September that Nutting spoke publicly about the status of Huntington, assistant GMs Kyle Stark and Greg Smith, manager Clint Hurdle and president Frank Coonelly.
“We will not ever, nor should we ever, fall back on scapegoats,” Nutting said. “I will continue to be willing to make changes in personnel when appropriate and necessary. But in anger at the end of a season is the wrong time to judge someone's body of work and make decisions.”
Huntington was in transit Tuesday to the annual GM meetings in Indian Wells, Calif., and was unavailable for comment.
Nutting indicated he did not consider making piecemeal changes to the front office, which has been in place since Coonelly and Huntington were hired in September 2007.
“It is an extremely cohesive management team,” Nutting said.
Nutting conducted his own internal investigation, interviewing dozens of people inside and outside the team. He stressed that he was not done but rather that the timing isn't good for a move.
“What we have been doing and what we'll continue to do is a comprehensive review,” Nutting said. “But that is not a two-week or a four-week process. That is one that is going to continue as we evaluate every aspect of the organization. Because we need to get better.”
A series of reports in the Trib the past two months described the military training techniques instituted under Stark. Part of that was a Sept. 14-16 session instructed by former Navy SEALS in Bradenton, Fla., where outfield prospect Gregory Polanco reinjured his ankle during a drill involving water and sand. But the military mindset and practices have run year-round, including “Hell Week” conducted in October by the team's instructors.
The unusual drills have netted the Pirates criticism from fans, players, agents and others in the industry. It was enough to force Nutting to order a change of policy.
“Our primary focus is to develop baseball players to play championship baseball,” Nutting said. “That's the job of our development system. We are not a paramilitary organization. We should not be running a boot camp. We should be focusing on baseball drills.”
Although he has tweaked the club's procedures, Nutting said he will not take a more hands-on role in player acquisition and development decisions.
“I strongly believe my role needs to be getting the right (management) people, putting the systems in place and then holding them accountable,” Nutting said. “The worst mistakes baseball teams have made are when owners, out of frustration or ego or passion, step in and override baseball professionals.”
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7811.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt’s Narduzzi names 4 captains
- Moon area pediatrician found dead in country club lake
- Trib Total Media puts 9 Western Pa. newspapers up for sale
- LaBar: The upgrade of The Wyatt Family in WWE
- ‘Action’ against AG Kane sent to Supreme Court, sources say
- Penn State to face Idaho to open 2019 season
- Starkey: Steelers stopping themselves with suspensions
- Federal judge does not order removal of Ten Commandments monument from Connellsville school
- Heyl: Vick haters’ Facebook bark much worse than their protest’s bite
- Nonprofit hospital titan UPMC’s income eclipses record
- Moon teacher settles lawsuit against online university