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Starkey: What did you find, Mr. Nutting?

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 11:04 p.m.
Pirates Chairman of the Board Bob Nutting talks with general manager Neal Huntington during a visit to Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates Chairman of the Board Bob Nutting talks with general manager Neal Huntington during a visit to Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

It had been 34 days since Pirates owner Bob Nutting made this promise: “I can assure you I will personally look deeply into every aspect of the situation,” he told the Trib. “Every area of the organization should, must and will be reviewed, from the approach to the draft, how we develop our players, our evaluation and acquisition of talent through trades or free-agent signings as well as our execution at the major league level.”

Figuring it was time for some answers, I contacted Nutting through an intermediary Wednesday, requesting an update on the alleged investigation.

I got an email response from Nutting, relayed from the intermediary.

It was understood that Nutting would not submit to questions. His email started like this: “I can assure you, and our fans, that we are continuing the in-depth review process to take an honest assessment of our progress over the past few years.”

Whoa, who's “we?” Are the people allegedly being reviewed for competence also helping to conduct the review?

Anyway, here is the rest of Nutting's email: “We are collectively analyzing every area of our baseball operations and working to understand why we have been successful in some areas, but not in others. I have a great appreciation for our fans, as well as our responsibility to keep them informed of our progress. I look forward to discussing publicly the ongoing evaluation process, the adjustments we will make moving forward and the overall direction of the Club very soon.”

Adjustments? I'll be surprised if that means firing people atop the organizational food chain, though it's not too late for Nutting to find a new general manager. The Baltimore Orioles didn't land a new one until Nov. 6 last year, and they wound up with Dan Duquette.

Sure, free agency starts at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, but you don't think the Pirates will bid for Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke when they've already reeled in Chad Beck and Ali Solis, do you?

The important deadlines are later this month, particularly for tendering offers to arbitration-eligible players.

Soon, Mr. Nutting, you really must tell us what you found.

The draft approach hasn't worked. The player-development system is an industry-wide punch line (Hoka Hey!). The evaluation and acquisition of “talent,” while it has netted some pieces, has produced enough failures to field a legendary All-Bust Team — one with a better bench than the Pirates had last season.

You really must tell us why it's a good idea to retain GM Neal Huntington.

Tell us why it's in your best interest to keep assistant GMs Kyle Stark and Greg Smith and director of player development Larry Broadway.

Tell us what team president Frank Coonelly has done to justify his strong influence on baseball personnel matters.

Would the president not be better suited to stay on the business side?

I am told Nutting aggressively sought information from around the league when he attended the World Series, that he really has taken a long, hard look at how his club's personnel-acquisition and development systems stack up.

I'll believe it if he tells the world of his findings.

Meanwhile, the Pirates, as always, are outdoing themselves. Andrew McCutchen won a Gold Glove on Tuesday but was usurped by Coonelly's surprise appearance on an Altoona radio show.

We hadn't heard anything of substance from a Pirates official since the end of the regular season. Coonelly had denied interview requests from local outlets — did Nutting forbid him from talking? — yet he opted to appear on Sports Central radio.

Not only did he appear, he backed Stark and Broadway, who have come under fire for, among other things, ordering prospects to wade through ice-filled kiddie pools and jump into sand piles.

How utterly inappropriate of Coonelly: In the midst of his boss allegedly conducting a major internal investigation, he has the nerve to publicly endorse key personnel and methodology?

Or is Coonelly part of the “we” that is conducting the alleged review?

And why is it that Nutting distanced himself so fast from the Coonelly-released statement guaranteeing jobs for Huntington, Smith, Stark and manager Clint Hurdle next season?

So many questions, so few answers.

Somebody should investigate.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at

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