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Nutting: Pirates' play is unacceptable

| Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, 4:54 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates owner Bob Nutting, standing with manager Clint Hurdle, called the team's recent slide unacceptable and vowed to do what is necessary to prevent future late-season collapses. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle argues a call with first-base umpire Sam Holbrook during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP)

Pirates owner Bob Nutting on Saturday called his team's second-half collapse “incredibly, intensely frustrating” and vowed to do what's necessary to prevent another.

“We're all frustrated by and upset with the performance and seriously looking at what do we need to do both to finish the year appropriately and make sure this isn't something we ever see again,” Nutting said.

He declined to specify whether changes could include shaking up the front office or coaching staff.

“I don't think it's ever fair to speculate on people's jobs,” he said. “My approach has always been to fully support the team we have in place, and when it's time to make a change, we make a change.”

Nutting said there is no quick fix for the team's problems.

“There are loads of reasons and explanations (for the slide), but the bottom line is we're not playing acceptable baseball,” he said. “There's nothing acceptable about the way we've played the last couple weeks. We recognize that, and we're going to do everything we can to correct that.”

The Pirates were a season-high 16 games over .500 on July 28. Since then, they have gone 15-29 and lost their grip on a wild-card playoff berth.

“All aspects of the game have been a struggle,” president Frank Coonelly said. “Time is running short, and we need to turn it around immediately.”

Coonelly would not say whether anyone would be held accountable if the team fails to make the playoffs.

“I don't want to get into the blame game,” he said.

This is the Pirates' second straight late-season collapse. On July 25 last season, they were six games over .500 and in first place in the NL Central. They went 19-43 the rest of the way and finished fourth, 24 games behind division champion Milwaukee.

General manager Neal Huntington responded with a terse “No” when asked whether manager Clint Hurdle's job is in jeopardy.

“We're all part of it,” Huntington said. “We're all part of the really good, and we're all part of the not-as-good. There's no doubt that how we've gotten to this point makes it very easy to put a negative (spin) on it and think the sky is falling. There's a reason for every loss; in some cases it's fixable, and in others it's not.”

Huntington was with the team last week in Cincinnati, where the Reds swept the Pirates in three games. He was not scheduled to travel with the club to Chicago but showed up at Wrigley Field after Friday's 7-4 loss.

Before Saturday's game, which the Pirates won, 7-6, to snap a seven-game losing skid, Huntington met with Hurdle in the manager's office for what Hurdle described as “internal talking about a lot of different areas.”

Huntington said the evaluations of players and staff were not triggered by the recent slide.

“It's always part of our process to evaluate ourselves — our front office, our players, our processes in how we're doing things,” he said. “We're at the natural part of the year where it's preparation — for the offseason, for next year — while continuing to make sure we finish this year strong.”

Hurdle said he sees many of the same inconsistencies in the Pirates' play as he did in the final two months of last season. But he said the players' preparation and focus is better.

“What I need to do now in a leadership position is help these men figure it out and push through it,” Hurdle said. “There's got to be some dependability on my part. That's what I signed up for: the good, the bad, the sideways.

“I don't believe any less of these guys or this organization than I did coming in. In fact, I'm still encouraged that we're heading in the right direction.”

Rob Biertempfel and Karen Price are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Biertempfel can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com. Price can be reached at kprice@tribweb.com.

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