Neal Huntington realizes Pirates’ losing stretch could put jobs on line
Neal Huntington indicated Sunday on his radio show that his job as the Pittsburgh Pirates general manager could be in jeopardy if the team continues to lose.
But he added he and his staff continue to work to put the team back “in a postseason hunt” and to determine what went wrong this season.
The Pirates lost the finale of the three-game series in St. Louis and have dropped 24 of their past 28 games and eight in a row. Huntington said he hears the “fans’ anger and the media drumbeat.”
“Everybody has a shelf life, whether it’s the general manager, the manager or coach,” he said on 93.7 FM.
“We understand in professional sports, when a team loses more than the media thinks (it) should or the fans think (it) should, they think the solution is to blame somebody or fire somebody.
“And Bob Nutting and Frank Coonelly may get to the point in time where that is the case. These positions, whether it’s the general manager or manager, they are hired to be fired.”
Huntington, who never referenced injuries as an excuse during the half-hour show, noted seven of the 24 losses have been by one run. He also said in 13 defeats, one or two plays could have changed the outcome.
But he understands why fingers should be pointed his way.
“Ultimately, shouldering the responsibility and blame for this is me,” he said. “But every single one of us is showing up every day working to find out a way to not only make one or two more plays to give us a legitimate chance to win a game, but to get this right again and get this back on track and give the fan base a team they want to cheer for.”
He indicated everyone from the front office to the field staff to the players have played a part.
“We recognize the players on the field maybe don’t have enough talent because of the players I’ve put on that field,” he said. “Maybe we’re not teaching them the way we can or need to. Maybe they’re simply not executing.
“And we recognize our decision-making process needs to go through a thorough review. That includes the question, ’ “How did we get here?’ ”
“We need to take a strong, hard look at the process and how we’ve gotten to this point and what changes we can make going forward and maybe things we could have or should have done differently.”
The Pirates have had four losing streaks of at least seven games, including a nine, two eights and one seven. Asked if major changes, presumably in the offseason, could be part of the solution, Huntington said, “We recognize changes are needed.”
But he added, “Emotional decisions are rarely good decisions.”
“We get the blame game externally. Internally, we all are focused on doing our jobs to the best of our ability, doing them well enough to get back on the winning track and putting this team back in the postseason hunt.”
Huntington called the past four weeks “one of the toughest stretches I can remember being a part of.”
“Even in the 105-loss (2010) season, it didn’t feel like we had a stretch like this.”
At the end of that season, manager John Russell was fired and replaced by Clint Hurdle, who lost 90 games in 2011.
“To lose 23 of 27 coming out of the All-Star break when we’re sitting 21/2 games out of the division lead, it’s been challenging,” Huntington said.
“We felt like we would be right in the middle of this as we entered the second week in August, the second week in September and it’s not playing out.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .