Tim Benz: Pirates GM Neal Huntington’s ‘shelf life’ has expired
General manager Neal Huntington warned changes could be coming to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Gee, Neal. Don’t threaten me with a good time.
Sunday’s latest come-from-ahead defeat — an 11-9 debacle in St. Louis — was the club’s eighth straight loss.
Speaking before the first pitch on his weekly 93.7 FM radio show, Huntington refused to rule out firing manager Clint Hurdle when play-by-play man Greg Brown broached the topic.
Huntington also left the door open to significant roster retooling.
“I think we recognize that changes are needed,” he said.
However, Huntington couched that quote by adding, “Emotional decisions are rarely good decisions, whether things are going really well and you make an emotional decision because they’re going well or things are not going well, and you make an emotional decision.
“We recognize that, as we evaluate this in the big picture and we look to take into account as much as we can, as much relevant information as we can.”
Well, here’s some relevant information: The Pirates have lost 24 of their last 28, and they are en route to one of their worst seasons ever.
And, boy, they have had a lot of those.
The truth is, if changes are to occur with these Pirates, they should start at the top with owner Bob Nutting.
Since Nutting is unlikely to fire himself, though, whatever changes come should include Huntington.
Given he and Hurdle are signed through 2021, my guess is neither will be fired. Nutting barely wants to pay people to work for his team. He sure won’t want to pay those two to no longer work.
Unfortunately, his fanbase has gone from disappointed and dismayed to angry and vengeful. They want a few heads to roll.
A pitching coach or a few scouts won’t do it.
Firing Hurdle makes plenty of sense. The fundamentals of his team are atrocious. Baserunning, base-coaching, throwing, fielding and decision-making all are abysmal.
Plus, this is the third season as Pirates manager where Hurdle’s team has gotten in a bad stretch and utterly collapsed in the second half. Look at 2011 and ‘12. Those teams — more talented than this one — were contending until hitting death spirals after the All-Star break.
So, yeah. Go ahead. Fire Hurdle. But if you expect that act to fundamentally change the outlook for 2020, you’re nuts.
Connie Mack dipped in Joe Torre and rolled in Tony La Russa couldn’t manage a team like this to a winning record.
So if Hurdle goes, Huntington should go, too. After all, it’s his motley collection of “talent” that is 21 games under .500 entering Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.
“We recognize the players on the field maybe don’t have enough talent because of the players I’ve put on that field,” Huntington said. “Maybe we’re not teaching them the way we can or need to. Maybe they’re simply not executing.”
I’d say A, B and C are all true.
Does Huntington have the means to buy better players for a quick fix? Of course not. He’s under the weight of Nutting’s financial restrictions. But it’s his charge to field a competitive team despite those constraints.
That’s something he has done in the past. But it’s also something he has been unable to accomplish in the last three years.
Unless 82-79 without a playoff berth turns your crank.
Come to think of it, that sounds like nirvana right now.
“These positions, whether it’s the general manager or manager, they are hired to be fired,” Huntington said. “Everybody has a shelf life, whether it’s the general manager, the manager or coach.”
I think Huntington and Hurdle spoiled on the shelf a long time ago.
It would be intellectually dishonest to keep one and not the other. It’d be unexplainable to bring back both men in their current jobs.
So don’t expect an explanation. But expect that result to happen anyway.