U mad, bro? Readers rip Neal Huntington, react to Phil Kessel trade | TribLIVE.com
Breakfast With Benz

U mad, bro? Readers rip Neal Huntington, react to Phil Kessel trade

Tim Benz
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington speaks during a new conference to announce the signing of 2019 first round draft pick Quinn Priester on June 11, 2019, at PNC Park.

It’s been a week since I’ve checked my inbox for “U mad, bro.” And a lot has built up while I was on vacation. Penguins fans chime in on the Phil Kessel trade to Arizona. Pirates fans don’t seem to like the idea of dealing Felipe Vazquez. And Neal Huntington is taking some heat.

Walt is first up on the Kessel deal.

“As much of a Phil Kessel fan that I am—and how excited I was he going to be a Penguin — I noticed since his second season with the Pens he’s slowed up tremendously.

What’s the reason? Is it age, injury, or both? Either way, his time here wasn’t worthless.

I for one will miss Phil and wish nothing but the best for him and hopefully in the future when his playing days are over, and he starts coaching, the Penguins will find a place for him.”

Walt, thanks for the email. Understand that no one in their right mind would call Kessel’s time here worthless. He was a crucial cog in their Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017.

But Kessel as a coach? C’ mon. He’d have to accept a coach’s feedback once in his life before he becomes one.

Did Kessel slow down since the 2017 Stanley Cup win? Some of his offensive stats suggest that’s not the case. His performance during the 2018 playoff series against Washington suggests it is. So does the second half of 2019.

I believe Kessel was hurt in the 2018 postseason.

I believe he was dissatisfied and disinterested in the second half of 2019.

And I believe it’s best that Kessel has moved on.

George sent me an email about my column on the potential of the Pirates trading Felipe Vazquez to the Dodgers.

“I was thinking about baseball teams’ names, and it occurred to me that they’re usually gentle and comforting: Blue Jays, Cardinals, Angels, etc.

The Pirates is a pretty aggressive name. So, as I was reading your piece on trading away another talent that the Buccaneers have developed, I thought a name change might be in order. How about the Pittsburgh Prospects? Wouldn’t have to change the “P” on the hats.

Call that cost control.”

So same logo, new nickname? Not only is that “cost control.” But it’s also “position flexibility.” You may be onto something.

I got a lot of responses to the the column I posted about Neal Huntington. Here’s a thought from Jim.

“In a world-famous sports town where the owners of the two other professional franchises spend money on stars such as Ben Roethlisberger and Sidney Crosby to both make money and please their fan base, (Bob) Nutting is selfishly on an everlasting quest in search of ways to cut payroll.

Try to imagine the Pirates this season with 2018 free agents Charlie Morton, Josh Donaldson and/or Bryce Harper. Pirates GM Neal Huntington and President Frank Coonelly are absolutely complicit in this criminal enterprise.

Spend Nutting, win Nutting!”

In general, you’re right. The Pirates will never win until Nutting creates more revenue and spends more money.

However, the comparison between the Pirates seeking Harper and the Steelers retaining Roethlisberger or the Penguins retaining Crosby isn’t apples to apples.

Those last two teams are in salary-cap sports. The Pirates are not.

But to the larger point you referenced — and I wrote about in the column — Huntington and Coonelly have definitely been with Nutting long enough to be considered complicit in the organization’s business practices.

You can say “criminal enterprise.” I’ll stick with “business practices.”

For now.

William also replied to that Huntington post.

“How does this man keep his job?

He seems perfectly satisfied with a .500 season, the pitching staff sucks, and he will not make the necessary trades, dips into the free agency pool and seems content trying to salvage players whose careers are doubtful and cut by other teams.”

William, read the section above to get your answer.

Huntington (and Coonelly) keep their jobs because they execute Nutting’s organizational plan, and Nutting turns a profit.

Why would they get fired? They are doing as instructed. The only time Nutting would fire either — or both — is if the team doesn’t draw enough fans. Or if the payroll gets too high and cuts into the profit margin.

Sometimes one shouldn’t impact the other. But so far that hasn’t happened. At least not to the point that Nutting is uncomfortable.

So … that’s how.

Greg is at least attempting to show a little sympathy for Huntington.

As did I.

A little.

Greg … you still have hope?

You’re a better man than I am.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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