Pirates GM Neal Huntington and his front office staff have come under heavy scrutiny in recent weeks, as his club is mired in a second straight second half collapse that has them poised for a 20th consecutive losing season. Despite that, team president Frank Coonelly issued a statement endorsing Huntington and his staff on Wednesday. Here is the text, courtesy of Karen Price of The Pittsburgh Tribune Review:
“As soon as we finish this season as well as we possibly can, we will turn our full and total attention to evaluating why were unable to finish the job and what we must do differently to take the next step to becoming a championship team. There will unquestionably be changes made to the way in which we operate as a result of this thorough critical self-evaluation, but we will not be making personnel changes at the very top of our baseball operations department. Neal, [assistant GM Kyle Stark], [assistant GM Greg Smith] and [manager Clint Hurdle] are dedicated and intelligent baseball men in whom I have great confidence.
“Confidence in and support of Neal, Kyle and Greg should not be misunderstood with acceptance of another poor finish at the Major League level. We must understand why the quality of our execution and play deteriorated so markedly in August. Finishing was the focus from spring training but it certainly was not achieved.”
Last week we learned about a military-style training program implemented by Huntington and Stark for the club's top prospects. Few around the game will be surprised if the front office is overhauled, but Coonelly's statement suggests that the current regime will be given a chance to reap the rewards of a strong farm system that includes top pitching prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.
Huntington has been at the helm in Pittsburgh since the end of the 2007 season. The club has gone 330-561 under his watch with four last place finishes in five full years. Baseball America ranked the Pirates' farm system as the 26th best in baseball when Huntington was hired, and this past winter they had climbed to 11th. Five years is generally considered enough time to evaluate a rebuild though, and patience in the Steel City has certainly begun to wear thin.