Before the Pirates broke their five-game losing streak in Houston this afternoon for only their eighth win in their previous 31 games, GM Neal Huntington sat down with reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Amid a growing clamor that Huntington's job is no longer secure, news broke this week about the Pirates holding military drills for their prospects. Huntington, however, downplayed the need for Owner Bob Nutting and/or President Frank Coonelly to make any changes to the front office, "If Bob or Frank decide to make a change and bring in a new general manager, that's their call. I sure hope they don't. I believe in the people I'm working with, I believe in what we're doing and how we're doing it. I don't see making a change at any leadership position at this point in time. I believe in their leadership, character and ability. Winning masks a lot of not-so-good things. Losing masks a lot of very good things."
- Assistant GM Kyle Stark, the architect of the military drill idea, was defended by Huntington. "Kyle Stark is a tremendous front-office executive -- intelligence, character, abilities. When you're a leader and you're willing to have a tough conversation, you tend to have people who may not always like you. That's what we're dealing with right now."
- Huntington also tried to put Stark's email (full text provided by Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) about the drills into context, "The impact Kyle has had on our overall development (of players) because of his desire to learn the whole person is remarkable. Out of context is a dangerously abused term in our industry. But when you take one email and try to paint the whole man or our development system, it's inaccurate. That terminology was used to connect with 18- to 25-year-olds. They don't want to hear about 'cohesiveness' or 'team-building' or 'preparation.' But when you use the terminology that grabs them ... We're not trying to create Boy Scouts, native American warriors, Hell's Angels or hippies. We're trying to get (players) to think like that. We're using images and metaphors to connect a message."
- The Pirates are also dealing with their second consecutive second-half slump that has seen them win as many games as the the 50-win Astros since August 15. Huntington gave his theory for this year's collapse, "As we've tried to evaluate metrically how we've gotten here, you look at the numbers and we weren't supposed to be 16 games over .500. We should have been closer to eight (games), which is still progress. What's happened since Aug. 1, batting averages on balls in play have plummeted for our hitters and increased for our pitchers, especially with runners in scoring position. It doesn't mean it's bad luck, but ... yes, it means it's bad luck. There is a double-edged sword in that we've done some things to not play well and we've had some things go against us. Is the last six weeks the way we envisioned our season? Absolutely not. Every team has tough stretches; ours, unfortunately, has been longer and late (in the season)."
- Huntington also blamed the team's struggles on players trying to do too much, according to MLB.com's Tom Singer. Said Huntington, "We define players in one of three categories, and one of them is 'survivor.' A survivor is someone who cares about surviving, about staying in the big leagues. We've had some guys fall back into survivor mode these last two months. It isn't a selfish mindset, so to speak. But you see men on first-and-second and nobody out, and instead of making sure to get the runner over, you try to hit a three-run homer. It's well-intended, but when you get outside of your game and try to do too much -- the age-old excuse -- you start to get yourself in trouble."