Neal Huntington Rumors
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."
The Pirates fell below .500 when they lost to the Brewers last night, but that’s not why the team is making headlines today. Details surrounding some unusual player development practices have surfaced, generating surprise and criticism. Here are the details:
- Pirates prospects spent this past weekend in Florida performing military drills directed by former Navy SEALS, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. General manager Neal Huntington and assistant GM Kyle Stark implemented the program, which started at 5 am daily and included running along the beach with a telephone pole, flipping truck tires, and diving into sand piles. Earlier in the year Stark emailed his players, encouraging them to “Dream and be creative like a Hippie. Have the discipline and perseverance of a Boy Scout. Be crazy and take risks like the Hells Angels.”
- Kovacevic calls the Pirates' actions inexplicable and indefensible.
- Players dreaded the activities and team officials feared them, Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports. MLB executives expressed skepticism about the program’s effectiveness. "I didn't like it,” one person told Passan. “Nobody did. They don't know what they're doing."
- Top prospect Jameson Taillon once suffered a non-serious knee injury during the program’s hand-to-hand combat component, Passan reports.
- “Whispers are becoming louder” that Huntington’s job status isn’t completely secure, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. However, an ownership source told Heyman the Pirates’ upper management really seems to like manager Clint Hurdle.
The first Sunday of the new NFL season has not gone unnoticed by MLB players. The Cubs are celebrating by wearing a NFL jersey of their choice on their flight from Pittsburgh to Houston tonight, reports Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com. But, like their season, the idea wasn't without its pitfalls. While Floridian Anthony Rizzo (Dolphins), Baltimore native Steve Clevenger (Ravens), and Virginian Shawn Camp (Redskins) came prepared, others were left to the mercy of jersey shopping in Pittsburgh. So, newly acquired Jason Berken, a Packers season-ticker holder, had to settle for a Steelers jersey. Enough of the gridiron and back to the diamond:
- The Stephen Strasburg shutdown will test all of Nationals' intangibles: its confidence, cohesion, and just plain stubbornness, writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post.
- Jake Westbrook will miss his next start for the Cardinals with a right oblique injury. MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch reports Chris Carpenter is a possibility to replace Westbrook on Thursday. Carpenter, who has yet to pitch this year after undergoing surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder, is set to throw a simulatated game tomorrow, but Langosch says the team could switch the schedule should they want Carpenter to step in immediately.
- The Pirates are still developing their offseason plans for Gerrit Cole, the first overall selection in the 2011 draft, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Sulia). "We've got to spend some time with him and see where we can place him," Biertempfel quoted GM Neal Huntington as saying. Cole was roughed up in his final Triple-A start (eight runs in just two innings), but Huntingon was philosophical, "The biggest lesson is, Triple-A (batters) can hit 100 mph (pitches). If you keep coming with 100 mph, they're going to keep hitting it. You've got to use all your pitches. Things snowballed on him, things got a little quick for him. He's going to be better for it."
On this day in baseball history in 1939, NBC televised the first Major League baseball game using an experimental station W2XBS. Viewers were privy to a doubleheader between the Reds and Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Here's the latest news and headlines from around the National League...
- The exercise of calling up players for the month of September has changed for Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, writes Karen Price of the Tribune-Review. Instead of giving raw prospects a taste of the big leagues, Huntington will be looking to add minor leaguers who can help his team win games with an eye on the playoffs and provide manager Clint Hurdle an extra weapon off the bench. “The makeup of our club at midnight on Aug. 31 is the makeup of our club on Oct. 5, provided we take care of business and we get there,” Huntington said. “So that’s a little different, to try to put together an Oct. 5 roster on Aug. 31.”
- Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told season-ticket holders on Sunday that the Mets would love to retain R.A. Dickey on a long-term deal, writes Spencer Fordin of MLB.com. Word got back to the knuckleballer, who expressed a similar desire to call Citi Field home for years to come. "I love it here and I've always voiced that," said Dickey. "A part of me enjoys being loyal to an organization that's given me a shot. I connect well with the fan base, [the media] has always been good and I'm comfortable here. That says a lot for me and where I am in my career."
- Legendary play-by-play broadcaster Vin Scully announced on Sunday that he will return to the Dodgers for the 2013 season marking his 64th year with the franchise. The Hall of Famer will turn 85 in November but remains enthused as ever about the Dodgers given the team's new ownership group, says Stephen Borelli of USA Today. "The new ownership of the Dodgers has revitalized the city, the team, the fans and myself," Scully. "I am so convinced of their great purpose and leadership that I eagerly look forward to joining them in pursuit of the next Dodgers championship."
Major League rosters can expand to 40 players beginning September 1st. Not everybody thinks it's such a great idea. Tigers manager Jim Leyland recently vented to reporters, including Jason Beck of MLB.com. "I've been really adamant about that, really a stickler on it," Leyland said. "When I have that meeting with the Commissioner [as part of the special committee for on-field matters], I talk about that all the time. Myself, if everybody went to 28, that wouldn't bother me at all. I think that's fine. That's just my feeling, but any manager who does a pretty good job of managing all year, and then at the biggest month of the year, he loses some of his ability to maneuver." Let's take a look at what the plans are for other clubs looking to maneuver over the season's final month.
- The Pirates are mulling their September call-ups with the post-season in mind, as they entered play today holding the second NL Wild Card spot and with Triple-A Indianapolis likely playoff-bound. General Manager Neal Huntington told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Where we go from there ... it’s a delicate balance. I’ve been with another organization where we raided the Triple-A team as it was headed to the post-season. The guys came up and didn’t play very much, and that didn’t go over very well on many fronts." At least one left-handed reliever and another catcher will be added when rosters expand, writes Biertempfel.
- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle adds another consideration when deciding upon September call-ups: cost. In Biertempfel's piece, Hurdle pointed out, "In my rookie year, if you got a call-up, you made $5,000 or $6,000 (in September). Now you’re talking about making $75,000. So if you call up 10 guys, you’re picking up $750,000 in salary and everything that goes with it.”
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter has acknowledged the team's September call-ups will be affected by the team's playoff chase. Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com lists possible players, both on the disabled list and at Triple-A, who could join the O's when the rosters expand.
- The Padres may not have the roster space to bring Jedd Gyorko up in September, according to John Maffei of the North County Times. The Padres already have 49 players on their 40-man roster (nine are on the 60-day disabled list) and may not want to start Gyorko's service clock just for a September sneak peak, writes Maffei. Since Gyorko has less than three full seasons in pro ball, the Padres don't have to add him to the 40-man roster next season.
- Lucas Duda will probably have to wait until September 1st to rejoin the Mets because the team wants to take a longer look at Mike Baxter, tweets the New York Post's Mike Puma.
- The Nationals have several candidates for September call-ups including pitcher John Lannan and 2011 first-round draft pick Anthony Rendon, writes MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
The Games of the XXX Olympiad came to a close today in London. Nearly 11,000 athletes from 204 nations took part in over 300 events in 26 sports. But, none of the Olympic pagentry involved baseball. So, let's celebrate America's National Pastime with the latest news, notes and quotes:
- Not everyone in the Mets front office is sold that they can be a sustained contender moving forward with Ike Davis at first base, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. One internal option would be moving Lucas Duda in from the outfield and some believe that he would be more comfortable at first.
- Mets owner Fred Wilpon wouldn't speak with reporters following a rare on-field appearance before last night's game against the Braves, but he'll have to start answering questions soon, writes David Lennon of Newsday. There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the Mets, including what their projected payroll will be for 2013 and if the franchise is on the rebound financially.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington says Gerrit Cole, last year's top draft pick, will not be a September callup, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Sulia). "We've not talked about it internally. My gut (feeling) is no." Huntington said. "To drop him into bullpen up here in September is not something we have lot of interest in doing. We have a lot of other options, instead of rushing a young prospect." Cole is currently starting at Double-A Altoona.
- The A's had interest in Mike Aviles prior to the trade deadline, but a deal is unlikely now the Red Sox have placed the shortstop on waivers, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser says the chances are slim the A's will acquire a shortstop before the August 31st deadline for playoff-roster eligibility.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
With the Pirates riding a four-game winning streak and sitting just one-half game behind the NL Central-leading Reds, GM Neal Huntington met with reporters today including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Sulia).
- The Pirates pushed their budget to the limit with the Spring Training acquisition of A.J. Burnett, but Huntington isn't concerned about adding payroll. "We've got some flexibility," Huntington said without elaborating. Biertempfel has received indications the front office has requested and received permission from owner Bob Nutting to increase payroll, if necessary, at the trade deadline.
- With the trade deadline a little over a week away, Huntington says reality is starting to hit some teams. "Teams are starting to reach out with two-way logic -- still looking to add but reality is starting to set in they might need to sell. There are not more clear sellers, but (more) teams that are beginning to prepare if they decide to go in that direction."
- On trade talks, Huntington said he's "no busier than we've been the last couple last weeks of July."
- On trading the pick obtained in the new Competitive Balance Lottery, Huntington said, "It's another asset for us. We've got a certain value on it. If we get that value, it's no different than a prospect in our system who we've played a value on. We're not looking to move it. It will be interesting to see how industry values it."
With the Pirates looking for their first interleague sweep in 11 years, GM Neal Huntington met with reporters before the game, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Sulia).
- On signing first round draft choice Mark Appel, Huntington says "it's a challenging sign." Scott Boras is advising Appel and Biertempfel references other Boras clients who were tough signs but came to terms. Biertempfel thinks negotiations will heat up as the July 13 deadline approaches.
- Huntington was asked about dealing with Boras, "We've dealt with him a handful of times, both on the amateur market and on Major League free-agent market. He's ... There's a reason he's negotiated all the contracts he's negotiated. It, uh ... it is what it is."
- Huntington described the team's sales pitch to its draft picks, "We talk about who we are as an organization, the success that's coming through our deep and talented farm system and the role they can play in that. You throw the money at them and sometimes that's the final, and maybe only, deciding factor."
The Pirates were buyers at the July 31st trade deadline, acquiring Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee, but they haven't won a game this month. Here's the latest from Pittsburgh as the 54-59 Pirates look to post their first winning record since 1992...
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington must sign first overall draft pick Gerrit Cole by next week's deadline, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.
- Kovacevic also says president Frank Coonelly should complete an extension for Huntington, whose contract expires after the season.
- Huntington told Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Pirates could solve their bullpen problems by calling up pitchers such as Tim Wood, Chris Leroux and Danny Moskos.
- Kovacevic points out that the Pirates' dropoff in starting pitching performances has contributed to the club's current ten game losing streak. Paul Maholm agrees that the results have to improve. "It's on us," Maholm said. "We're the ones who go out there and pitch."
By now, I'm sure you've looked over our list of players that will be free agents after the 2011 season numerous times, but what about general managers? With some help from Cot's Baseball Contracts, here's the list of GMs without contracts for 2012...
- Andy MacPhail, Orioles - Technically, MacPhail isn't the GM, he's the president of baseball operations. He's still the guy calling the shots though. Last October we heard that he doesn't have any plans to approach owner Peter Angelos about a new deal before his current one expires.
- Neal Huntington, Pirates - Team president Frank Coonelly said he expects Huntington to be in Pittsburgh "for a long time" earlier this year.
- Walt Jocketty, Reds - Cincinnati is clearly a team on the rise, so it seems likely that ownership would want to bring Jocketty back after the season.
- Dave Dombrowski, Tigers - A few months ago we heard that the fates of Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland could be a package deal based on the team's performance in 2011.
- Brian Cashman, Yankees - The third longest-tenured GM in the game would seem to be on rocky ground after being over-ruled by ownership on the Rafael Soriano signing, but we heard afterwards that he still has the "full backing" of the Steinbrenners.