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General manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell are on the hot seat in Pittsburgh

Sep 3, 2010, 1:18 PM EDT

With the Pirates on a 109-loss pace in their 18th straight losing season and team president Frank Coonelly venting his frustration by saying things like “losing stinks” during an online chat with fans, it’s no surprise that general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell are on the hot seat.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today followed up with Coonelly, asking him about the job security of Huntington and Russell, and got this response:

I have been extremely disappointed in the team’s performance. We are evaluating every aspect of our operation in order to determine how we can get the club moving in the right direction immediately.

While we have made tremendous progress executing a sound plan to overhaul a broken system and return this once-proud franchise to its tradition of winning baseball, we have only one benchmark by which we measure ourselves and that is wins and losses at the major league level. By that benchmark, we have badly underachieved.

Not exactly a vote of confidence.

I tend to think the Pirates have a brighter future than their current record suggests because they’ve broken in a pretty promising trio of young players this season in Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker, who along with 23-year-old Andrew McCutchen gives the lineup some nice building blocks.

Pitching is another story and obviously they’re a long way from contending for anything but a .500 record, but I do think they’re on the right track. Still, at the end of the day Russell has a ghastly .379 winning percentage in three seasons on the job and Huntington has been in the charge of the Pirates’ latest rebuilding effort since September of 2007, so it’s tough to blame Coonelly for losing patience.

  1. Steve C - Sep 3, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    It takes a long while to build a team from within. Look at the Rays, it took Friedman four years to get the Rays to really contend. And they already had some key pieces in place prior to his arrival.
    When Huntington came on the Pirates had nothing. If they cut him loose now the next guy is either going to screw it up or reap the rewards.

  2. JimmyY - Sep 3, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    Sorry, don’t buy it. After what, 17 losing seasons it should not take THAT long to build from within, different ownerships, different regime, GM, whatever, that’s disgraceful.

  3. bobr - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    I agree that it takes “a long while” to build a team from within, but your Rays’ example is not apt. It took Friedman just 2 years not 4; he became GM in 2006 with the Sternberg regime and in 2008 the Rays were in the World Series. After a fall back in 2009, but not a collapse, they are once again in a strong position to be in the post-season.
    Incidentally, those first 2 years did not show much progress in terms of record as the Rays, after winning 67 games in the last year of the Naimoli regime, won just 61 in Friedman’s first year and 66 the following season. But in 2008 they broke out with 97 regular season wins.
    Also, the breakout season was a bit surprising and not due so much to having high draft choices for years before but more significantly to other factors such as intelligent trades and waiver type pickups. In fact, the high draft choices played some part, but a relatively small one, in that year’s success. Only Longoria and Upton were first round choices who played an important part all year. Price helped in September and in the post-season only. Every other starter and most of the bench* was acquired in other ways or were drafted after the first round.
    *I say most of the bench because Baldelli was a first round pick and got 90 PAs.

  4. JBerardi - Sep 3, 2010 at 10:24 PM

    I think Huntington has done as good a job as anyone could really expect. They’ve already got some solid young players in place, and the farm system has been dramatically improved. Russell, whatever, they can fire him. Managers are interchangeable. But I think Huntington deserves a chance to finish what he’s started.

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