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Is Neal Huntington a dead man walking in Pittsburgh?

Sep 24, 2012, 9:23 AM EDT

Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates Getty Images

The Pirates are disintegrating as the season ends. Generically speaking that sort of thing is not necessarily on the GM. Usually that sort of thing gets a manager fired, whereas long-term ineptitude and a crappy roster get the GM fired.  But two data points suggest that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is on the outs.

First: That story about the SEAL training stuff from last week.  That reflects poorly on Huntington and his assistant Kyle Stark, and given that the story itself makes the point that neither the team owner or team president knew about the program suggests that, perhaps, someone close to them was putting that story out there.

Second: Over the weekend Huntington defended himself and the job he’s done, but made a conspicuous plea for the jobs of his underlings:

“If [owner] Bob [Nutting] or [team president] Frank [Coonelly] decide to make a change and they bring in a new general manager, that’s their call,” Huntington said. “I sure hope they don’t because I believe in the people we’re working with. I believe in what we’re doing, and I believe in how we’re doing it.”

Kind of gives one the vibe of a captain going down with the ship. Which has its own nobility to it, of course. But it does sorta seem like Huntington thinks he’s on the way out.

  1. stairwayto7 - Sep 24, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    Trading Linoln for Snider was his down fall!

    • Brian Donohue - Sep 24, 2012 at 10:23 AM

      Agree completely and I said so at the time: Lincoln is a quality, versatile reliever who can eat innings or do late-game stuff. Meanwhile, they haven’t found a role for Snider. The commitment to Tabata was premature; he hadn’t proven he was worth it. Even the Gaby deal was flawed — I think Gaby’s a good player who’d be worth a lot to an AL team especially — but it forced them to put Jones in RF where he’s somewhat of a defensive liability (Jones is a reasonably good 1bman who has produced offensively this year).

      Now obviously they can’t spend like LA, but they do need to focus on backing up Cutch, and while Pedro’s shown some signs he’s still not it. And they need a really solid #2 to follow Burnett — last I checked, #1 pick Cole was in AAA, so he might be close. To be fair, I like Barmes, who brings defensive stability to SS — if he can just hit .250 he’ll be fine for a while there. I’m okay with Wandy as a #3 starter, and they did right to bring Marte along, who could have a breakout year in ’13. So if I were the owners I’d lean toward giving the Huntington-Hurdle plan another year — they’ve gotten fannies in the seats at one of the coolest ballyards in the bigs and they’re more in need of a course correction than an overhaul.

    • townballblog - Sep 24, 2012 at 11:22 AM

      I disagree almost completely, stairwayto7. Travis Snider is a fantastic player who was never given a consistent chance. He had a bit of a down year his second year in the bigs so they sent him back down (I think he was 22 at the time – just checked…yeah, 22 in 2010). He has the potential to be a 5-tool player if he can start hitting for avg. – he can steal, hit for power, and has above average defense. And he is still only 24.

      The problem with him this year is that he’s been hurt. But if they hang on to him and give him a chance next year then I think he will be great.

      As for Lincoln? Sure, he is a nice pitcher, I will not argue there. But if you give me the choice, I’m taking Snider ahead of him everyday. Heck, I’d take Snider over Rasmus any day as well.

  2. mvp43 - Sep 24, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    This just sucks for Pittsburgh. I’m a Brewers fan and been through this type of season it seems like a hundred times. Like Milwaukee, Pittsburgh is a great city with a great fan base and want them to succeed.

    • don444 - Sep 27, 2012 at 12:06 PM

      A Brewers fan offering support to the Pirates? lol Whatever, misery loves company I suppose. Bucs had every chance to finish over .500 (for the franchise to have the longest streak of losing seasons in the history of the four major sports and for said streak to be active is just shameful) and get into the Wild Card playoff and if they had been good enough that would have happened. Improved and technically headed in right direction, still an average team overall.

  3. chill1184 - Sep 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Only time will tell. His signing to McCutchen to an extension was a smart move though.

  4. realgone2 - Sep 24, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    What was with the whole “Sgt. Slaughter’s Training Camp” Thing?

  5. dan1111 - Sep 24, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    The best you can say about Huntington is that he started with nothing, and after five years he has managed to turn that into slightly more than nothing. Even that is not strictly true, though, because their best player was drafted by his predecessor.

    That is Huntington’s problem: the Pirates’ collapse this year IS part of a continued pattern of failure. Sure, he has made a few good deals, but he hasn’t engineered a turnaround. The Bucs entered this year with a shockingly bad offense. The surprise was not their collapse but their run of playing well.

    I had high hopes for Huntington and gave him the benefit of the doubt for a long time, but at this point it’s hard to make a case that he is a good GM.

  6. danaking - Sep 24, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    I miss Lincoln, bu Snider has potential. Here’s a possible roster for next year:
    C: McKenry (backup could be anyone)
    1B: Platoon of Jones and Sanchez
    2B: Walker
    SS: Barmes (he has a year left on his contract, and i don’t see anyone better on the farm. He needs to hit .240 with a .300 OBP with a little pop, though)
    3B: Alvarez. (Made progress this year. Let’s see if it continues.)
    LF: Marte
    CF: McCutchen
    RF: Snider
    Bench: Harrison, Presley, Holt(?)
    SP: Burnett, Rodriguez, McDonald, Karstens, Correia. (McPherson?) (Morton hurt, noit sure oif other rookies are ready)
    RP: The usual suspects. There’s always a revolving door in the pen and it generally works out okay.

    They have to improve again next year, though, or Huntington’s gone, and maybe Hurdle, too, though he is working with a flawed roster. Someone–anyone–has to hit at the top of the order and get on base.

    The good news: the record and roster shows a lot of improvement since the 57-105 fiasco of 2010.
    The bad news: two late season collapses in a row.

  7. 4cornersfan - Sep 24, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    If he gets fired can we still count on him for the next raid on al Queda?

  8. mazblast - Sep 24, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    Sure, fire the one GM in the last two decades who has had the team going in the right direction. It would be so…Pirates.

    I’ve been rooting for the Pirates since I was 7 years old. I’m in my 50th year as a Pirates fan. I’ve seen the good (1970s, 1990-92), the bad (1980s), the ugly (since 1992), and the indifferent (late 1960s). I’ve seen good management, bad management, and every shade in between. I can tell you from experience that building a good team takes TIME unless you can just buy a roster of All-Stars. Huntington started with very little, and he has had the team contending the last two years, only to see it fall apart last August and this September.

    Give him another year, see if the progress continues; if not, then make a change.

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