Pittsburgh Pirates Could Mess Up a Clean Slate

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Team President Frank Coonelly of the Pittsburgh Pirates smiles as he signals thumbs up to fans before a game against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park on September 22, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Reds defeated the Pirates 11-3. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

On Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced that general manager Neal Huntington wouldn’t return to the team. This was following the disastrous collapse of the 2019 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Huntington had been with the Pirates since 2007. He was the architect of returning playoff baseball to Pittsburgh. For that he should be fondly remembered. However, the end of his tenure saw former Pirates find significant success outside of the city. Gerrit Cole became an ace. Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow blossomed in Tampa Bay. Chris Archer looks nothing like the guy they thought they were getting. Those missteps are reportedly a key reason as to why owner Bob Nutting made the decision to move on.

This article is not about the decision, however, as I’m sure you’ve read thousands of articles on the situation already. Like many others, you have come to the conclusion that it was the right time to move on from Huntington and company.

No, this article is about how the team has poorly handled the departures of Clint Hurdle, Frank Coonelly and now, the aforementioned, Huntington.

Only the Pirates could find a way to mess up an obvious clean break.

Hurdle was fired before the final game of the season. He was last seen pictured leaving PNC Park with a big smile on his face.

A smile that, to me read, “Good luck with this mess, I’m out of here.”

Details of the Mess

Shortly before, Hurdle told Adam Berry, the Pirates beat writer for MLB.com, that he was told that he was going to stay with the Pirates. He later clarified those comments as him meaning to say that him and Huntington were preparing for next season. Berry took that as him staying on.

Of course, the team had other plans. Huntington was forced to give an emotional farewell to his longtime manager before the final game of the season, which Hurdle opted not to manage.

Not long after, Nutting publicly gave his front office his full support in managing the situation. He said “I strongly believe that [GM] Neal Huntington and the leadership team that he has assembled are the right people to continue to lead our baseball operations department.”

Coonelly and the Pirates mutually parted ways and he was replaced, not long after, by former Penguins Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams. Five days later, Huntington was fired.

This begs the obvious question, which was asked at his press conference today, why didn’t they move on from Coonelly and Huntington at the end of season? Why allow Coonelly to negotiate a new TV deal and allow Huntington to get halfway through a managerial search before replacing both?

The Answer

“The decision with Neal and the announcement last week with Frank really needed to wait until I was confident that we had the right leader to drive us forward,” Nutting said. “Didn’t see any reason to have a gap.”

Another load of bull spewed from the Pirates. If you’re planning on moving on from Coonelly and Huntington, then you’ve already established that they aren’t the right leaders to drive the organization forward. So why let them be involved in key decisions like negotiating a new TV deal or hiring a new manager?

It’s mind-boggling, but it also perfectly sums up the end of the tenure for those three.

Fond Memories

Hurdle, Huntington and Coonelly should be remembered fondly for what they accomplished in the time that they were in Pittsburgh. However, the team in recent years lacked clear direction. Key players were traded for younger players in a rebuild strategy. Some stars that could net a large return were held onto. Finally, the team added aggressively at the 2018 deadline after trading away their franchise face and ace pitcher.

Just like how the trio managed the team in their last two years, the trio were canned without a clear direction to get there. It was mismanaged. The Pittsburgh Pirates have now paused their managerial search. They allowed a guy they weren’t planning on keeping conduct half the interviews.

Hopefully this is a wake-up call for Nutting and company. The hope President Travis Williams can bring his success in hockey with him to baseball. Hopefully the team now has a clear direction.

And just like the smile on Hurdle’s face when he left the Pirates, I say to Williams, “Good luck with that mess, I’m out of here.”

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