The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

November 7, 2012

Pirates' owner admits to anger over collapse

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting understands why fans were upset about his team’s epic late-season collapse.

Heck, Nutting was mad too. So mad, in fact, he needed a full month to cool off before deciding the best way forward.

In the end, when his blood pressure returned to normal, Nutting decided to use a scalpel instead of a hatchet.

“If you’re angry, you count to 10,” Nutting told reporters in an offseason roundtable discussion Tuesday. “If you’re really angry, you count to 100. If you’re incredibly infuriated and frustrated, you wait four weeks.”

Ultimately, Nutting opted to maintain the status quo. Other than hiring former major leaguer Jay Bell as the team’s hitting coach and reassigning first base coach Luis Silverio to senior Latin adviser for minor league operations, he settled on keeping management intact, manager Clint Hurdle and General Manager Neal Huntington included.

Nutting pointed to the arc over the last few years – and not the swoon that sent the Pirates to a 20th straight losing season – as the reason to stay the course. The Pirates were 16 games over .500 in August but faded over the final six weeks to finish 79-83. The end hurt, but Nutting believes the long view shows just how far the franchise has come.

“We considered all kinds of alternatives,” Nutting said. “At the end of the day, the progress that the organization has made – when you look at the seven-game improvement last year, more than

20-game improvement over two years, the rankings of the development system – we do have a much stronger organization than we did.”

The Pirates turned a reluctant fan base into believers, at least for awhile. Pittsburgh topped 2 million in fan attendance. Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen played at an MVP-level and won a Gold Glove. And pitcher A.J. Burnett became the team’s definitive ace following his trade from the New York Yankees.

There were magical moments during the club’s rise that Nutting thinks shouldn’t be forgotten because of the fall.

“The failure of us to finish as strongly as we needed to cannot diminish the amount of success that the organization has shown over the past two years,” he said. “I’ve come away with a strong sense that we need to build on our strengths.”

Those strengths, however, do not include “paramilitary” training activities at the minor league level that came under scrutiny. Nutting noted his organization is building baseball players, not Navy Seals.

“Our primary focus is to develop baseball players to play championship baseball at PNC Park,” he said. “We should not be, will not be, are not a paramilitary organization.”

The goal for 2013 remains the goal that the team came so close to realizing this year: The postseason. Pittsburgh hasn’t advanced to the playoffs since 1992. The Pirates came close this fall. There’s only one more step remaining. Blowing it up now would be unwise according to the owner.

“We need and must continue to advance and push forward and make change, but we’re making the necessary adjustments to get us there,” he said. “I feel much better than I did at the end of the season, and we are turning the page and looking toward how do ... build that (playoff) club for 2013.”

 

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