WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — On Friday, Pirates third baseman David Freese told his truth in regards to the practices of the Pirates’ front office.

After conversations with a few other individuals with experience in the Pirates clubhouse, it seems more likely that Freese’s remarks represent the truth, and not just his version of it.

In a 21-minute session with the media, Freese hit on a number of topics, but his main complaints were that the Pirates front office and management team had allowed the clubhouse of the team to become one of complacency, where winning was not always prioritized and that the team did not do right by recently traded outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

Manager Clint Hurdle said later on Friday that he sees differently than Freese does, but did not specifically dispute any of Freese’s points, saying that “you can’t argue with somebody about their perception” and that he valued Freese’s opinion.

On Saturday on the other side of Florida, former Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole said that Freese’s comments were spot on.

“I think a lot of things that he said were right,” Cole said in a one-on-one interview with Pirates Prospects. “The demand to win — the word ‘win’ was not used a lot. That was something that was brought up amongst the players a lot. Accountability was another one. Like he said, that falls on everybody. Accountability is like currency. It goes both ways.”

Freese said that the team culture over the last two seasons was a contrast to what he observed as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals when playing against the Pirates in 2013. Cole agreed that the departures of players like A.J. Burnett, Russel Martin, and Neil Walker had an effect beyond their statistical contributions.

“In that regard, for sure,” Cole said. “David’s one of those guys that’s always going to shoot you straight. He’s always going to be honest. Coming from a guy who is one of the best clutch performers of all time, a World Series champion, and a stand-up human being, you respect what he has to say.”

Another point that Freese raised was the way the team treated star center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Freese agreed that the timing was right for the Pirates to trade McCutchen this January, but that the team did not do right by him while he was in Pittsburgh.

“You look at a guy like Cutch, and I think he deserved better, just in the sense that he’s a guy that took this organization from the ground into the spotlight,” Freese said. “He did it, nobody else. He was the center of it. I just hope all the people in Pittsburgh, all the fans, you wish that it had been different for him, surrounding him with a group that just wanted to beat some ass for him.”

Cole referenced the two-plus years of drama and rumors that preceded McCutchen’s departure as a source of contention.

“If they’re going to dangle the franchise guy out there for two and a half years, they’re certainly going to do it to anybody,” Cole said in regards to rumors of trades. “It’s hard not to pick up on the signs.”

Freese also lamented the way the Pirates’ small-market tendencies essentially seal the fate of young players that come up through its system and hinted that it affects the way players perform.

That’s something that Cole is imminently familiar with. As a former first-round draft pick and a player that rose to stardom in the Pirates’ ranks, he was keenly aware that it would likely end with “Cole” and “45” stitched on a different-colored piece of fabric, as it has with the Astros this spring.

“I think when you look at the contracts that have been signed, 32 is a pretty good number,” Cole said. “If you’re older than 32, you probably won’t be over there anymore. … It’s pretty well-known in that clubhouse exactly how it’s going to shake down. ”

Cole said he didn’t feel that his inevitable departure from Pittsburgh — made official by a trade to the Astros in January — was a distraction.

“It’s out of your control,” he said. “I said it a million times when I was over there. If I pitch good, we win ball games and we’ve got a chance to make the playoffs. If I pitch good (and we don’t), maybe some other team wants me. Either way, my job is to pitch good. That’s really all I focused on.”

But he said he might have different feelings if he’d signed a long-term contract with the intention of staying in Pittsburgh.

“I think if you maybe asked someone else that question, that maybe wanted a commitment from the organization, that made a commitment to them earlier, they may give you a different answer,” Cole said. “Especially when you talk to Andrew. He signed that deal. A deal is a deal, business is business, but the idea was to buy into the organization long-term and vice versa and not just have one contract there but play out his time in Pittsburgh. That was his dream and as far as I know, he communicated that from the very beginning.”

Cole and Freese’s contention with the regards to the treatment of McCutchen seems to be that a long-term contract signed at a discount by a star player should come with the promise of building around him, or at least, being honest and up-front about the way things will be handled.

Freese specifically mentioned current Pirates starter Jameson Taillon as a player that will be presented with that decision in the near future. Taillon won’t be a free agent until the 2023 season, but between now and then, he’ll likely be asked to sign a team-friendly deal. Taillon said that the Pirates haven’t approached him about an extension, and that he doesn’t think about it considering the ups and downs of his early career. The careers of McCutchen and Cole certainly present a chilling precedent for Taillon to evaluate.

“Financially, you take care of your business and you’ll be taken care of,” Taillon said in an interview with Tim Williams. “David is coming from the Cardinals, so you see that’s an organization where they’ve taken care of young guys. They’ve kept their own. They’ve promoted a winning culture. So what David is saying about demanding to win and having a winning attitude, we need to find people to keep around and promote that culture. It’s tricky. I know how we have to operate. I understand what’s going on. I respect David’s comments. I think it’s healthy to air it out and address it. Let’s all not shy away from saying it. Let’s address it, let’s confront it, let’s fix it, and get better.”

There are players on almost every team that at some point find them worth more than the organization can afford. That can happen to any team in any sport, even well-funded ones like the New York Yankees, who just let free agent outfielder Todd Frazier walk to the cross-town Mets. It is certainly more common on teams that operate under a smaller budget like the Pirates. But similar complaints of lack of accountability and with regards to the handling of players haven’t been routinely made against other small market teams that also operate on shoestring budgets.

It seems that for whatever reason, there has been a significant erosion of trust between the players and the Pirates front office that some believe has affected the way the team plays on the field. As the Pirates re-build with a new group of players, many of which have been brought in from outside the organization, an opportunity exists to rectify some of these deficits, perceived or otherwise.

“When you accumulate all the information from a lot of different people — especially guys with experience and David would fall into that category — you listen, you find truth and then you talk about opportunities to improve, areas to improve, methods to improve,” Hurdle said.

Those buzzwords may need to be a mantra if management hopes to turn things around in this regard.

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126 COMMENTS

  1. I liked Cole’s comments regarding how Cutch was treated. The team / analytics department made a decision to play him shallower in 2016 and the decision backfired and the commentary led to how Cutch eroded as a CF. The decision to move the OF around last year was a disaster. Polanco looked lost in LF. These guys have played their respective positions for years and part of being an OF is learning to read balls off the bat. A right fielder is used to reading a ball coming off a right hand hitter’s bat and how it will arc or tail a certain way. It is different for a LF.

    I never thought Cutch was as poor an OF as the analysts would have us believe. He had speed to run a lot of balls down. Yes, his arm was the weakest of the 3, but how often do throws really matter? Usually, throwing to the right base is more important than throwing someone out at the plate.

    I think the Pirates analytics department may have had an advantage from 2011-14, but other clubs invested in their own analysts and caught up or surpassed the Pirates. Unfortunately, the other clubs (Cubs specifically) are willing to spend more money on players and often the game comes down to Jimmies and Joes.

    The return for Cutch in the trade was abysmal. The management team should have held on and just rode out the next season with him in the lineup. NH is saying what he has to say about competing for a WS, but he is only fooling himself.

  2. I think Hurdle is side stepping his responsibility in this. Accountability is his area. Giving the team what it needs to compete is the front office’s realm however, the manager has to take those resources and instill a will to win. I think we have seen over and over that his lackadaisical / player stroking approach to management does not and has not translated into a winning ball club. The successful years under Hurdle can be attributed to guys with pride for the city and team. Guys like Neil Walker first and foremost. I continually noted after his trade the Pirates were done and received tremendously shortdided and misguided criticism from the fan base listing all kinds of irrelevant statistical data to prove he was a mediocre second baseman, which I never disagreed with but, I was relentlessly ridiculed for my opinion (since I played a sport) that locker room stability through pride and leadership had more of a positive effect on the outcome of a teams performance than any %”insert any bs waste of Time statistic you want” could ever have. Analytical boundaries are widely debated however, there is an obvious limit that starts at the clubhouse threshold. Analytics are useful when applied within the confines of a well formulated concept of team identity and positional expectations with respect to desired outcomes at each position and even in specific situations. Analytics can only provide reliability when applied to a isolated fixed measurable data set. The key word being “measurable”. However, cheap teams think analytics is the best way to maximize performance at the lowest possible financial liability point so an analytical approach is applied to all aspects of organizational structur. A lot of such applications are not grounded within the confines of the analytical approach and therefore have no basis in reality and cannot produce reliable or applicable data. However, applying analytics like a blanket to address all organizational matters is essential to the Pirates approach. All the way from the trend of decreasing launch angle of a specific players swing to the launch angle trend of the water fountain in the staff lounge. The analytical falicy lies within the measurement of the non-tangible and, to some that have not played sports competitively, “the intangibles” is just a cliche term they give to white guys in basketball who can shoot the three. This is true but you need guys to instill pride in your city and team, it needs a coach capable to create a culture of accountability. Collectively, it creates the expectations for winning…the Pirates organization traded or allowed all those players who instilled pride in the Pirates “P” t mo leave but kept the coach incapable of creating an accountable and winning culture. All while recklessly applying analytics where they don’t belong as they are not applicable to such situations….I saw from the day of the NW trade that, while the Pirates seemed to have baseball by its metaphorical “balls” squeezing tight with their huge / over reaching analytical hand, they didn’t know what to do with those balls and simply ran this team into the ground siting bad luck and injury. No, you are just dumb and cheap.

  3. For me as a fan, the comment about lost trust with the organization rings true. Cole cites the reality of this organization not signing players after a certain age. I go one step further — they don’t just not sign, they trade away before the end of contracts to get “value”. What I think many fans ignore on this site is that reality. You can think about prospects and when they might come up to help the club. But that’s only 1/2 the story. The other 1/2 is which veterans will be there by that time b/c management’s budget focus makes them start to itch to trade a player so as to not “lose them for nothing.” That budget mindset is what is the crux of the problem here. You may have players up and together who can give you a great chance to win but if a vet approaching end of a deal is at highest value, capturing that value vs. letting them play out to win is what governs this management team. Winning is truly secondary. They’ll take it if it happens but they’ll compromise it to serve their budget focus.

  4. Don’t want to be attacked but think of your job and what your management wants from you. They want you to perform your job to the best of your ability so that they can make a profit. If you cost to much, then they look to replace you. It is the same with baseball teams. Sure you can think it is different in that you need a winning attitude but is it? In any business you want to be the best, you want to beat your competitors. If you don’t you might not be in business any longer. So what is the difference here? Here we have some players speaking about it and I bet around your water cooler at work you hear similar things said. I just hope the Pirates win, if it takes an attitude or management adjustment, then lets get to it and start building a perennial winner.

  5. One thing that certainly began to bug me as last season went on was the dancing in the dugout as they fell further and further out of a winnable division. If I started dancing while screwing up my job, I could moonwalk my bunz to an unemployment office. I went to two games late last season for the first time in over a decade (@ St. Louis in Sept.) and the only person who seemed to take pregame remotely serious was Bell (who I like I whole lot more now). The team was lethargic AF and a huge bummer.

    Coming off of that, I’m glad things are being shaken up. I’d like to see a more professional team. I love J-Hay’s energy and seeing him smile on the field, but I appreciate it more because he does everything he can to help the team win. He has every right to be annoyed. If he and Bell can fire up Marte and Polanco, this years’ team could be very watchable. How long ago was it the team was really pushing the “P”ride thing? They don’t have a bad team by any stretch, but they have to take themselves seriously first.

    • People deal with stress in different ways. Not sure that trying to stay up beat isn’t better than anger and frustration.

  6. I have a problem with Cole talking about signing a long term contract in Pittsburgh. If you sign with Boras, everyone knows you hitting free agency. I don’t think he ever considered singing long term with the bucs.

  7. There is an easy “bottom line” here that most fans don’t seem to recognize. I loved Martin, Burnett, Walker, Cole, and Cutch, etc. but we didn’t win with those guys! That group of guys didn’t produce even a division championship. So if we didn’t win with that group of guys, it’s time to take another run at it with a different group of guys! Also, these are elite professional athletes making millions upon millions of dollars. If that group of guys needed a manager to tell them it was their responsibility to win, then once again, we needed players with better skills and attitudes than that. Players play on the field, management doesn’t. Many of us played sports in high school and college, but I don’t ever remember needing anyone to motivate me to play my best and try to win. I am excited about this years club! Let’s go Bucs!!

    • Great insights. Unfortunately, fans don’t look at the business aspects clearly and come to rational conclusions and tend to be biased on the side of idol worship.

  8. This was a very good article. Thanks so much for airing this out. I live in the middle of Cardinals country and there’s no comparison regarding the mentality of the two teams. The Cardinals always go out on the field expecting to win. It’s hard for the Pirates to do the same with the problems they have with ownership. It’s a crying shame.

  9. I think what the players are asking is that the FO be upfront with them. Maybe they could have talked to Cutch and Cole about a new contract and what they expected. I don’t know if that is a normal process and I don’t know if that is part of the problem but I do know that both players and front office need to address this together.

    • How more upfront do they need to be? They regularly discuss paying for future performance. They never sign big contracts and make that clear in all communications. Do they send a daily email telling the players they will make more elsewhere?

  10. Didn’t St. Louis disregard Freese after he became their version of Neal Walker (except Freese performed in playoffs). Hometown hero wins WS for them & then by.

  11. I think we should take Cole’s comments about long-term contracts with a big grain of salt. We all know that he would never sign an extension with the Pirates once he became a free agent.

  12. Woa is me Cutch hit the bed and cole agrees too because be was half of what he should have been. Buck those guys to kicking out half rear rif raff. Cutch goes for less than 60 next year

  13. I get why the Pirates do what they do. I don’t like it, but I get it. That being said they still could treat their players better.
    Especially if that player’s name is Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates made money on Cutch and his initial team friendly deal if you are using WAR/Million$ as your basis. Yes, signing him to a 5 year deal at $60 million would be risky and run contrary to what management has been doing, but it’s Cutch. He gave you credibility when the Bucs had none. He signed a deal knowing that his next deal would be “payback.” He trusted Pirates management and they flogged him through the tar and feathers as if he were a mere commoner. Shame on them. Shame on Bob Nutting for allowing it to happen. Mario and Art need to have a conversation with Bob on how to treat legends. We are Pittsburgh for heaven’s sake and he is Andrew McCutchen.

  14. It will be very interesting to see what kind of deal Cutch gets after this season and what Neil Walker gets this year.

  15. The Rays DFA’d Corey Dickerson. Put a claim in on him. I’d rather have him than Nava if we’re not going for just rookies.

      • He’s considerably younger, too. Two years of control, and not very expensive.

        Of course, there’s a possibility he was DFA’d because he did something wrong, so I guess we’ll have to see.

        • I’ve had a few scotches so I did what most responsible curious fans would do and went to fangraphs to scout why he was let go. Looked at the advanced stats and was still perplexed. Especially with two years of control like you said. Couldn’t come up with anything.

          • That’s why I fear it’s some off-field issue that hasn’t be made public yet. There is no good *baseball* reason for the DFA.

            • Money. He was dfa’d by Tampa which is one of the only team’s in the league that regularly spends less on payroll than the Pirates.

    • They HAVE to already have a trade worked out for him… they HAVE to

      However, yeah, if the Pirates can get him for free or for cheap, he’s pretty preferable to nava

        • Oh wow. I mean my point stands that they aren’t going to have to let him go for free, and they seem to know as much.

  16. WHERE was the leadership from the players re: the attitude.

    I feel the responsibility lies with BOTH the FO and the players

    • True, but in any organization it starts at the top – from the owner on down…..this franchise easily accepts mediocrity and losing

  17. Had McCtuchen wanted to finish his career with family in Pittsburgh, he knew the finances this franchise faces (same as KC, Oak, TB, CIN, etc)

    I feel the FO would have considered a contract for $10 (+/-) per year, BASED on performance, to pay Cutch into his mid-30s. But would Cutch and the players’ union go along with such a deal?

    It would be absurd for this franchise to pay Cutch >$15M/yr (+/-) at this stage of his career. And that is probably the scenario

    • @piratesprospects-cf5ff72ca35f112b361de3e312c088f4:disqus
      @Nor – ive been waiting for this type of comment to roll in, TY Norcal…please substitute the names Cutch/McCutchen above with Clemente…imagine that….the great one only playing a handful of years in black and gold…that is where this shit ownership has taken us

      • Silly comparison. No arbitration or FA in Clemente’s time . Players had no ability to use the free market as leverage.

  18. Cole will get whacked around in the AL and have an ERA over 5.00. Let’s not act like he’s some sage. He was an okay pitcher for us. Never performed to his potential. Never liked him. Bye Felicia.

    • We will see but the Houston pitching staff is a heck of a lot better than Pittsburgh’s. I don’t think he will be the ace there but I also think he will benefit from not having to be “the guy.” I doubt that his ERA is over 3.0 and I would bet that the Pirates regret losing him a heck of a lot more than the other way around.

          • As it should as a No 1 draft choice that is healthy and entering his prime leading up to his FA contract after 2019. If there was a bad attitude on the team it was probably him.

      • New league, hitters haven’t seen him, should have good ’18 with era < 4. 2019 will be interesting. That will show the Astro's coaching ability and Cole's willingness and ability to adapt. 2018 should be interesting for Charlie Morton, who may have been too coachable and willing to adapt at times. AL is now getting used to his "electric"stuff.

  19. This is accountability. Who on this site thinks we will win more than we lose? Simple question with a yes or a no..absolutely no long winded responses. We will revisit in September and it guarantees Tim we will be here.

  20. I don’t think their goal is to spend little as possible while making it look like winning is foremost. I have seen many times where the Pirates’ FO says they will spend when it’s appropriate. After these year of their tenure, I have yet to see when/where that happened. To be fake it seems to better than doing. Why should I watch games when winning is NOT the goal.

  21. I am a bit lost on some of these threads: “I am happy to take management’s millions but I want try my darndest to win unless they go an get players to replace some of my current teammates—with whom I supposedly have a commitment to try my darndest—and they get a better smoothie maker in the clubhouse.” Because NH doesn’t spend $25 million on some player the other $100 million of payroll is justified in taking it easy?

    • No, I don’t get the feeling they think players are justified for taking it easy because of how much the ownership does or does not spend. I get the sense they feel the players are justified taking it easy because nobody ever tells them not to.

      • I am still having trouble with professional athletes having to be told to win. That’s their job and they are being paid more than everybody but hedge fund managers to do just that. It should not matter to the players what Bob Nutting thinks/says—-THEY owe it to the fans to play their hardest and commit to win.

        • Leadership starts with the owner and carries through the GMs office, the manager on the field all the way down through leaders in the locker room. Everyone has some responsibility. I haven’t heard or read all of Freeze’s comments but he criticized the “culture” of the team. If there’s a losing “culture” in the Pirates organization that’s a failure of everyone from the top down, in my opinion.

        • Right. But the players aren’t one entinty. So it’s frustrating for some guys to watch others not pull their weight.

        • Sometimes, sure. Where you work, does everybody always give 100% on their own, or are there some people that need some extra motivation from time to time?

          Just because these guys are professional athletes, doesn’t mean they still don’t have human tendencies.

  22. THE GAUNTLET HAS SWATTED THE FO IN THE FACE! I WANT TO HEAR HOW THE FO RESPONDS. THEY NEED TO RESPOND TO BOTH THE PLAYERS AND THE FANS OR THEY WONT WIN 10 GAMES AND LOSE THE FAN BASE.

  23. So, Gerrit Cole, the steward for the players, allowed his players to give less than their best effort, and be ok with it? He is supposed to represent them in disputes, but he knowingly allowed them to underperform, and he was ok with it. What a douche. He was the one guy that should have stepped up and corrected that behavior.

  24. Reading the quotes past couple articles, it feels like a catch 22. Players like Cole making it sound like they’re underperforming cause of a lack of commitment from FO, but they expect commitment when they’re underperforming? Especially Cole. He was given the ball in game 5 against the Cards, and didn’t pitch well. He was given the ball against the Cubs in the WC game, and he didn’t pitch well, or sorry, “good” as he says. Among other struggles past 2 years. Yet he wants a commitment? Sure, it’s a 2-way street, but they want to cry wolf when they didn’t hold up their end? It needs to be addressed, and I hope the players and management both get it together.

      • So, Cole will publicly flog himself with a pain stick because he failed to win playoff games and wants to show his former teammates what accountability looks like?

        No! He won’t?!?

    • @piratesprospects:disqus @piratesprospects-da51e350898546dbafd0fd2d19540e44:disqus @Wil
      When i see writings like the one above, i truly begin to wonder how many pirate employee staff members have memberships on here – @Tim I think pirate staff members should be required to self-identify in the comment sections

    • I completely agree! Cole was never that good and Cutch stunk it up the last two years. Yes management has its faults but players have been hurt and underachieving too. I think blame should be on both sides. I think there should be optimism for next few years. The pirates have a lot of young players lets see how they turn out.

      • And the players should keep their opjnions to themselves. Outside of sports Freese would be fired for creating unneccessary distractions. In Russia, he would be in a Labor Camp.

  25. I said this was the way it was well before this all came out. It was obvious. Sad I was right especially since a change is nowhere in sight. There will be some PR spin and some half assed promise of changing to a winning culture but after this no player will want to play here. That’s the truth and it will set this organization into a tailspin that may not survive a move to another regime and/or city.

  26. First, there is some irony in Taillon and Cole’s perspective that he is discussing the Pirates and Cardinals ways and he is highlighting Freese – who was also a star that was unable to return to his once lofty standards and was traded with two years of arbitration left prior to becoming a free agent…

    But seriously, when Polanco and Meadows were future all stars, there was some sense to trading the all star version of Cutch prior to his skills eroding and his contract running out. But, it is no longer a likely event for both Polanco and Meadows. And we let the world see a declining Cutch before we traded him. And worse is that one of the returns for Cutch is Reynolds, who at his projected best will not be an all star.

    To me, I would have offered Cutch an extension of 4 years and $60 million. (I believe his projected WAR would have made that a productive contract.) If he turned it down, I would have kept him and offered him the qualifying offer. Again, I think he would be clearly worth $17 million in 2019 (if signed) and, if he walked, a first round choice would not be outrageously far off from the return we got.

    • I left out one thing – all of the good will to the teammates and the city that keeping him would have provided and additionally the precedent of adhering to the long term commitment that would help future signings as part of the above equation.

      Nobody would be mad at Cutch if he turned down a 4-yr extension. But management would have tried and it would no longer be viewed simply as a one-sided bad management decision.

    • You would have offered cutch 4 years at 60 million?
      If he were a free agent right now, I would be surprised if he got 3 years at 30 million. Why offer a guy so much that is declining and not worth it?

      • There is of course risk in my strategy. But I personally think that the 2016 through early 2017 had to do with both the swing defect and the pressure of trying to perform for a team that was consistently threatening to trade him.

        I believe he will average about 3 WAR in the future which would be a $27/ year value and that $60/4 years is less than he is about to get.

      • Paul, the year is 2018, Clinton isn’t president, and Jay Bruce just signed a three year contract for $39 million American dollars.

        😉

      • I love how the players even when they talk about accountability pretty much exclude their performance. Cutch was historically bad in 2016. He rebounded some last year but was terrible for the first 2-3 months. He also failed to lead the team by embracing a completely reasonable move out of CF. Cole? Cole was not very good last year. I won’t blame him for the injuries of ‘16 but he was hardly a #1 starter. The narrative is clear to me: Huntington and the Pirates screwed up in ‘16 by trading Walker for Niese and thinking Vogelsong was a legit option. But Cutch absolutely tanking during his age 29 year and Cole not performing that well for the last 2 years were a big part of the story that contributed to a “losing culture”. I also note that no player will mention “salary cap” as part of the solution because they are completely beholden to the Union.

      • Over the last two years, I have watched an aging superstar accumulate close to 4 WAR. Which is equivalent to $36 million or $18 million a year.

        • Of that 4 war (IMHO horrible stat like most new stats) was accumulated in a short window, overall he stunk. His play the last 2 years pretty much hurried them by June.

    • Freese had a track record just as bad as Kang. He did not fit the Cardinal image even with his on the field heroics. It appears he turned his life around.

      Cutch was the face of the franchise which is not saying much. They needed to sign a couple of good free-agents in 2015 to continue the run. Walker also failed all of in the playoff games. Sure they faced great pitchers in the last two Wild Card games but sometimes you have to beat the best. Everyone around Cutch failed to produce. Too many players did not grow and it appeared they were just happy to make the Show and dance in the dugout or jump and bump in the outfield

      • They needed to sign those free agent after 2013 not after 2015. The declines of Cutch, Cole, Liriano, Watson, Cervelli along with the losses of AJ, Soria, Blanton, and Happ in free agency would have undermined any free agent pick ups

  27. I will be in the stands on May 11, when the Giants first come to PNC Park. And I will be hoping and rooting for the following: Cutch goes yard his first AB and at least one more time that evening; Cutch makes a spectacular play running down a gapper by Marte: Cutch receives the longest, loudest standing “o” ever at a Pirates game. Cole is right about McCutchen making a commitment to the team only to be dumped slowly and publicly over 2+ years. It may be the new reality, but it sucks.

  28. I’m pretty concerned about the players knowing the Pirates will not sign players long term and only team friendly deals. This is on their minds and it sounds like it is bothering them quite a bit. The chance of signing guys to deals like Polanco, Marte, Cutch, and so forth have signed may be over. With a new CBA coming and decline in contracts being offered to age 30 plus players there is little incentive to sign a contract that takes over free agent years. Pirates front office has a poor image right now and if teams get less years of control for their players I don’t see how Pirates can compete.

    • Honestly I’ve been wondering about that and I’m curious if other teams knowingly hand out “player friendly” deals for arb-eligible players at all. Any player who is not a free agent will not be paid at the right price. And it only becomes team friendly once the player performs way better than the contract, no? If they want to risk it, think they can earn better, they can always not sign…

      I think the real issue is how the Pirates trade away their stars when their control is less than 2 years or so. And its cause is more than just simple cheap ownership in my opinion.

      • I don’t know if really agree with team friendly once that player plays above the contract. Polanco and Tabata both team friendly and neither one played above their contract. Polanco still has time. If the new CBA is taking away an arbitration year or force teams to rush prospects through the minors it will change these contracts. You could say 1 WAR is worth between 8-9 million for 2018 but I don’t think a 3 WAR player is worth 25 million. I really have no idea how these things will shake out.

    • People are very capable of changing. If you look at the way Hurdle has changed as a tactician over his time as a manager, it’s very dramatic. There’s no reason he and the FO can’t make similar strides in other areas.

      • 2 things I hope they change this year.

        The high percentage of fastballs particularly low in the zone

        Place more of an emphasis on batters putting the ball in the air. Hurdles comments that they were gonna have Moran share his story was a bit odd … but I guess any step in acknowledging that part of the game is a positive step.

        • It’s odd because he addressed it last year regarding Polanco and how it wouldn’t benefit him to adapt that style. Plus this guy was a hitting coach, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t know this.

          • Are you saying because Cole and Cutch had poor seasons in last two years, they were dealt. Yet, CH & NH were rewarded with new deals even though judging by team records they had equally poor years.

            Looking at it from this perspective, easy to see why there’s an issue with trust and accountability.

            • No, more like holding the players on the team accountable for their own failings end it having a culture in the clubhouse where losing isn’t tolerated.

      • Bologna Mr. Saunders. Hurdle has always been full of himself and a blowhard. He saw the analytic writing on the wall as NH “was all in”. He is stubborn and unable to in game manage. He reminds me of Leyland who spent the last innings of the 1992 NLCS smoking his cigs in the dugout runway afraid to make a move. I have not seen Hurdle change with any significance since he arrived on the scene. He should have been shown the door last year. His teams disintegrate. His players quit on him because his mantra gets old quick.

      • Alan,
        a “winning culture” is going to cost Nut Job around $150m per annum…..rest of it is merely lip service…fact is that the team that spends $125m-$150m per annum is not only outspending the bucs on the MLB roster, they are outspending in every facet of the organization. Nut Job has received millions of dollars in free money from the public coffers, yet, he has actually let staff go at both Hidden Valley and Seven Springs….a family friend of Sis Dupre told me that they are saddened by what Nut Job did to the family like atmosphere of Seven Springs – guy is bad news all the way around….

          • “Players know they’re not going to be here after age 32” is definitely about the money, Alan. Good article, though!

              • How about the anger about the bucs not building around Cutch enough? Like IsIt2016Yet said, great article, but, I think you missed the undertow on this one….players feel like the clock is ticking the minute they get to the big club and while that might not matter on an individual performance basis, i could definitely see how that could crush the ‘teamwork spirit’ – sorta like a team of Jack Parkman’s ala Major Leagues II

      • Anything is possible, but if you are clueless in what is going on very doubtful it will change except by evolution and that’s a bit of a long process.

  29. Erosion of trust between the players and front office ! How will this play out ? It’s healthy to air it out , but it’s also a bit disturbing and discouraging as a Pirate fan

    • I’m cynical I guess, but to me this does not sound any different than what is going on right now with the unsigned free agents. The business is changing, Teams do not want to sign aging players to a contract that is not gonna benefit the team in the long run, post steroids era this is the new norm. Anyway it sounds like a complaint from players that are not happy with what the front office feels is the proper way to run a business. Coming from Freese who should count his blessings that he got a three year deal hits me the wrong way.

      • I would agree with all of what you said there but minus the Freese criticism. However, I wonder what the general feeling is in the Royals clubhouse for another example ? I am sure many of their fans felt Hosmer and Moustakas might be there for a longer period of time. The times are changing in regards to the big contracts for many players as they reach 30 or 31.

  30. Wow, fantastically interesting read. It’s fascinating to hear the opinions of the guys in the clubhouse. Honestly, makes me a little nervous too. There sounds like a slowly widening schism between the front office and the boys on the field. Perhaps, that’s just Freese’s tone. I understand it IS a business… but you like to think our boys are better taken care of. I hope Cutch does have fond memories. He’s always said he recognized the business aspect of the game… but goddamn, wish he was still here. Maybe he’ll return one day… maybe next year 🙂

  31. Also wanted to add this is high quality writing Alan. And I think your writing has really improved(not that is was ever poor)

    • Thank you, John. I’m feeling refreshed by getting back into baseball. As any player will tell you, it gets difficult to carry that enthusiasm through the entire season.

    • Well said John. When you listen to the Freese interview and then read Alan’s work you conclude he is one of a small number of journalists, talk show hosts and broadcasters who accurately portrayed the remarks and the tone.

    • Even though I’m speaking to an ever-dwindling crowd of trolls, Alan and Pirates Prospects in general deserve credit for going head-on into an interview that pretty obviously wasn’t going to result in Front Office praise.

      Extremely well done.

  32. I really wanted them to go in a different direction than Neal and Clint but that didn’t happen so I hope they find a way to work through this. I think what taillon said makes sense and hopefully this brings guys closer together. I also hope it makes everyone in the org do an honest self evaluation and ask how the can get better.

    On its face these comments are quite disconcerting but I think they could actually make this team better.

    • I was more disappointed in Neal and Hurdle’s extensions then the trades. For the way this organization runs, I don’t feel that these are the right men for the job. Until the financials change (yeah I know, lol), this team has to operate in a finite window. There will be no market value contracts, unless they are utility players or pitchers who need fixed.

  33. I agree 100% with Taillon’s comment:

    “I think it’s healthy to air it out and address it. Let’s all not shy away from saying it. Let’s address it, let’s confront it, let’s fix it, and get better.”

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