BRADENTON, Fla. – Following the trades of Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, Pirates’ second baseman Josh Harrison released a statement saying that he wanted to be with a team that wanted to win. If the Pirates weren’t intending on winning in 2018, Harrison had one message: Trade him.
On Sunday, Harrison arrived at Pirate City for the report date for position players. He arrived two days after David Freese called out the organization, saying the team has lacked a winning culture the last two years. He arrived a day after we talked with Gerrit Cole, who echoed the same sentiments about the organization. And when asked if his feelings have changed from his earlier statement, Harrison responded with a simple “No.”
“My statement was something that was from the heart,” Harrison said. “At the time it was on my heart. Not to say it’s not on my heart now, but with each passing day it’s something I can’t dwell on. I spoke what I spoke, said my feelings, and at the end of the day I can’t control certain things. All I can control is me.”
Harrison said that he had no intentions of holding out, or not reporting to camp on time. But he became the third player to discuss the organization over the last two years in a not-so-positive light, and a lot of his comments boiled down to the communication coming from the organization to the players.
“These are the things that we’ve talked about, that I’ve expressed to them,” Harrison said. “You don’t have to tell us everything. We understand the business side. But when it comes to guys who are going to be here and put on this uniform everyday and want to win, I think there needs to be some type of communication to know that the plan is to win. Sometimes that gets lost. We back pedal to say certain things. Not every move is going to be agreed with, I get it. But if you stand convicted with what you do, that’s when you have guys go out there ready to fight.”
Harrison repeated those points throughout his interview with the media today, saying that it was hard to be part of an organization where the main goal isn’t winning.
“We all want to win, and not saying nobody wants to win, but when you feel it’s not the main goal of everybody — whether it’s in the clubhouse or dealing with the organization — that hard to be a part of,” Harrison said. “Especially when you know at this level it’s only a fraction of our lives playing at the Major League level. I’ve been playing since I was three. My mom was my first coach. And here I am, 30. Nobody knows when their last game is going to be. I can tell you when we put on that uniform, it’s to win. You want to be somewhere that wants to win and has those statements.”
Harrison talked with both Clint Hurdle and Neal Huntington following his statements, and expressed his feelings about the communication, especially the human side.
“A lot of it has to do with communication,” Harrison said. “The human side of this game gets lost. I understand the business, but we’re also humans. We’ve got families, we’ve got feelings. At the end of the day my main objective, and hopefully everyone else’s main objective, is winning. When you feel that hasn’t been seen eye-to-eye, those are the things that — I’m a lovable, laughable guy on the field, and just because I didn’t say much in previous years doesn’t mean I don’t have these feelings. When somebody like me comes out to say anything, it’s like ‘What’s going on?’ It wasn’t my place when Cutch was here, when Cole was here, because I’d just be another voice drowned out. Once those moves happen, and every year there are going to be moves to be made for each team, whether it be pleasing to the fans or not. You just want to make sure everybody is on the same page. I care about winning.”
In regards to Harrison’s conversation with Huntington, he didn’t come away sounding like a guy who was convinced of the direction of the team going forward.
“At the end of the day there wasn’t anything said or done where I could breathe easy,” Harrison said. “He talked to me, said he wants to win. At the end of the day, it’s about action, not speaking.”
Harrison repeated the “actions over words” thought when discussing some of the comments Freese made, and discussing how the Pirates can get that winning attitude.
“It’s not through words. It’s through actions,” Harrison said. “I think my actions on the field speak for itself. In my statement I said you can’t question my heart or my love for the city. Pittsburgh is a championship city. To feel like we haven’t given them what they wanted has definitely fallen short of the marker. Freese spoke on it, you need complete unity of everybody wanting the same thing.”
Harrison has been the subject of trade rumors all offseason. He didn’t exactly come out and say that he wants to be with the Pirates, instead saying that he’s happy any time he’s playing baseball, and that he’s really good friends with guys in the clubhouse. He then reiterated his feeling of not wanting to be with the Pirates if they aren’t focused on winning.
“As Freese said the other day, it’s got to be urgent, and not just from a couple of guys,” Harrison said. “It has to be top to bottom. Freese is a World Series MVP. The guy has been there. He knows what it takes to win.”
Harrison said that he and Freese had some of these conversations during the season, discussing some of the topics that have been brought to light in the last few days. As for whether he thinks the Pirates can win, that was another area where he provided a vague answer.
“I don’t put anything past any team,” Harrison said. “I know what those guys in [the clubhouse] can do. But it’s got to be a collective effort of wanting to win. Any team is banking on anything to go right all year. Even teams that have gone out and signed free agents, made trades, you’re banking on everybody being healthy and doing what they’re supposed to. Baseball is a funny game. You can’t control it. All you can control is yourself, and whatever happens, happens. My peace is I’ve spoke what I said, and I’m here. I’m going to be J-Hay, I’m going to do what I’ve got to do, and whatever goes from there is where it’s at.”