HOUSTON -- The guys in uniform in the dugout have their explanation for the mentality that handicaps performance and team success: "Trying to do too much."
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington on Sunday offered his own take on the phenomenon, and blamed it at least partly for the team's last-month slide:
"We define players in one of three categories, and one of them is 'survivor.' A survivor is someone who cares about surviving, about staying in the big leagues," Huntington said. "We've had some guys fall back into survivor mode these last two months."
Asked whether that mode has contributed to the Pirates' 4-16 September record entering Sunday's game, Huntington said, "Absolutely."
"It isn't a selfish mindset, so to speak," Huntington continued. "But you see men on first-and-second and nobody out, and instead of making sure to get the runner over, you try to hit a three-run homer. Instead of trying to continue an inning, we're going to get the big hit.
"It's well-intended, but when you get outside of your game and try to do too much -- the age-old excuse -- you start to get yourself in trouble. Instead of trusting the teammates behind you, instead of trusting that they'll be able to rally ... 'I'm gonna try to hit the 11-run home run'."
The GM's overall quick assessment of the Pirates' slide from a record 16 games above .500 on Aug. 8 to being in danger of ending a 20th consecutive season with a losing record?
"Shock is not the right word," Huntington said. "Concerned, frustrated are better words."