Pirates chairman Bob Nutting, saying he was so disappointed over the finish to the Bucs' season that he waited four weeks to cool off before addressing the fate of his front office, on Tuesday said the club's management team would remain intact. At the same time, Nutting said the boot-camp-style developmental camp for prospects, the source of much recent criticism, will be toned down -- at the very least, to a point where developing baseball skills is the highest priority. Nutting made his comments during his first formal meeting since Spring Training with media who cover the Pirates.
The chairman's perspective had been sought ever since club president Frank Coonelly issued his own statement Sept. 26 that the team's player-personnel engine -- general manager Neal Huntington and assistants Kyle Stark and Greg Smith -- would return in 2013. In the aftermath of Coonelly's votes of confidence, Nutting said he would undertake his own review process. This was the first time he addressed how all that went -- and still goes on. "I keep seeing comments from people on when will the investigation be over? I just don't think that's an accurate characterization of the process. It's not a two-week or four-week process. It is going to continue as we evaluate every aspect of the organization," said Nutting, as reported by various sources. He did not have to dig deep for justification to stay the course. "We clearly have a number of things in the organization that have gone right," Nutting said, mindful of the club's jump from 57 wins in 2010 to 70 in 2011 to 79 last season. "As angry and frustrated as we were about August and September, it's taken me a month to come back and to recognize that last year was still the best season that we've had for 20 years and we didn't get there by accident. "As an organization, I don't think we should fall back on scapegoats and pretending that there are easy answers and grabbing one or two people and walking them off the plank. We cannot minimize the strong performance for the first 3 1/2 months of the season." But after peaking with a record of 63-47 on Aug. 8 and entering September still only 1 1/2 games out of a postseason spot, the Pirates could not even end a streak of losing seasons reverting to 1993. When the season ended, Nutting briefly felt like a lot of the team's fans: He wanted everyone fired. "If you're angry, you count to 10," Nutting said. "If you're really angry, you count to 100. If you're incredibly infuriated and frustrated, you wait four weeks." However, he recognized a need to address the unorthodox training methods that some have portrayed as fostering a boot-camp atmosphere -- while implying that the practice has been blown out of proportion. "We should not be, will not be, have not been a paramilitary organization," Nutting said. "We should be focusing on baseball drills. I believe that 90 percent of the time, effort, energy that we have put into our development system has been focused on baseball appropriately. "I believe that our primary responsibility is to develop baseball players to play baseball and win championships at PNC Park," Nutting concluded. "If we can find the appropriate balance, where we have the safety of our players utmost in mind, that we have the baseball development utmost in mind, we can supplement that baseball focus with additional drills for team-building training."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.