Posted on October 28, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Pittsburgh Pirates
Image via nytimes.com

Fresh off a 69-93 season in 2019, the Pittsburgh Pirates have officially burned everything to the ground and are starting to rebuild. On Monday, the team announced that GM Neal Huntington has been fired. The Pirates previously parted ways with both team president Frank Coonelly and manager Clint Hurdle since the end of the season, letting go of three of the most important decision-makers in the organization. Meanwhile, the rebuilding process is already underway. The Pirates also announced Monday that Travis Williams has been named the team’s new president.

“I greatly appreciate Neal’s dedication to the Pirates organization and our city over the past 12 seasons,” said Pirates chairman Bob Nutting. “His time with the Pirates should always be remembered for ending a long stretch of futility and bringing postseason baseball back to Pittsburgh.

“This past season was by far the most frustrating and challenging season that I have experienced as owner. It became clear to me as the season progressed that significant change was necessary in order to refresh our entire operations.”

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Huntington had two seasons left on his contract and had been with the Pirates since prior to the 2008 season. During his time as GM, the Pirates made the playoffs three times, all as a Wild Card team. Making the playoffs in 2013 snapped a 20-year playoff drought and a string of 20 consecutive losing seasons.

On the other hand, the Pirates also finished last in the NL Central on four occasions during Huntington’s time as the GM, including this past season. Over the past couple of seasons, Huntington traded away players who have found great success with other organizations, including Gerrit Cole, Austin Meadows, and Tyler Glasnow, indicating shortcomings in how he was building the team.

Nevertheless, it was surprising to see the Pirates fire both their manager and president before firing their GM. In fact, Nutting expressed confidence in Huntington when the team parted ways with Hurdle. However, that stance made a 180-degree turn, perhaps as a result of Williams coming aboard as the new president. Pittsburgh sports fans will know Williams from the 11 years he spent as the chief operating officer of the NHL’s Penguins. More recently, he was the president of business operations for the New York Islanders.”

This is a homecoming for me, both personally and professionally,” Williams said in a statement. “It is a tremendous opportunity to come back to a city and a team that I love. I am excited about working with Bob and the rest of the Pirates family to return this franchise to a winning tradition.

“Today, we turn the page and start writing a new chapter in the history of the Pirates. We are committed to a refresh of our entire operations. The first step in this process is to immediately begin the search for new leadership of our baseball operations.”

Of course, the sudden firing of Huntington means the Pirates will have to alter their offseason plans. Rather than focusing on finding a new manager, it’ll be up to Nutting and Williams to find a new GM. Presumably, the new GM will lead the search for a new manager. In the meantime, assistant GM Kevin Graves will serve as the club’s interim GM.

Where the Pirates go from here with regard to their GM and managerial openings is anybody’s guess. The person they hire will have a big job ahead of them and a lot of important decisions to make this offseason. As always, only time will tell if cleaning house will pay off for a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff series since last winning the World Series in 1979.

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