Pirates GM Neal Huntington: We Don't Coddle Our Players

Much attention has been brought about by the Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington regarding his Sunday radio show.  One of the hot topics surrounded the former first round pick Neil Walker.  Huntington gave detailed, straight forward answers to the questions asked by announcer Greg Brown.  Pirates fans have not always agreed with the moves the Pirates GM has made, but I will credit him on one thing.  He said, “if anyone is looking to blame someone, blame me.” 

Huntington has mentioned maturity issues with Walker as he did months ago, but this time he also gushed about the production Walker has provided both on defense and at the plate.  Walkers’ only struggle has been against left handed pitching and Huntington never even touched on that weakness.  He told Greg Brown that he was caught at an emotional time when he said, that Steve Pearce was “light years” ahead of Walker. 

But then Huntington did a 180 and backed up his comments somewhat by saying.  The Pirates organization won’t coddle their players.  Coddle is defined as treat tenderly; nurse or tend indulgently; pamper.   They certainly haven’t been pampering Walker at all.  Huntington has been commenting on record since last year  when he said this about him:

“Sitting here today, we feel like we have one Major League third baseman, and that is Andy LaRoche,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “[Walker] needs to continue to mature and get stronger. He still hasn’t really dominated the Triple-A level to show that, ‘Hey, I’m ready to be a Major League player.’ He hasn’t necessarily earned his way to the Major League level.” 

Six months later, Walker is beginning to dominate at the AAA level.  He needed to do that.  It was the proof  his bosses requested.  He has learned a number of new positions as he said he would in order to help the Pirates win.   The tough love/non coddling worked.  I guess.  Or is Neil Walker just a tough son of a gun that has a dream to play ball for his hometown team and that dream keeps getting roadblocked?   He has battled through injuries, new players, and new positions.  His dream is very close to reality.

But it is not coming easily.

Is it a mental approach to harness all the talent Walker has?  Perhaps.  It’s so hard to even fathom, but that could be it.  The Pirates do have such personnel on the payroll.

John Russell and Neal Huntington have definently not coddled Walker.  During his time with the Pirates last season, his at-bats averaged less than one per day.  The bosses were too busy running out players that had no business being on the diamond.  None.  Walker rotted on the bench while guys who now aren’t even on the roster played. 

A season later we have new guys that, based on their performance, have no business being on the dirt for the Pirates.  Meanwhile, Walker tears apart AAA.  With an attitude.  I love it.  In a short period of time, Neil Walker will get his shot.  It will be up to Walker to perform like a man possessed. 

But wait, it gets better, this isn’t over!  Now the home town paper has propped up the cross to call Walker a Pittsburgh guy that ”isn’t a Pittsburgh guy?”    Huh?  Because he didn’t run out an infield fly rule after the umpire screamed–“the batter is out!”  Was that really it?  Or was his locker messy?  Or did he tell a coach to screw off?    Hell, we might as well get all of this out in the open now, right? 

Really?  This is what we care about in Pittsburgh?  Personally, I care about winning championships and going to the parades associated with the trophies.  All the mind numbing stuff behind the scenes is vital to any organization, I get it.  That’s how organizations get to the parade route details.  But I don’t care about it.  I try not to read it either.  Just give me the damn parade route.

The tragedy for me is that I have found nothing that shows anyone has worked to get any response from Walker.  I have reached out to him, but have failed as well.  Obviously the guy has more important things to do than respond to a freaking blogger.  One of those things Walker is working on?  Putting his money where his mouth is in backing up the last quote I saw from Neil Walker, which was in the video below.  Walker is always a great interview and he doesn’t hold back in this one either…

“I’ve always been a Pirates fan, I’ve grown up a Pirates fan, and ever since I was drafted my dream has been to play in Pittsburgh as long as I can and be the Cal Ripken of Pittsburgh,” he said. “Obviously those goals are lofty and I set the standard pretty high, but I don’t think there’s any other way to go at it.”

Me either Neil.

Sorry.  This is a Pittsburgh guy!   He understands it’s a business.  He knows there are plenty of other teams that would like a player like him if the Pirates brass decides Walker doesn’t fit.  See you soon Neil Walker, see you real soon.  Bring that attitude with you as well.  The Pirates could use someone that gets pissed off on this ballclub.   And Neal Huntington keep up the non coddling approach.  We don’t know what the hell coddling means, but it’s working on Walker.  Perhaps, you can piss him off/not coddle him some more this Sunday? 

Here is a link to the story by Karen Price.

Tags: John Russell Neil Walker Pittsbugh Pirates

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