David Freese’s comments on Saturday about the Pittsburgh Pirates were criticism from players that haven’t been heard in recent years. It represents the Pirates shifting back into the franchise that they have ben best known for since 1992.
It’s a feeling of deja vu.
David Freese made some noise around Pirates City as well as Pittsburgh with his comments about the mentality of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ players and the problems with management.
If Freese’s comments on Friday are any indication, this will be a long season.
This fan reaction to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ decisions this offseason has been overwhelmingly negative. With former first-round selections Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen traded away, the Pirates are in a transition phase. Even if they won’t call it a rebuild, it’s the next-closest thing.
Fans and media have been voicing their opinions for weeks. On Friday, a player spoke similar words as them. Those comments show that the Pirates are back to being the Pirates.
Of the many subjects David Freese spoke about upon arriving in Bradenton was that the Pirates have lacked a positive mindset. He said it hurt the Pirates more than anything in 2018. That’s interesting, considering Jung-Ho Kang did not play for the entire season and Starling Marte missed part of it.
Freese: "The last two years, we haven’t done as well as we could have because of our environment. That’s what I think. I walk in every day, and it’s not in the air. The demand to win just hasn’t been in the air. That’s what you need."
— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) February 16, 2018
David Freese just spent 20 minutes spitting truth. On the team’s attitude, the atmosphere in the clubhouse, and the organization. Big fat truth bombs. pic.twitter.com/ZjcN9cRmGA
— Chris Mack (@THEChrisMack) February 16, 2018
Of course, he brought up the common argument from Yinzers since the Penguins and Steelers won championships in 2009: everyone but the Pirates is winning titles and it stinks.
David Freese just arrived. He spoke his truth. pic.twitter.com/Jl7bLfwnUo
— Liz Bloom (@BloomPG) February 16, 2018
The most interesting comment that the 2017 Gold-Glove Finalist made was about the types of contracts that young players tend to sign with the Pirates.
“This is a different organization, where if you get drafted, you look at a guy like Jameson Taillon: It sucks that if you pan out, you have your future written for you in an organization like this. You either fold and sign a team friendly deal, or you’re bounced." Freese
— Chris Mack (@THEChrisMack) February 16, 2018
Taking steps backward
This offseason and first few days of Spring Training have indicated one thing: the Pirates are back to where they were prior to 2011. Conflict buoyed by negative fan assessment and angry players is nothing new since the start of the millennium. As the team began winning for a brief period, it went away, but now it is back in full force.
Players not being happy only further catalyzes the fans and media’s criticism. It’s more fodder for talk shows, columns and social media. When one speaks up, others are sure to follow. Josh Harrison hasn’t appeared in camp yet and he publicly requested a trade this offseason. What will he have to say?
The craziest thing is that management can’t do much about it. Freese said this, so now what? Release or trade him? That only fuels the fire for fans and media.
The Pirates are in a winless situation because of their struggles to communicate. If the Pirates are concerned about winning moving forward (and that’s the most important thing because fans will go see a winning team), there needs to be more communication with both fans and the players.
At PiratesFest, many current players were there, but signature stars like Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole weren’t. There was no need to flat-out state that these specific players were being shopped, but a move to rebuild should have been brought up. The New York Rangers have done as much recently.
A Message from Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton. pic.twitter.com/Q56CXS8vDc
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 8, 2018
The Pirates have never given a general idea of a plan besides wanting to win now while looking for the future, which has proven impossible. For crying out loud, even the New York Yankees issue public apologies after not winning a World Series. For the record, they’ve got 27 to boast.
To have general manager Neal Huntington, president Frank Coonelly and/or owner Bob Nutting (who was in Pittsburgh that day) come out and say something similar to what the Ranger said would have done wonders. Yes, plenty of fans and media would scoff. ‘Same old Pirates,’ they might think. However, it would be the first step at telling fans and players of the team’s expectations moving forward.
Critics will argue that the return for trade-worthy players will decrease since other teams will know that the Pirates are publicly looking to get rid of them. At the end of the day, the return this early in a rebuild will not be that crucial for a team that realistically needs at least three more years to build back into a playoff contender.
Freese has a right to be upset after joining a 98-win team that expected to be a contender for the next few seasons. The probability of making the playoffs every year is difficult. The Pittsburgh Pirates can’t be expected to make it every year, but to go downhill so quickly isn’t helping. Instead, the Pirates continue to make the same mistakes that they’ve been making for the past 26 years.