Pirates NLDS Notebook: Pirates owner Bob Nutting remains true to 'process'


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Despite the team's successful run to the playoffs, Pirates owner Bob Nutting said he will be no less thorough in his postseason review of the team's operations.

But, he admitted, it likely will happen in a much more "positive atmosphere."

Nutting won't be faced with such drastic decisions as he battled last year, when he considered firing the team's front office after a 20th consecutive losing season and second consecutive late-season swoon. But he plans to follow the same methods he has always used to evaluate his team.

"I really do believe in structure," Nutting said. "I really do believe in process.

"There's no question we've made enough mistakes. We need to find ways to push forward and make this organization better next year."

The Pirates will face several challenges this offseason. A handful of players could leave via free agency, A.J. Burnett might retire and several young players will see their salaries increase.

Hurdle OK with format

Baseball's new playoff system has created new opportunities for teams to make the playoffs and puts a premium on winning the division.

And the conventional wisdom surrounding the five-team playoff, in which two wild-card teams battle for a spot in the divisional round, is that it is good for the division winners and good for the second wild-card team.

For the other wild-card team, in this case the Pirates, it's kind of a raw deal.

The Pirates would already be in the National League Divisional Series under the old playoff rules. But the most recent collective bargaining agreement, which went into effect before the 2012 season, forced the team into a one-game playoff for the right to advance.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle dismissed any thought that his team got a bad deal.

"This isn't a couple years ago," Hurdle said. "These are the rules we've been given, these are the rules we play by."

About the Morneau trade ...

When the Pirates acquired first baseman Justin Morneau in late August, general manager Neal Huntington thanked Nutting for allowing the front office to outspend its budget for the deal.

On Tuesday, Nutting said it was Huntington's "conviction" that sold him on the idea.

"Most important was Neal's ... belief that it was going to have a real impact on the ballclub," Nutting said. "Part of it was, while we intend to play meaningful games each year, we had a unique point in time."

Nutting also said part of his motivation was in sending the right message to Pirates players and fans that team ownership was committed to winning.

"These guys on the field pushed every single day, and I thought it was important that we stepped up for the players," Nutting said.

"And, frankly, the fan expectation is always a factor. We can't let it drive our behavior, but [we wanted] to make a tangible statement that we're going to do everything we can to take advantage of the point in time we had."

Barmes' defense pays off

Since Jordy Mercer's ninth-inning error Sept. 20 that cost the Pirates a sure win against the Reds, Clint Barmes -- who mostly had been relegated to backup shortstop because of his offensive shortcomings -- has been a mainstay in the lineup.

Hurdle said that Barmes, who started the wild-card game Tuesday night against Cincinnati, was an "impact defender" in the final two weeks of the regular season.

"For us older men, we always talked about the strength of the ballclub being up the middle with your catcher, your second base, your shortstop and your center fielder," Hurdle said. "He's given us that opportunity to be stronger."

pirates

Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published October 2, 2013 6:15 AM


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