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Pirates GM Neal Huntington defends SEALs training

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The Pirates have taken guff from various corners of the baseball universe — and from some of their own players — for requiring exhausting Navy SEALs-style training methods at the minor league level.

And now they’re also getting criticism from fans.

Bob Cohn, a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, describes the scene from Saturday afternoon’s open fan Q&A at PirateFest:

The Pirates‘ controversial Navy SEALs training program for its minor-league players escaped mention during season-ticket holders‘ questions to team management Friday at PirateFest. But then there was Saturday‘s Q&A at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center open to the so-called “general fans.”

One of them, Matthew Wein, 30, of Pittsburgh, raised the point while challenging the qualifications and expertise of assistant general manager Kyle Stark and director of player development Larry Broadway. Among his questions and comments, Wein cited “the techniques these guys are using in the minors, the militaristic garbage to train baseball players.”

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington immediately went on the defensive, responding bluntly to Wein that the organization is committed to “the best physical, best mental, best personal development we can get” and that “if borrowing from the elite of the elites is a bad thing, I‘m puzzled by that.”

“Collegiate and Olympic teams have gained valuable insight, gained valuable experience from the Navy SEALs,” continued Huntington. “We‘re not alone in our belief that these techniques work. As a matter of fact, these are the scientifically proven techniques that help young men grow, that help young men develop.”

Pirates owner Bob Nutting said last month that the training — which included late-night scavenger hunts and a “Hell Week” — would be discontinued. But it doesn’t sound like the team’s higher-ups necessarily want it to.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.