09/11/11 2:30 PM ET
Pirates extend GM Huntington's contract
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
Huntington's previous contract was set to expire at the end of this season.
"I'm very excited to be able to continue to build what we have been working so hard on for the last four years," Huntington said. "We're on the right path. [Things] may be not moving as quickly as everybody would have liked, and we understand that. We have a lot of work left to do, but there are a lot of good things going on."
Huntington was named the 12th GM in franchise history near the end of the 2007 season, just after Dave Littlefield had been removed from that post. Huntington immediately assembled a new front office and on-field staff before beginning the process of rebuilding the organization.
The Pirates lost 299 games over the next three seasons, as Huntington made the often-unpopular decision to deal away many of the team's most established players. He focused on infusing the organization with young talent and increased the attention given to acquiring players through both the amateur Draft and the international market.
"We came into a situation that we knew was difficult," Huntington said. "We knew we had some work cut out for us. We faced some challenges along the way. We made some mistakes along the way. We've learned and grown along the way, and look forward to applying the lessons learned and look forward to this young talent that we've talked about from Day 1 beginning to show itself on a consistent basis at the Major League level."
Huntington has hired two managers during his time in Pittsburgh, and the 2011 season is set to be the team's most successful under his leadership. Though the club will not end its long string of losing seasons, the Pirates should reach the 70-win mark. No Pirates club has done that since 2004.
Though Pirates president Frank Coonelly has consistently expressed assurance that Huntington would remain as the team's GM beyond this season, months went by without a contract extension to back up that vote of confidence.
Coonelly explained the reasoning behind that on Sunday.
"I said in Spring Training that I was confident that Neal was going to be the general manager here in Pittsburgh for a long time, and nothing ever changed in that respect," Coonelly said. "I just didn't think that there was a need to get that done a year in advance, because Neal was going to make the right decisions for the Pittsburgh Pirates, long-term, whether he was working in the last year of his contract or had three more years left."
Both Coonelly and Huntington said they anticipate stability in the rest of the front office as well. They specifically lauded the jobs done by scouting director Greg Smith and farm director Kyle Stark, both of whom joined the organization shortly after Huntington.
"This [extension] is hopefully the first piece of the puzzle to come together," Huntington said. "We've got some tremendous people working in our office and leading our departments. We're going to move as quickly as we can to put the remaining pieces of the puzzle in place and continue to grow and develop as an organization."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.