Huntington not content with just postseason berth

Huntington not content with just postseason berth

PITTSBURGH -- When Neal Huntington took over eight years ago as the 12th general manager in Pirates history, he stepped into the middle of a string of losing seasons that would become unprecedented before it ended. Now, however, Huntington lays claim to a gloriously different streak.

He is the second of those dozen GMs to have engineered the Bucs into three consecutive postseason appearances, duplicating Joe L. Brown's accomplishment with the 1970-72 teams. And, since Danny Murtaugh managed the Pirates in 1970-71 and turned the reins over to Bill Virdon in 1972, the Clint Hurdle/Huntington tandem has no precedent in club annals.

Date Result
Oct. 7 CHC 4, PIT 0

It brings immense pride to Huntington, but little satisfaction or pleasure, because men like him never sit on their laurels -- or anywhere else, for that matter. They live in tomorrow, always plotting the future, at the expense of relishing the present.

Which is a good point at which to begin our Q&A with the Pirates' architect.

MLB.com: If the third time indeed is the charm, are you learning to appreciate the moment?

Gear up for the Pirates' postseason

Neal Huntington: (Chuckles) Clint wears me out trying to get me to enjoy the present. But it's the nature of the job and of my personality to constantly be thinking about what comes next, to keep this thing rolling. To get here three times in a row is what a lot of other teams are looking at and working toward, but we still have much work to do this postseason. Our goal is to advance as deep as we can, and to win it all.

MLB.com: A year ago, you were proud to get the Bucs back into the postseason, backing up your pledge to not settle for a one-year breakthrough. Three straight -- a different level of satisfaction?

NH: When you look around and see how few teams make it three consecutive years, it does give you some appreciation for the work these guys have done -- on the field, in the dugout, the scouts, the guys in (player) development. Everybody. It does give us an appreciation for the challenges we've faced, and for the challenges we've yet to face.

MLB.com: I don't suppose you'd be in favor of the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser being renamed the Pittsburgh Invitational, since your team has been in it every year it has been held?

NH: (Chuckles, again). On one hand, it's incredible to host it (three) times. With our record, under the old system (of only one Wild Card team), we would be going straight to the Division Series. But it's great to have a separate Wild Card Game, because it would be a shame to have the third best record in baseball (as do the Cubs) and not be headed to the postseason.

MLB.com: By rule, a Wild Card team cannot own home-field advantage in any postseason series So either you or the Cubs will be deferring that to an NLCS opponent with a vastly poorer record. Fair?

NH: There has been talk about re-seeding teams once you advance, but a big reason for creating the one-game playoff was to give a distinct advantage to those who win their division. I imagine there will be a lot more discussions about re-seeding, prompted by having the three teams with the best record coming out of one division.

MLB.com: There is also growing support for a Wild Card Series, a best-of-three.

NH: If you went to that, it would put division winners at a disadvantage, since they'd be sitting around for days until playing their first game. The one-game playoff may not be working well in our favor, given our record, but it is great for the game. The TV networks love it. You essentially start off with a Game 7.

MLB.com: When rosters expanded on Sept. 1, you were in the enviable position of being able to add a lot of players with Major League experience. Now, however, doesn't that make it much more difficult to choose your 25-man postaseason roster?

NH: Absolutely. The depth we have makes that really challenging. It's more challenging to put together the Wild Card roster (which can change for the Division Series). You try to figure out how (the Cubs) will run their game, and try to counter that. It all depends on the strengths and skill sets to help Clint win one game.

MLB.com: With the success your organization has had, other MLB teams have begun to raid your staff. One of your assistants, Marc DelPiano, has already gone to Miami, and Tyrone Brooks has interviewed for GM openings. With so many GM openings, have you been approached?

NH: No. I'm under contract (through 2017), and there's a process -- teams that have interest have to ask for permission to talk to me. My hope is to be here for a long time. We haven't yet accomplished what we set out to do, and have a lot more work to do here. We still have to obtain our ultimate goal of winning a World Series championship.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.