Multiple baseball sources told The Times on Thursday night that the Pirates are leaning heavily toward hiring Neal Huntington, a special assistant to the general manager with the Cleveland Indians.
Huntington is considered one of the bright young minds in the game but there had been no inkling before Thursday that he was even under consideration to join the Pirates as a replacement for Dave Littlefield, who was fired Sept. 7 after a little more than six years as GM.
No Tony LaCava, Jack Zduriencik or Tony Bernazard. No Logan White or Mike Rizzo. I’ve never heard of Neal Huntington—have you?
Here’s a link to his profile in the Baseball America executive database: Huntington served as assistant director of scouting and player development with the Montreal Expos before taking a job with the Cleveland Indians as assistant director of minor-league operations in 1998. He was promoted to director of player development in 1999. He assumed the role of assistant general manager in 2002, and had his title tweaked ever-so-slightly to special assistant to the GM in 2005.
As was the case with many of the other GM candidates, Huntington is likely a guy who worked closely with Frank Coonelly over the years. It seems as if Coonelly’s short list was composed primarily of assistant general managers—Huntington fits that profile.
Perrotto says an official announcement is expected as the team returns home Monday.
More on Huntington will come whenever I get better at Googling: At first crack, there’s not a whole lot of information available.
EDIT, 7:30 a.m.:
There’s this from the UMass Amherst website:
For [Joe Fitzgerald], one area in which UMass Amherst excels is especially important: “The network of alumni that exists in the industry is great,” he says.
The network is considerable. For example, [assistant general manager of the Cleveland Indians Chris] Antonetti started out interning with the Montreal Expos, in the player development office, then headed by Dave Littlefield ’88G, who is now general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. While Antonetti was in Canada, he worked with Neal Huntington ’92G, also now in the front office in Cleveland. …
And this from Business West, again tying together Littlefield and Huntington:
Like Littlefield, Huntington played sports in college (he was a first baseman for Amherst College) and desired a career in sports. When it became clear that a pro baseball career, his lifelong dream, was beyond his reach, he set his sights on sports management. He got his start during an internship with the Expos, the poster child for small-market teams, and thus began a ladder-climbing process that has taken him to one of the top posts in Cleveland’s organization.
- Huntington on pitch counts – ESPN, May 2004
- Huntington on statistical anaylsis and old-school scouting – Cleveland Scene, 2003
EDIT, 2:30 p.m.:
MVN’s Pizza Cutter (of Statistically Speaking fame) on Huntington, reprinted from the comments:
The Pirates have a good guy in Huntington. As an Indians fan, I’m sad to see him go. He is a Moneyball/Sabermetric/data based guy (this is the team that hired Keith Woolner of Baseball Prospectus), but IIRC, he was director of player development for a while in the Indians farm system. From all reports, he (talent evaluation) and Chris Antonetti (business aspects) were the triumvirate (with current GM Mark Shapiro) that re-built the Indians into what they are now. Given that Pittsburgh is looking for a developmentally based GM with experience operating in a small market, Huntington seems to be a pretty good pick.