Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
If the Pirates wanted to fire Neal Huntington, one would think they would have done it already.
There have been plenty of hints recently that Bob Nutting might be considering a shakeup in the front office. The reasons why aren't crucial here, but you all know my basic opinion on that anyway -- I'd be fine with changes in the front office, although this military training stuff isn't anywhere near the top of my list of reasons why.
Anyway, if the Pirates are in fact considering firing Neal Huntington, they need to do it now. Today. The offseason has begun. Finding a replacement would take time. Last year, the World Series ended October 28, just as it did this year. By November 4, there were already a bunch of free agent signings. Teams had to set their rosters for the Rule 5 draft by November 18.
By this point last year, the Pirates were less than two weeks away from making their first big move of the offseason, as they signed Rod Barajas on November 10. Now, you can chuckle and say that maybe it would have been better if the Pirates just hadn't done anything, but remember that the Pirates needed a catcher and that there were only a small handful of big-league catchers available. If the Pirates fire Neal Huntington now, it will probably take at least a couple weeks to hire a replacement (and perhaps even more, given that Bob Nutting supposedly needs this much time merely to decide that the Hoka Hey stuff was a bad idea, or that Huntington isn't his man for whatever other reason). That's obviously a tremendously important decision, not one you want to rush through. And so, even if the Pirates did fire Huntington right now, they'd likely have to go through at least a portion of the offseason with an interim GM. Then there's the problem of how, exactly, a new GM would go about setting the roster, making potentially big decisions about prospects he or she doesn't know that well.
I'm not sure what, if anything, will come of this Hoka Hey business. If I were in charge, I probably would have bitten the bullet and fired Huntington about six weeks ago, for reasons that have nothing to do with that. It would have been a close decision, and ultimately I think Huntington's legacy with the Bucs will be complex, but I do think it's time for the Pirates to look elsewhere.
Unfortunately, now would be a bad time to make changes, at least at the GM level. If the Pirates want to fire Kyle Stark or, fine. Given all the publicity this Hoka Hey stuff has received, their best course of action may well be to fire Stark and make a big to-do about reforming the program -- not because it was actually that bad, but because the publicity may make it more difficult for them to sign amateur players. Or it might not. At this point, I'm not sure.
In the case of Huntington, though, that ship may have already sailed. If they're positive they want to do it, they need to be very aggressive about doing it right away. Even the time they have left might not be enough, however.
All that leads me to believe that Huntington will probably be back next year. There may be other changes further down the chain of command, but Huntington likely will return, and Nutting will revisit this issue again next year, possibly when the draft is over. That's all speculation on my part, of course. But if Nutting really wanted to fire Huntington, this waiting game wouldn't make much sense.