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Kevin Gorman: David Freese puts Pirates on blast | TribLIVE.com
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Kevin Gorman: David Freese puts Pirates on blast

Kevin Gorman
FreeseMoran
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
David Freese and Colin Moran chat during workouts at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., on Feb. 16, 2018.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman David Freese talks with Colin Moran during a workout Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle hugs third baseman David Freese after Freese arrived for spring training Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle greets third baseman David Freese after Freese arrived for spring training Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman David Freese smiles while working out Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman David Freese works out Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
David Freese at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., on Feb. 16, 2018.
FreeseMoran
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
David Freese and Colin Moran chat during workouts at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., on Feb. 16, 2018.
GTRBucs04021718
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman David Freese talks with Colin Moran during a workout Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
GTRBucs01021718
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle hugs third baseman David Freese after Freese arrived for spring training Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
GTRBucs02021718
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle greets third baseman David Freese after Freese arrived for spring training Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
GTRBucs03021718
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman David Freese smiles while working out Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
GTRBucs05021718
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman David Freese works out Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Freese
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
David Freese at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., on Feb. 16, 2018.

BRADENTON, Fla. — David Freese finally did what no one with the Pirates — not ownership, the front office, coaching staff or players — had been willing to do.

Speak the unfiltered truth.

Freese put the Pirates on blast, top to bottom, upon arriving Friday for spring training at Pirate City.

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Pirates owner Bob Nutting blames MLB’s economic system and the Pirates’ small-market status for focusing on the bottom line

General manager Neal Huntington blames top players like Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole for underperforming to their level of All-Star expectations.

Manager Clint Hurdle blames Jung Ho Kang’s visa issues and Starling Marte’s steroid suspension and Gregory Polanco’s injuries.

And the players blamed the ownership and front office for failing to provide an impact player and instead dealing away impending free agents in return for prospects at the trade deadline.

Pirates fans find fault with all of the above, even as attendance and TV ratings dipped dramatically the past two seasons.

But Freese blamed everyone, including himself, in questioning the club’s lack of accountability and sense of urgency to win.

“I walk in every day, and it’s just not in the air. The demand to win just hasn’t been in the air. That’s what you need,” Freese said. “You can say all you want about how we’re going to win, this and that. But if you don’t walk in and don’t feel it and see it in people’s eyes, it’s just not going to work.”

That was a mere snippet of the 20-minute interview with Freese that raised eyebrows, if not sounded alarms at spring training.

Freese started off strong, saying “it was time” for the Pirates to trade McCutchen. Not because the five-time All-Star was a bad apple but he “deserved better” for taking “this organization from the ground into the spotlight.”

“He did it — nobody else. He was the centerpiece of it,” Freese said. “You just hope all the people in Pittsburgh, all the fans, you wish that it could have ended better for him, surrounding a group that just wanted to beat some (butt) just for him. He’s obviously going to be a hero or whatever you want to call it for the City of Pittsburgh forever but, man, it could have been so much more.”

Freese even stopped himself short of singing the company line about being competitive — saying “screw that” — and talking instead about demanding to win. This despite everyone on the Pirates knowing the self-imposed payroll limits that prevents them from signing their stars to long-term contract extensions at market value.

“It kind of sucks that you have your future, if you pan out, written for you in an organization like this,” he said. “You either fold and sign a team-friendly deal or you’re going to get bounced out of here.”

Now you might be wondering why a 34-year-old third baseman who is slated to be a backup this season is speaking out, but Freese won NLCS and World Series MVP honors in 2011 and is a respected voice in the Pirates clubhouse.

“He holds a lot of weight, for sure,” shortstop Jordy Mercer said. “He’s definitely going to be one of the guys in this clubhouse that when he speaks, everybody listens. He’s earned that right, earned that title. Whenever he speaks, we’re all going to be ears up and take it to heart and continue to push.”

Hurdle wants his players to have ownership of their clubhouse, which is why he stays out of it.

While Hurdle said “we see it a little differently,” the skipper appreciated that Freese challenged the Pirates to change the culture of a team that dropped from 98 wins in 2015 to 78 in ’16 to 75 last year.

If the Pirates pride themselves on their transparency the way they say they do, they should take a long listen to what Freese said and start to second his sentiments.

Even if the truth hurts.

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