Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Freese: Bucs must improve 'demand to win'

MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- On his first full day of Spring Training, veteran infielder David Freese offered a frank assessment of the Pirates' clubhouse culture and what went wrong over the previous two losing seasons in Pittsburgh.

Standing in front of his locker -- the stall previously occupied by Andrew McCutchen -- Freese spoke with reporters for 20 minutes about the Bucs' decision to trade McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, as well as their organizational commitment to winning. After reaching the postseason three straight years from 2013-15, the Bucs won 78 games in 2016 and 75 last year.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- On his first full day of Spring Training, veteran infielder David Freese offered a frank assessment of the Pirates' clubhouse culture and what went wrong over the previous two losing seasons in Pittsburgh.

Standing in front of his locker -- the stall previously occupied by Andrew McCutchen -- Freese spoke with reporters for 20 minutes about the Bucs' decision to trade McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, as well as their organizational commitment to winning. After reaching the postseason three straight years from 2013-15, the Bucs won 78 games in 2016 and 75 last year.

Spring info | Tickets | Schedule

"The last two years, we haven't done as well as we could have because of our environment. That's what I think," Freese said. "I walk in every day, and it's not in the air. The demand to win just hasn't been in the air. That's what you need. You can say all you want about how we're going to win, this and that. But if you don't walk in and you don't feel it and you don't see it in people's eyes, it's just not going to work.

"You have to take pride in getting that vibe in the air that people come into our place that they're going to have to work their tail off to win that series. … I feel like the past two years that teams come in and kind of [say], 'OK, we've got the Pirates, let's just take care of them.' That's unacceptable. You go through '13, '14, '15 -- I wish I was here for that."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Freese didn't single out anyone but himself as he said, "Everybody can do better." The Pirates were lauded for their outstanding clubhouse atmosphere under manager Clint Hurdle during their winning seasons. Freese often heard about the culture in Pittsburgh, but he felt something was different after signing during Spring Training two years ago.

"I walked into a clubhouse coming off a 98-win season, and I'm like, 'Here we go,'" Freese said. "Then within a day or two, you're like, 'Man, what are we missing? What's going on here?'"

Now, the Pirates are building around a young core of players and counting on veterans like Freese, Sean Rodriguez and Ivan Nova -- as well as younger leaders like Jameson Taillon -- to help set the tone. Freese said he feels there is a need for greater accountability in the clubhouse, and a "focus on the foundational components of what it takes to have a winning culture."

Video: Hurdle on Freese's comments, Pirates' culture

"David and I had conversations at the end of the season, and I love his perception. I love all the players' perceptions," Hurdle said. "I think that's one of the best lessons I've learned over time is you can't argue with somebody about their perception, and I think when you accumulate all the information from a lot of different people, especially guys with experience -- David would fall into that category -- you listen, you find truth and then you talk about opportunities to improve, areas to improve, methods to improve."

Freese, entering his 10th season in the Majors and his third with the Pirates, stressed the need for greater urgency.

"The three hours when you're in that dugout and on that field, it has to be about kicking some [behind]," Freese said. "When you're losing, 10-2, in the pouring rain against [Cubs manager] Joe Maddon and you're laughing, that's not good. That says a lot."

"Do we have to win? Not necessarily, but you have to be exhausted at the end of the year because you tried your tail off collectively to win as many games as you could. I think the fans deserve that in any city, especially one as passionate as these guys are, and we deserve it."

Freese acknowledged it was "frustrating" and "sad" to see McCutchen and Cole traded, but he understood the timing of each move, with McCutchen a year away from free agency and Cole two years away. Still, Freese -- like other Pirates veterans in camp -- expressed confidence in the young team the Bucs will field this season.

Video: Hurdle on emotional departures of Cole, McCutchen

"It's part of the deal, and you move on. I think this group is excited," he said. "I think it's going to have a fresh feel, and we're ready to go.

"Not a ton of experience, but who needs experience, honestly? If you're good, you're good; you're going to play well. … These young guys on this team are animals, and they're studs. A few of them are going to be superstars. We need the guys that have been around to step up and play better. Whether you're an everyday guy or a bench guy, we've got to do our part."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, David Freese