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Bucs' chairman: Players' criticism 'correct, fair'

Nutting addresses state of organization, recent comments from Freese
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates chairman Bob Nutting on Thursday said some of the players' recent criticism of the organization was "correct and fair" and prioritized the return of a winning culture as they look to end a streak of two losing seasons this year.

In his annual Spring Training meeting with the media, Nutting answered questions for about 40 minutes regarding the state of the Pirates, their organizational philosophy and the January trades that sent out franchise icon Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates chairman Bob Nutting on Thursday said some of the players' recent criticism of the organization was "correct and fair" and prioritized the return of a winning culture as they look to end a streak of two losing seasons this year.

In his annual Spring Training meeting with the media, Nutting answered questions for about 40 minutes regarding the state of the Pirates, their organizational philosophy and the January trades that sent out franchise icon Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole.

Nutting has spent the week at Pirate City, watching the club's workouts and interacting with players on the field in an effort to be more visible and accessible in what he called a "challenging year." He likes what he's seen so far.

Video: Freese discusses Pirates trading McCutchen, Cole

"I really am encouraged," Nutting said. "I really do think that that winning culture that we all are talking about -- you're hearing it from the players; now, you're hearing it from the coaching staff, you're certainly hearing it from the front office and from me -- is an important part of what this year's going to be about, an important part of what Spring Training's going to be about. And when you see the guys out there working, I believe they're embracing it and leading it."

Nutting acknowledged recent comments made by Freese, who stated the team needs a greater "demand to win," and Josh Harrison, who requested a trade if the club's actions do not reflect their stated desire to contend the next two years.

"I think they're helping to build what we need to do, which is put the most important things up front to make sure we do have that winning culture, to make sure that we have the right tone in the clubhouse, that they're focused on the right work," Nutting said. "I think some of the comments that were made were correct. If you look at the culture that we had in '13, '14, '15, we weren't focused on external challenges. We weren't focused on payroll issues. We were focused on how we go out every day and win baseball games. … I think you have a young group of players that have a lot that they want to prove and a lot that they can show to the fans in Pittsburgh."

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

Nutting said he can "appreciate and respect" Pirates players' and fans' response to their offseason moves, but he believes they were made to improve the organization as they brought in young talent -- including four players who could play major roles in Pittsburgh this season. Nutting was the last person to agree to trade McCutchen, and he said he was convinced by the "deep, absolute conviction by the entire baseball operations team."

He also agreed with general manager Neal Huntington's message that the Pirates did not need to engage in a full tear-down and "rebuilding" process. For the Cubs and Astros, an aggressive rebuild ended with a World Series championship. But the Pirates maintain an organizational belief that they can compete every season, even in a small market, and avoid the up-and-down cycle.

"I deeply believe that we are taking the effective steps to move us toward both a winning culture, winning talent and a winning team in Pittsburgh. That's our sole focus," Nutting said. "The way we can honor those fans' anger and concern is by performing. That's where we need to put our focus."

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

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