BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 THE FAN) – David Freese has had enough.
Enough of losing, enough of watching great players shipped out, and enough of the kind of attitude on the field and in the clubhouse that doesn't seem to care about losing.
"I don't think we lost 87 games because Marte wasn't there or Kang wasn't there," said the 34-year old upon officially reporting to Pirate City. "We lost 87 games because our environment doesn't allow it. I think that's something we have to work on. I think it's important to focus on the foundational components of what it takes to have a winning culture."
Despite looking ahead to what will probably be a back-up role on the 2018 club, Freese expressed disappointment with the atmosphere surrounding the team.
"If you don't have the accountability and the demand to win, what's the point in doing anything else?"
"I think this place gets ahead of itself. They try and keep up with the way analytical stuff is working, but you have to have urgency, accountability, all these things. I've been here for two years, and we've lacked in that department."
"I walk in every day, and it's not in the air. The demand to win just has not been in the air. You can say all you want about, 'We're gonna win' and this and that, but if you don't walk in and feel it and see it in people's eyes, it's just not gonna work."
Freese understands the group around him is getting younger, but wants the sense of urgency around the team to change.
"You look around, and not a ton of experience, but who needs experience? If you're good, you're good. You're going to play well. 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 have to do our part."
The veteran third baseman also questioned the focus of the club over the last two years.
"The three hours when you're in the dugout and on that field, it has to be about kicking some ass. When you're losing 10-2 in the pouring rain against Joe Maddon, and you're laughing, that's not good. That says a lot."
A winning atmosphere simply hasn't existed in 2016 and 2017, and Freese sees it in the way the team is viewed around baseball.
"It's not that hard to understand. You go out there and you have a job to do. We have to take pride on getting that vibe in the air, that when people come in to our place, they're going to have to work their tail off to win that series. The last two years people come in and they're just like 'Oh, we have the Pirates, let's take care of 'em.'"
Freese's criticism extended beyond the players on the field and the coaching staff in the dugout, though.
"As an organization, you have the ability to excite thousands of people. I don't understand why you don't take advantage of that. It just boggles my mind. Some people wait their whole life to have an organization win."
Echoing the sentiments of Pirates fans since the trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, Freese questioned the organization's commitment to winning.
"You have to understand when you walk through the door why we're here. Is it to stay out of the red a little bit? It's about winning. We're all better for it. Do we have to win? Not necessarily, but damn, 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. And I think the fans deserve that in any city, especially as passionate as these guys are. And we deserve it."
"You look at the Steelers, and the Penguins. You got the Pirates, and if I'm handling the situation, I'd be losing sleep trying to compete with those other two teams. To have all three teams in a city like Pittsburgh be on top of each league, that would be incredible."
Freese also lamented the fact that the writing is already on the wall for younger players, some of whom he said, are ready to become stars.
"This is a different organization, where if you get drafted, you look at a guy like Jameson Taillon: It sucks that if you pan out, you have your future written for you in an organization like this. You either fold and sign a team friendly deal, or you're bounced out of here. I think that's unfortunate. "
Freese also said that he's here to fully support the penciled in starter third base, Colin Moran, but there were some skittish moments after the Cole trade when he hadn't yet heard from management about the deal.
He also supported teammate Josh Harrison, who in the immediate aftermath of the McCutchen and Cole deals requested a trade.
"The guy wants to win. He signed an extension here, and he might have three months left, who knows?"
Freese wrapped up openly joking, "What'd I say?" but ultimately repeated what every Pirates fan has been saying since a 98-win juggernaut dissolved into a 75-win frustration.
"[In] 2013, '14, '15 was so exciting. I was a part of '13. I can still hear that crowd when Pedro [Alvarez] hit that homer off [Michael] Wacha. My goodness, why wouldn't you want that every year?"
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