Friday, October 5, 2012

Clint Hurdle Should Be Fired

By all accounts, Clint Hurdle will be returning in 2013 for his 3rd season at the helm of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club.  I've spoken numerous times about how Hurdle is a vast upgrade over the animatronic robot known as John Russell, but that doesn't necessarily make Hurdle a great manager.

Clint Hurdle is a fantastic face of the franchise and a willing participant in the fabric of the general public, as he is very active in Pirate charities.  Hurdle is a dream for reporters, as he is a walking anecdote with all his folksy charm.

However, in both 2011 and 2012 the Pirates collapsed badly in the last 1/3 of the season.  In 2011, the Pirates were 54-54 at the two-third point of the season.  They went 18-36 from that point on.  During 2012, the Pirates managed to lose-from-ahead in an even more spectacular, historic fashion.  This time, the Pirates were a stunning 62-46 and finished 17-37.  No team in history has ever been that far above .500 and finished under .500 at the end of the season.  Ever.

Starting after the All-Star Break, before the epic slide was in full effect, I started to notice that the Pirates were playing "not to lose" instead of playing to win.  The 2012 Pirates set the team record for most homers in a season, yet every game it seemed as if they were bound and determined to small ball their way to a victory.  There were instances of bunting with non-pitchers when guys were on 2nd base with no outs.  The baserunning instincts of the team, throughout the lineup, were awful but the Pirates insisted on trying to steal bases in the most obvious of situations.  The small ball tactics, playing to get 1 run in an inning, took the Pirates out of numerous innings where they could have tried to have much bigger innings.

Many are calling for Neal Huntington's head as a result of the epic collapse of 2012, but was Huntington swinging a bat or throwing a pitch when the Pirates were 16 games up?  Was he swinging a bat or throwing a pitch when they finished 4 games under this year?  No.  He put the players together that were successful and got players at the deadline in an attempt to help the Pirates down the stretch.

Did I like all of Huntington's moves at the deadline?  No.  I thought the Lincoln-Snider trade would have been perfect in the off-season, but mid-season it took a key performer out of the bullpen for a player that was trying to put his career back on track.  With Lincoln, the 7th inning was under control (or multiple innings, if needed) which led to Grilli in the 8th and Hanrahan in the 9th.  The game could be over after 6 innings, which for the Pirates without a true horse (aside from Burnett) that is a huge deal.

Hurdle's in-game/pre-game management directly led to some losses for the Pirates.  After the 19 inning win in St. Louis, the Pirates had to travel to San Diego the next night for a game.  Justin Wilson and Kyle McPherson were on hand and fresh, ready to start in perhaps the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the National League -- perfect for a rookie.  Instead, Kevin Correia (who pitched 2 innings the day before) told Hurdle he could start in his hometown of San Diego.  Hurdle, not trusting of rookies in general, went to him and he predictably sucked.  Wilson and McPherson came on and were fantastic, but the damage was done.

Letting Karstens start when his health was questionable, then watching him only go 1/3 of an inning and burning out the bullpen, was another mistake.

At the tail end of the season against the Brewers, the Pirates battled back from an early deficit to take a 3 run lead into the 8th inning at home.  Grilli pitched the 7th and dominated, but Hurdle went to the worst guy in the bullpen in Chad Qualls to pitch the 8th.  Qualls spread gasoline all over the infield and set it on fire, leaving Resop to try and finish the mess.  The Pirates ended up losing.

Getting swept at home by the 101 loss Cubs.

Losing 2 of 3 to the 107 loss Astros.

These are signs of a team not ready to play, not believing in themselves, a team without a forceful manager ready to stem the tide of a collapse.

I will always have a positive feeling about Hurdle's ability to drag the Pirates back to relevance.  But I don't feel he is the manager that will take the Pirates to the next winning level.

1 comment:

  1. I'm still pretty much "meh" to it all. They seriously have made me not care any more, I'm afraid.

    Hurdle probably deserves to get the axe. Someone needs to be held accountable, but it doesn't look like they intend to change anyone of note outside Ritchie.

    Anyone who thinks Huntington is the problem with this collapse....I got nothin'. He gives Hurlde the tools(players) to use as he sees fit. Unless you Billy Beane the guy and FORCE him to start who you want(which I would totally be all about if I were GMing. :)) the manager is going to do what he wishes.....whether it is sound strategy or not.

    Hurdle was the epitome of "if you continue to do the same thing expecting a different result you are the definition of insanity" this year. How many times do you go to Qualls/Respo/et al and have them blow games before you stop doing it when games are on the line? How many times do you pinch hit with Jeff Clement, and get nothing, before you stop? And on and on and on.

    Like I said....I'm not really that upset about the collapse. I think I'm hardly disappointed. I'm nearly completely numb/ambivalent now. I just can't seem to care. The team doesn't seem to, so why should anyone else?