Monday, October 7, 2013

The Post About Hurdle I Never Wrote This Year

I felt that 2013 was going to be a key year for the futures of both Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle. The collapse of 2012 was a stinging gut punch to both the fanbase and the team.  It seemed to me as if both of these men were on short leashes.

Predicting the demise of a human is never pleasant.  Note that I said “human” and not “animatronic robot”, so it was perfectly OK for me to anticipate John Russell’s firing.  My thinking coming into the season was that Hurdle was going to get fired if:

a) The Pirates were under .500 by 10 or more games at any point
b) They had a losing record after 81 games

Obviously neither of those things happened.  In fact, Hurdle is the leading contender for NL Manager of the Year.  Not only has Hurdle guided the Pirates to a winning season, but it is a season that has them in the playoffs.  The narrative of the Pirates shedding 20 seasons of losing will help form a strong undercurrent during awards season and help propel Hurdle and Andrew McCutchen to their respective awards.

By no means does this season, though, make me believe is the best manager in baseball.  He has many in-game characteristics that are teeth-gratingly bad (overreliance on bunts, pitcher usage, an issue understanding pitcher/hitter splits at times), but he has restored hope to this moribund franchise.  

For me, Clint Hurdle is that zany uncle you see a few times a year at the holidays, birthdays, and reunions.  He has great stories, always makes people laugh, and generally makes the world a cooler place.  But that uncle is also not someone you want to entrust a key operation to, either.  Hurdle is an ambassador for the Pirates to the fanbase and his work with charities is unparalleled among previous managers.  I’m not exactly sure what Hurdle’s ideal role would be with the Pirates for me -- Director of Community Relations, perhaps?  He could maximize his folksy charm, do charity work, and draw people into attending games.

So Clint, even though you will probably never read this article, I say “Thanks”.  Thanks for making baseball relevant in Pittsburgh again.  Thanks for bringing back a sector of the fanbase that had given up on the Pirates.  Thanks for reminding Pittsburgh that baseball is allowed to potentially be played deep into October.

Sorry I was thinking you were going to be fired by July 1st.


  1. I think you're underselling Hurdle a bit. He's no messiah: in-game decisions have driven me batty as well, but Clint's openness to the Dan Foxes of the world, realizing that they might have some tricks for an old dog, has also been a high point for me. Frequently, Clint often still trusts his gut...but he has allowed for the table to set with shifts, player acquisitions, and pitching/defensive philosophy that shows he can also be humble. On game day, he drives me crazy. But I don't think the Bucs would be at this point without him...and not just because of PR.

  2. Overall, I like Hurdle. But his folksy demeanor is offputting to me. He's just patronizing people.

    I commend him for embracing the stats, but when push comes to shove, it's his "gut". He pays lip service to stats because his job, perhaps literally, depended on it.