Without a doubt, Clint Hurdle is one of the best managers in the modern era of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though he can ?t hold a candle to the likes of Danny Murtaugh, Chuck Tanner and Jim Leyland, Hurdle is head and shoulders above some of the guys this franchise has hired to captain their ship. Gene Lamont was a dollar store version of Leyland. Lloyd McClendon was out of his mind. Jim Tracy was just looking for a check. And John Russell, yikes! Hurdle has been the guiding force every step of the way in the Pirates resurgence back to prominence in baseball. But, as everyone reading this should know, all good things must eventually come to an end.
Both the contracts of Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington are set to expire at the end of this season. Back in June, Fox Sports ? Ken Rosenthal cited anonymous sources in the organization that the Pirates would extend both men before this season ends. Two and half months later, neither of the men has been officially offered an extension by the club. Though this is a rumor, Pirates owner Bob Nutting allegedly has a contract ready for Hurdle to sign whenever he is ready. And as this column ?s headline suggestions, Clint would be out of his mind to accept that contract. Allow me to elaborate by providing an example from my life.
At the news station I used to work for (not going to name names, you know who you are), I witnessed a management that was more concerned with making money can than running a successful news station. While their competitors invested thousands and thousands of dollars in advertising on TV, radio and billboards, they would never advertise outside the networks they controlled, thinking their past success would continue based on their reputation of being ?Pittsburgh’s most watched and most trusted news station ?. But when the other stations would beat them in the ratings, the management would bicker back and forth in meetings as to why they were getting killed in the ratings, mainly blaming their own employees. Though I was just a freelancer at the station, I would still try and help at the station as much as I could, even offering to come in when I wasn’t scheduled to work. But as you saw in the first part of this paragraph, the station didn’t like to spend money, and even though I was making only $10 an hour, they would sacrifice the quality of their news just to save a few bucks.
What I witnessed/went through at this station is exactly what Hurdle is going through. He knows this team can be better than they are. He knows they can be one of the top teams in baseball. Except, like the news station I worked for, Nutting sticks to a tight budget, refusing to spend any additional money even though it could make the difference between being a contender or not. Though our plights were/are similar, the difference between my situation and Hurdle ?s is that I was let go by this station. Nutting would never fire Clint Hurdle unless this team started losing a 100 plus games again. Actually, he might keep him even if that happens. But with Hurdle yet to sign the extension that is waiting for him, he still has a chance to break free from King Nutting ?s clutches.
You can tell this season more than ever that Hurdle is on his last nerve with how this organization is being run. Usually a laid back manager, the Pirates skipper has become more and more testy with members of the media during pre and post game interviews. And at this point, you can’t blame him for being on edge? Have you seen how many rookies he has had to played this season? At one point in mid-May, the Pirates 25 man roster had NINE rookies on it. That ?s 36% of the roster for those who aren ?t good at math (I’m not good either that ?s why I ?m in media). They were barely at the quarter pole of the season at that point. With a week away from the rosters expanding, the Pirates currently have six rookies, including Angel Sanchez, who surrendered two solo home runs in his major league debut to the Dodgers. Having to play as many rookies as Clint Hurdle has would drive even the most sane manager crazy. The most troubling thing is that it didn’t have to be like this.
Yes, Nutting is not to blame for Jung-ho Kang not being allowed into the country because he ?s a reckless drunk. He ?s not to blame for Starling Marte getting popped for taking the same steroids that turned the Steelers into four time Super Bowl champs during the 70’s. What you can blame him for is the iron fist grip he has kept on his team ?s payroll, despite the obvious holes this team had even before these two were lost. He didn’t have to back up a Brinks truck for an All-Star or even a borderline one, all he needed to do was allow Huntington to add a few quality bench players. Instead, Pirate fans have been treated to the likes of Max Moroff, Jordan Luplow and Chris Bostick, who have no reason being on a major league roster, at least one that fancies themselves as a potential contender.
To be honest, I think Hurdle is one of the better managers in baseball. If he does decide to walk away from Pittsburgh, he will have no problem finding work as a manager or coach with another team. I don’t want him to go, but I know he has done all he can with this team. And if he accepts that extension from Nutting, he is going to have to put up with the same crap again. For a man that just hit 60, that type of stress is something any doctor would not recommend someone that age going through.
The saying goes ?if you love it set it free. ? I know how much Clint Hurdle loves this city and the way it has embraced him, but he needs to set himself free.