Clint Hurdle Should Be Looking Over His Shoulder
Over the past several years, it seems as if the Pittsburgh Pirates are known as the team that is always “in the hunt.” Indeed, the Pirates have made a playoff appearance in 2013, 2014 and 2015 as a wild card entry. Unfortunately for the team each of those three wild card entries resulted in the Pirates never being able to “get over the hump.” As the 2016 season started, everyone knew that the Cubs would be good, but there were some who also expected the Pirates to be playoff contenders. The Pirates finished the season 78-83, with their first losing season since 2012. Not only did the Pirates not run away with an NL Wild Card Spot this year, but they did not even guarantee a winning season.
Each year there are articles on the web and conversations among baseball analysts about managers on the “hot seat.” This year, I really have a strong feeling that Clint Hurdle may not be retained as skipper of the Pirates. Clint is a solid baseball veteran with over 1000 wins as a major league manager with two teams in addition to his time spent in the minors as a manager after his playing career was over. While he did make appearances in the major leagues in ten different seasons, he has made more of a mark by becoming a manager in the minors and then going on to hold other coaching positions in the majors before he got to his current post with the Pirates. Clint is definitely a respected baseball man for sure, but after the Pirates team has never quite made it to the ultimate pinnacle under his reign, I feel like upper management might want to move in a new direction.
Clint has a guaranteed contract through the 2017 season and also a club option for 2018. A contract does not necessarily mean much when it comes to how long a manager is kept around though.
The more I think about the positively talented pieces the Pirates have, such as Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli, Starling Marte and Sean Rodriguez, along with others such as Josh Bell, David Freese and Matt Joyce, the Pirates team should be achieving more. They also have some positive up and comers in their starting rotation and a seemingly bright hope for the future. While some may wonder if Clint gets to see the fruition of these players getting to the ultimate pinnacle, I just do not see it happening. I feel like the ownership and upper management group may decide that there has not been enough success based on the roster that is out there and it is time to move on.
Of course with a managerial firing, the biggest question is “Who takes over now?” First Base Coach Nick Leyva has managerial experience in the big leagues, but it was eons ago as a manager with the Philadelphia Phillies, which he started doing in 1989 before he got fired in 1991. He does not seem like a choice the team would make, but he could have an interview.
Other than Leyva, it is a bit unclear who the Pirates would look at to replace Hurdle. Current Pirate Pitching Coach Ray Searage is a very respected pitching coach around all of baseball, and he could be considered.
It is not unheard of for a Major League Pitching coach to become a Major League Manager. Bryan Price was a Pitching Coach before he managed the Reds, and Bud Black was a pitching coach with the Angels before he managed the Padres. Bud Black would surely like to get into managing again, so maybe he would consider a Pirates opening as well.
As i think about the Pirates' future, my ultimate belief is that the Pirates will decide it is time to move on from Clint Hurdle. With the NL Central shaping up to be very competitive again for the 2017 season, the Pirates may decide it is time to go in another direction. Other men from within the Pirates organization as well as others from outside the club could emerge as new managerial candidates. Clint Hurdle’s time as a respected baseball man will not be forgotten, but he may not be the guy to lead the Pirates “ship” moving forward.