Clint Hurdle hasn't managed a game for the Pittsburgh Pirates and he is already making a positive impression on Pirates fans.

Video: The Real Clint Hurdle Shines Through


One of the first things said by Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was he will focus on during his tenure as skipper will be caring for his players. It sounds simple enough.   It sounds like the right thing to say.  We heard the phrase used often when we were in the military, only to rarely see it backed up by our leaders.  But as it relates to Hurdle and the Bucs, we didn’t think much of it until we witnessed Hurdle in action.

Hurdle and Pirates Bench Coach Jeff Banister were conducting a hitting clinic for youngsters at PirateFest 2011. One fan (wearing the yellow Pirates hat in the video) was asking Hurdle a question while his young son Alex was having a blast running all over the field where Hurdle and Banister stood. Hurdle sprung into action.  He looked Alex’s father square in the eye and said:

“Sir, I have a special needs child.  May I?”

What Hurdle does next is very cool and very natural for the former Sports Illustrated cover boy:

So how did win starved Pirates fans get the positive and energetic Hurdle as skipper of their club?  A pinpoint answer to that question is unclear, but there does seem to be a lot of opinions when we speak with our friends who are Rockies fans.   Some interesting things happened while Hurdle managed in Colorado. 

A town that seemed to have a love affair with baseball vanished.  While Dan O’Dowd was the Colorado GM, the Rockies’ attendance dropped from tops in the league for such a long time to being ranked near the basement.   Poor attendance typically translates to little money to invest to improve the roster. 

Could Hurdle have a reverse effect for Pittsburgh?  Could the fan base grow as Hurdle finds success with his young Pirates team?  Hurdle called the Pirates job the greatest in sports.  It certainly will be a challenging one.

Some argue that O’Dowd was handcuffed by the ownership of the Monforts, which is a similar argument brought up by the city of Pittsburgh regarding the Nuttings.   After many rumors it appears Bob Nutting is here to stay, so let’s trust Hurdle isn’t handcuffed by the Pirates.

The Rockies generally had a poor team for Hurdle to manage.  The wins were hard to come by and when the team failed to follow up on its success, Hurdle was shown the door.   If it’s all true, it certainly isn’t anything new.  It’s not uncommon in MLB for the Manager of the team to be the fall guy for a weak front office constrained by penny-wise owners.    In Pittsburgh, Hurdle will have a very young team with a core of talented players, his task–teaching them to win–is as old as the Pirates baseball club itself.  But over one hundred years later, it’s still no less challenging–especially in Pittsburgh right now.

Some reports mentioned that some of the Rockies players didn’t care for Hurdle.  Maybe that’s another reason Hurdle was fired.

But from our vantage point, it certainly appears that Hurdle cares.  He stood behind numerous players this weekend with positive quotes being uttered every time he had a microphone in his hands and even when he was simply talking to fans. 

But Clint Hurdle cares for more than just his players, it’s damn obvious he cares for fans too.

Just ask Alex.

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  • Nutting Hostage

    “The Rockies generally had a poor team for Hurdle to manage. The wins were hard to come by and when the team failed to follow up on its success, Hurdle was shown the door.”

    Why do your comments fail to mention that Hurdle was replaced by Jim Tracy, the manager Neal Huntington fired upon his arrival in Pittsburgh and that under Tracy, that “poor” team for which Hurdle took the fall finished the remainer of the 2009 season 74-42, won the NL Wild Card, and made the playoffs?

    Hopefully Hurdle will be successful in Pittsburgh, but let’s not distort, embellish, or ignore factual history.

    • http://rumbunter.com Tom Smith

      Nutting Hostage! I appreciate your comments. Your passion for the Pirates is legendary. Here is my response to you:
      1. Because my knee freaking aches like a banshee and I was bored with writing about the Rockies and was going to be late for rehab. I didn’t intend to embelish or distort anything. I have no agenda NH.
      2. Because it’s my site. I’m not a very good reporter and never will be.
      3. Because Hurdle didn’t manage that club to the playoffs, Tracy did. Recheck the title and you will see the article is about Hurdle not Jim Tracy.
      4. I never use the word hope. It’s a weak word. The odds of Hurdle performing a turnaround in Pittsburgh are monumental.
      5. Now the turnaround you write about that Tracy performed has been well documented. Perhaps it was done best in this L.A. Times article:

      http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jun/24/sports/sp-jim-tracy-rockies24

      Rockies give credit to Jim Tracy
      BASEBALLThey say the manager, who took over in May for the fired Clint Hurdle, is a big reason for the team’s turnabout.
      June 24, 2009|Bill Brink

      That the Colorado Rockies are on a big roll, at this juncture, cannot be questioned. But the question is, how?

      Did firing manager Clint Hurdle and replacing him with bench coach Jim Tracy really spark that much of a turnaround? Or was the clubhouse in such a funk that a change, any change, would have been positive?

      Some suggest the answer is this: Guilt.

      “We know we messed up, we basically got Hurdle fired, and we have to turn this thing around,” shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. “Otherwise players will start losing their jobs.”

  • Nutting Hostage

    Thanks for the reply Tom. You run a very entertaining site, however I felt some of the wording in the Hurdle article was a little mis-leading. To state that Hurdle was provided with poor teams in Colorado and was eventually shown the door but neglecting to point out that after his dismissal the team he was managing rallied to make the playoffs, under a manager who the Pirates had actually cast off, is, well mis-leading.

    I like Hurdle better than the previous two Pirate managers (Tracy & Russell) as well and wish him all the success in the world, however by the same token I do have questions around why he did so poorly with the Rockies in early 2009 and Jim Tracy of all people was able to turn them around.

    To me that is a very fair and legitimate question and I am surprised that someone as knowledgeable as you would skip over it entirely.

    Other than that, keep up the good work. Your site is one of the more creative and entertaining sites around.

    Sincerely,

    Nutting Hostage