Andrew McCutchen is the Star. Clint Hurdle is the Director. That’s the Pittsburgh Pirates. If you can remember back to August 4, 2012, we think you were probably pissed. The night before McCutchen had been drilled by Cincinnatti Reds reliever Arodlis Chapman.
At that time, the buzz around the Zoltan-flashing Pittsburgh Pirates was at a fever pitch. The Bucs had acquired Wandy Rodrigurez, and in their own way, had attempted to improve the team, not to really ‘go for it’ in 2012, but to strengthen the club for the now and for the future.
The strategy was driven by the market. The Bucs brass reiterated it over and over again. Rental-only players cost a fortune we were told. And, surprisingly to some after the trade deadline, the trades seemed genius. Travis Snider was hitting better than any position player who was moved at the deadline. We’re sure there were high fives and standing ovations on Federal Street as the Bucs soared into double digits over .500. A pennant race with the Big Red Machine seemed inevitable. Playoff tickets were being designed and prepared for print.
Unfortunately, the Bucs got owned by the Reds in the first two games of the crucial series. Dusty Baker seriously out-coached Clint Hurdle. But A.J. Burnett was moved up a day and allowed the Pirates to avoid the sweep with a hit parade against the Reds. Burnett pushed his record to 3-0 on the season against the big dogs of the NL Central.
However, from about that point forward, the Pirates fell from the top of the charts. We get it. When the Nutting/Coonelly/Huntington regime is viewed ten years from now, the Cutch bean-ball incident will probably not even be mentioned. But right now, it’s something that we can’t ignore. The swagger that Clint Hurdle carried up to the beginning of August has vanished, replaced by a reactionary, almost defensive Clint Hurdle.
The only problem is, it’s getting tired. Yeah, people still love the witty one-liners, but in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world that RumBunter lives in, we want more. We realize our opinion isn’t popular. Bob Nutting loves Clint Hurdle. Dejan and the boys love Clint Hurdle. Dejan loves Bob Nutting. We don’t love Nutting. We don’t love Hurdle after that night. But, really, we’ve never loved Hurdle.
What has Hurdle done since getting the job? How did Hurdle deserve his extension?
The only thing we can guess is that Hurdle talked a good game. Maybe instead of accepting the extension, why not ask for some more talented players and put your money where your mouth is with Nutting ? We could envision it: “Get us these players and I can get you over the hump.”
But all that’s really complicated and ballsy… we’d just take the extension, too.
Hurdle’s teams have never been winners outside of his miraculous Colorado Rockies. But his Pirates team haven’t won. Yeah, Hurdle is a great guy–he’s phony funny. The bottom line is the Pirates need to start winning. The team faces a massive home stand against some of the best teams in the National League starting tonight.
Hurdle must be at the top of his game against Marty, Dusty and the Reds. Look–the skipper, who has watched his Pirates teams vanish on him when it counts the most, isn’t the problem.
We get it. But when he doesn’t dictate action, when he doesn’t control what he can control, he isn’t part of the solution either.
That can all change starting tonight.
Oh yeah, here is our open letter we wrote to Clint Hurdle last August that everyone hated. And by the way, we’re still waiting for the leadership, Clint.
Still waiting for you to pick the time when the Reds pay for what they did to the one star on your roster.
Still waiting for you to trust young, talented players and not “final-contract” veterans.
Still waiting for the penalties the team receives when a retaliation against the Reds does happen, because a few people talked about it–it was just that nobody actually, well, did anything.
Still waiting for a winner. Hate us all you want, but waiting sucks.
Waiting twenty years? That really sucks.
So, that’s all Pittsburgh Pirates fans got last night? What happened to “Pride, Passion, Pittsburgh Pirates?” We’ve listened to your passionate speeches for a couple of years now, and that’s what we got? Fans got to see you asking crew chief Brian Gorman “Why did you do that?”
What? Gorman threw you out, because you said too much.
Winners dictate. Winners dominate. Winners control their own destiny. You know all of these things. Hell, you preach ‘em every day.
The Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t dictate anything last night. Specifically, you didn’t dictate anything last night. It really was surprising to us.
You’re a man that says all the right things. You talk the talk. Hell, you were even very candid when you spoke to us in a RumBunter podcast at the start of the season.
As fans, we deserved more. In the interview we had with you, you made the point that Pittsburgh was a football and hockey city. Last night, we thought you were going to show us what an old-school baseball town was.
It never happened.
Right now, Pittsburgh certainly feels like a baseball city, and come Monday evening it will feel like that again, but a void will still be present among your players and some of your fans. Maybe too much was riding on the game in the Chili City last night.
It was prime time and the club was blacked out. You were blacked out, tossed, gone, sent to the showers. Unreal. The guy that is credited with turning baseball around in this town got tossed from the most meaningful series this franchise has had in twenty years.
What a shame.
Maybe the team knew what the plan was going in. If so, we understand the outcome. Just cue the jugglers.
When you spoke in the podcast, you said that the Pittsburgh school systems were off the chart. Obviously, that was important to your family when you made your decision to come to Pittsburgh. If you were to relate that to the ball diamond, isn’t old school baseball important too?
Many people like to point to the fact that you’ve had just one winning season as a manager in the bigs. That season was magical. People called you a player’s manager. So, what was up last night?
Andrew McCutchen is an MVP candidate. You have spoken glowingly about him. Hell, you actually predicted what McCutchen is doing right now. On a daily basis, your prophetic predictions are coming true.
So what happened last night? Why not defend Cutch early, and get it over with? Dictate. Dominate.
When we listened to the podcast again, we found something interesting you said that has great relevance to the game last night.
‘You don’t wait for leadership opportunities.’ Clint Hurdle
A Pirates team in the midst of a playoff run needed leadership last night. Leadership didn’t show. The Bucs are now five and a half games back of the NL Central leading Reds. The Reds are playing like the best team in baseball.
Nothing you did last night changed that fact.
Nothing you did dictated the action.
No wonder your MVP candidate was juggling baseballs on the bench. He struck out twice in an 0-for-night. Cutch hadn’t struck out twice in a game in two weeks, so that’s on him.
But last night was on you. As you said in the podcast, everyone is a better manager than you, so it’s really easy for us to write this and second guess your decision. We get it.
But look, it’s not like we are talking about Brian Giles or Jack Wilson anymore. Andrew McCutchen is a star. A star on and off the field. Good Lord, he’s the guy that first thought about having his Dad to pitch to him in the Home Run Derby. When that didn’t work out, he picked his Fort Meade High School Coach Jon Spradlin.
That’s the type of player we are talking about – a guy that thought of his high school coach when he was picked for the Home Run Derby… and you didn’t defend him immediately, Clint?
Is putting the lead base runner of the game that make or break? Wouldn’t it show JMac your utmost confidence in him, too?
We’re curious if you asked McCutchen what he thought about the situation. If Cutch said it’s not that big of a deal, okay… cool, we bet you probably thanked him for his opinion. But then you go out and still take care of business immediately.
Cutch is a guy tearing up this league; he gives you six wins over replacement. A superstar. He took a 101-mph fastball from the hardest throwing left handed pitcher in baseball. And you did nothing to respond to it. Nothing.
The face of the franchise was drilled. The franchise does nothing to defend him. To a nobody like me, that’s pretty jacked.
Sure Brian Gorman made a very questionable decision, but you know what? So did you.
Thank you for your passion,