In Pittsburgh Pirates Season From Hell, Clint Hurdle Stresses Being Positive


Clint Hurdle Pittsburgh Pirates skipper

The Pittsburgh Pirates season from hell just became even hotter.  Andrew McCutchen won’t be where he always is.  If the Pirates want to go to the promised land in 2014, they are going to have to win important ballgames without the face of the franchise.  So while many of us start to panic, skipper Clint Hurdle took a different approach with his morning email.  It stressed being positive.   It ended with the following:

"Wouldn’t it be incredible to work in a place that is built on being positive?  All it takes is commitment and effort…are you in?Have a great week-LET’S GO BUCS!"

Hurdle consistently talks about motivation.  ‘Being positive is contagious,’ the email said.

Clint Hurdle has had a challenging 2014 season.

Of course the underlying story is what the Pittsburgh Pirates told Pedro Alvarez on Sunday.  Alvarez will no longer be the starting third baseman.  So the big question is will this be the end of Alvarez in Pittsburgh?  If so, it would be another example of the inability of the ball club to develop offensive players.

In the case of El Toro it’s especially disappointing since Alvarez will be in black and gold until 2017 when he can become a free agent.  In five years, he has hit 101 homers while striking out 661 times.  Unfortunately this season it has been his defense that has landed him a spot on the pine.    (God we miss the defensive wizard Perry Hill, who will be in town with the Marlins the next few days.  If I were Alvarez, I would track down Hill and get his thoughts on the topic.)

Before Clint Hurdle came to Pittsburgh, Brandon Moss was once a Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder.   The 30-year old is now a star for the Oakland A’s.  His last season in Pittsburgh, Moss put up a .377 OPS.  After six plate appearances while in the Majors with Philadelphia in 2011, the A’s turned Moss into a slugger.  In his third season with Oakland, Moss has been a stud–belting 81 homers in 1235 plate appearances.

Casey McGehee has changed his approach with Miami and now is one of the top hit collectors in baseball.  While with the Pirates, McGehee spent a lot of time in skipper Hurdle’s office asking for playing time.  His wish never came true and the Bucs shipped him to the Yankees at the deadline and last season McGehee played ball in Japan.  Now with Miami, the one time slugger has 127 hits, but just two homers while driving in 59 teammates.  And lately, even those singles aren’t dropping in as the one time Cubs tenth round pick has struggled recently with Dr. Regression.

It’s easy to point to players that leave Pittsburgh and find success.  Jose Bautista always comes to mind.

But in this Pirates season from hell, the team moved relievers who were ineffective only to see the bullpen continue to struggle.  Meanwhile Jason Grilli and Bryan Morris have found their pitching skills after departing Federal Street.

Pedro Alvarez El Toro photoshop

But back to Pedro Alvarez.  The Pirates have asked a lot of Alvarez over the years.  The team told him he would be moving to first base years ago.  The team asked him to play winter ball.  The team asked him to cut down his swing.  The team asked… the team asked…

Sure, first round picks should expect to be asked a lot of things, but more importantly is the fact that the Bucs haven’t been able to elicit the production from Alvarez when they needed it most.  Now.  And back to that NOW thing….the Pirates need Alvarez NOW.  Right now.  And he is going to be on the bench while McCutchen is on the disabled list?

One could argue that no player on the Pirates roster could help more while Andrew McCutchen is out than Pedro Alvarez.  If Alvarez continues his defensive lapses, no player could hurt more either.  During a very important season, one that comes on the heels of breaking a 20 year stretch of epic futility, Alvarez has been disappointing.

After back-to-back 30 home run seasons too.

Maybe it’s the approach–El Toro has cut down on his strikeouts, has poked singles to left field, walked a bit more, even hit three homers to left field, but the power has vanished recently.   The Pedro Alvarez Home Run Tracker hasn’t been changed since Petey went yard off Mat Latos on July 11.

It’s likely that it will be a while until it changes again too.

In this Pirates season from hell, the Bucs are still right in the middle of a pennant race.  It could be Hurdle’s finest hour as manager of the club.  The Pirates have stacked wins despite Alvarez having an awful season thus far.  The Pirates have overcome injuries to Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole.  Neil Walker’s appendix giving up.  Russell Martin’s injury.  The list goes on an on.

For two people, staying positive will be very important as the Pirates attempt to bring home an unlikely pennant in a season of constant un-positive moments.

Pedro Alvarez will be on the bench tonight and Andrew McCutchen will be right beside him.

Aug 2, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) reacts after getting hit with a pitch in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports