With Opening Day less than 2 weeks away, we open our blog season with a look at this year’s Buccos, starting with first-year skipper, Clint Hurdle.
“I’m proud to be a Pirate, and we’re not going to back down from anybody”, Hurdle said after being hired last November. He knows what he is up against, what the organization is going through, and that he isn’t the first man to promise a turnaround for the club given the young talent he has to work with. He’s the sixth manager since 1993, but what makes Hurdle different is he is bringing a “do-whatever-it-takes” mentality that some of predecessors, including the most recent, may have been lacking. The 53 year old Hurdle brings an upbeat attitude and a certain enthusiasm that players can relate to as opposed to the laid back personality of John Russell who was reluctant to leave the dugout and defend his players on close calls or even for a spark of momentum. Manager of the Rockies from 2002-2009, Hurdle knows what it is like to work with young talent and turn it into a promising season, winning the NL Pennant in 2007 before being swept by the Boston Red Sox in the Fall Classic. Last season, he was the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers who had one of the most productive offenses in Major League Baseball and were also Pennant winners.
I think it’s fair to say that for Hurdle to do worse than John Russell is near impossible. After 3 seasons under JR the Pirates have lost 299 games, including 105 last season, (the worst season in 58 years). Granted that JR lost almost every one of his productive lineup- regualrs, and Hurdle is being brought in at a time where much of the young talent that the organization has invested in is beginning to blossom or take their first steps into blossoming into every day major league ballplayers. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. The top priority to turning around the fortune of the Pirates is to improve the near laughable pitching staff, that produced a major league worst 5.00 ERA last season.