After two consecutive seasons of disappointment and minimal playoff contention, Pittsburgh Pirates manager and general manager Clint Hurdle and Neal Huntington are being placed under significant fire after the team’s struggles throughout 2016 and 2017.
Both signed four-year contract extensions at the beginning of September that run through the 2021 season, as noted by Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
This has only brought about more turmoil and tension amongst the Pirates’ fanbase.
Clint Hurdle and Neal Huntington have no reason to lose their respective jobs.
Hurdle, who was hired by the team after the 2010 season, had to fill the role of transforming a team that won just 57 games in 2010. His only prior managerial career came in Denver. He took Colorado to the World Series in 2007, but did not have a winning record in any other season.
Baseball Reference notes that since the start of the 2011 season, Hurdle’s first in Pittsburgh, the Pirates have a .514 winning percentage (as of September 19, 2017), which includes the second best record in 2015. From 2013-2016, only the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals won more games than Hurdle’s squad.
Huntington, who the team hired after the 2007 season, has a revered reputation around Major League Baseball for constructing a team with minimal non-draft resources.
However, after the team broke its notorious streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons in 2013, expectations began to grow for the team. In 2014 and 2015, they were able to reach the postseason, but could not surpass the National League Wild Card Game.
Criticism directed towards Hurdle stems largely from the fact of his lack of skill in terms of in-game management. He is known for his strange use of the double-switch, use of pinch-hitters in rather unnecessary times, and overuse of the bullpen.
As for Huntington, he is a scapegoat for being a key component of a team that has gone from a top-five team to a team poised to head towards the league’s basement in a span of just two years.
Huntington, in all fairness, does deserve some criticism. In less than two years, he has let bunches of talent and veteran experience walk out the clubhouse doors via trade, free agency, or waiver claim.
These include players and pitchers such as Pedro Alvarez, Keon Broxton, J.A. Happ, Jared Hughes, Matt Joyce, Mark Melancon, Juan Nicasio, Tony Watson and Neil Walker, along with handfuls of other depth pieces. This is all talent that could have been retained in some form.
Huntington has also struggled to return considerable talent. In that same time-frame, he has acquired some nice pieces such as George Kontos, Ivan Nova and Felipe Rivero, but has dropped the ball with poor underachieving acquisitions such as Daniel Hudson and John Jaso
Any fan that shows loyalty to the Pirates fanbase knows that Huntington and Hurdle are merely puppets to the frivolous owner, Bob Nutting. Many know how cheap Nutting is and how reluctant he is to spend the money required to take the next steps in the path to winning a championship.
If a fan is angered with the team and does not feel it right to attend games at PNC Park in the near future then so be it.
There is no reason for two men who are the key factors in the renaissance of Pittsburgh baseball to be having their heads called for.
Appreciate the situation in Pittsburgh, because it could be a lot worse.