Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

My Growing Appreciation for Clint Hurdle

#hurdled. It is a running joke on twitter among fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates during baseball season. Anytime manager Clint Hurdle makes a suspect tactical move during a game the #hurdled hash tag rears its head. Criticizing a coach or manager is practically a birthright of any fan. Clint Hurdle has one of the more unfortunate names and is leading a team that just had an historic streak of 20 straight losing seasons. So there was no way Hurdle was ever going to escape criticism. No manager can, especially not one in Pittsburgh. I’m also often critical of Hurdle’s in game management. For a guy that says he is a big proponent of data and sabermetric analysis he still makes a lot of terrible old school managerial decisions. But this post isn’t about to become a bash Clint Hurdle piece. Nor will it be about managers calling sacrifice bunts too often or being too slow to adopt changes for lineup optimization and bullpen usage. The subject of this post will concern the human element of management and how few managers in the game have mastered it as well as Clint Hurdle. This post is by my growing appreciation for Clint Hurdle, and why I feel he is the perfect manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
 
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review posted an article this weekend that chronicled the development of Gregory Polanco from a 16 year old in the Dominican Republic with a small signing bonus to one of the brightest prospects in the game. The most interesting thing I learned from the article was Clint Hurdle’s involvement. According to Sawchik, Hurdle takes a few days each spring to check out the prospects at the minor league camp. During Spring Training in 2012 Hurdle plucked Polanco from the minor league camp and gave him a cameo in a Grapefruit League game with the major league squad. He had not yet appeared on any of the lists of top 100 prospects. He was a 20 year old kid that hadn’t yet broken out as a prospect. Few scouts had him on their radar. The previous season he hit just .237 in the Gulf Coast League. Up to that point in his career Polanco had never played in front of a real crowd. The Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League are sparsely attended events on fields surrounded with chain link fence. They are nothing like what you envision when you think of a professional baseball field. Imagine how excited Polanco was to be given a chance to play in front of a crowd of thousands on the same field with major league baseball players. Imagine how grateful he was to Clint Hurdle to be given an opportunity like that.
 
It is stories like this that make you realize how perfect Clint Hurdle is for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Clint Hurdle gets it. He knows how important it is for a small market team like the Pirates to have a strong minor league farm system that continues to develop talent. Most MLB managers don’t pay much attention to what goes on down on the farm. They certainly aren’t taking extra time to help cultivate players in low A Ball. Hurdle doesn’t run from the small market label of the Pirates. He embraces it. But the thing is, Clint Hurdle isn’t just doing this to help the team succeed. He does it because he genuinely cares about people. His players know this. They trust him. They seek him out for guidance. It is nothing you can see in the bottom of the 8th inning of a tie game in the middle of a playoff race. It is way more important than that. It is what makes Hurdle a great leader of men. Clint Hurdle gets it. He knows what makes his players tick. He knows what makes people tick. It is the reason I’ve come to love Clint Hurdle. Even if he does waste too many outs sacrificing.
 

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