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Pirates

Colin Dunlap: Hurdle Extension Well Deserved

Clint Hurdle

(Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

dunlap-head-shot Colin Dunlap
Weeknights, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Colin grew up in Sharpsburg and...
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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Clint Hurdle deserves this.

He hasn’t won a championship. Heck, he hasn’t even won more games than he’s lost in each of his first two seasons as Pirates manager.

Hurdle has done so much more — he’s changed a culture.

OK, if you want to compromise, if you think that previous sentence is too strong, Hurdle is “in the process of changing a culture” — I’ll go with that, but I won’t bend any further. In short, things are different now.

Late Monday morning it was reported by Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune Review that Hurdle, preparing to command the Pirates for his third season, will receive a contract extension through the 2014 season with an option for 2015.

Good.

Great, actually.

Listen to Clint Hurdle’s comments from Monday:

Hurdle was going to be a lame duck manager going into this 2013 season and didn’t deserve as much. He deserved the security; he deserved the backing of ownership as the unabashed commander moving ahead for at least a few seasons.

Go ahead and look at the 151-173 record over his first two seasons if you like.

Or, if you truly want to side with the glass-half-empty portion of the populace, you can twist your focus onto the pair of second-half collapses that have happened under Hurdle’s command at the tail-end of the Pirates’ past two seasons.

Certainly, there aren’t a whole lot of positive ways to spin last season’s peak of 16-games over .500 to a fall down the mountain at what eventually ended in at 79-83 and fourth place in the National League Central.

If that’s your focus, that’s your emphasis, that’s what you extract most from the 2012 season, cool.

Feel free to do so; such is your right.

From this vantage, here is the focus for me: The Pirates have increased their win total from 57 in 2010 to 72 in 2011 and upped that mark to 79 last season.
It doesn’t take Archimedes to figure out that the Pirates had 22 more wins last season than the club did in 2010, the final year of the John Russell era, a man whose excitement level matched that of a broken down, 1978 station wagon.

Even with those collapses, those second-half breakdowns, the Pirates are, indeed, still headed in the right direction on the field under Hurdle.
But there’s more to it, much more to it. The Pirates realized 2,091,918 through the turnstiles at PNC Park last season, an average home crowd of 26,148. It was the first time the Pirates surpassed 2 million fans since the debut season of PNC Park in 2001.

In 2011, the Pirates enticed 1,940,429 people out to PNC Park, up from just over 1.6 million the club was able to lure to PNC in Russell’s final season.

That’s quantification, that’s real, those are hard numbers — more people are heading to the ballpark to see this team under Hurdle, so much cannot be argued.
And more eyes are watching on their recliners, as well.

The Pirates carried a 6.52 average for telecasts on Root Sports last season, a gain of 32.3 percent from 2011. Or, one can look at it this way: In terms of local television ratings, only the Detroit Tigers (9.13), Cincinnati Reds (8.64) and St. Louis Cardinals (8.68) had higher local TV numbers than the Pirates did last season.

That’s astonishing, it truly is.

That’s all the quantified stuff, all the components one can enumerate.

But, also, think about this — something we all can’t calculate: Think back to the middle of the 2012 season, when the Pirates were riding high. Or, heck, even think through all of Hurdle’s tenure to this point as Pirates manager, which might be a fairer barometer.

The simple question is this: Is the buzz greater around this franchise than what it has been in the recent past?

And, isn’t Clint Hurdle a decent-sized portion on why there’s that buzz?

The truthful answers to both those questions are a resounding, “yes.”

Certainly, there’s no denying the Andrew McCutchen factor. Indeed, the possibility of A.J. Burnett tossing a gem, Pedro Alvarez hitting one into the Allegheny or Neil Walker doing something spectacular has pulled you into this band of Buccaneers.

There’s no denying as much.

There’s also no denying all that Hurdle has done.

And he deserves this contract extension as a result.

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