Colin Dunlap: Hurdle Calls Marte Out Publicly (And I Like It)
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Falling in line with the way Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle normally does things, this was anything but typical.
If there’s one thing that’s been communicated — loud and clear — since Hurdle took over the Pirates in November of 2010, it is this: Hurdle abhors communicating thoughts about, or private conversations that he’s had with, his players through the media.
So, it isn’t an overstatement to call his words the past few days about left fielder Starling Marte stunning.
“He has a desire to be great,” Hurdle said of Marte. “By no means is he trying to cool-breeze things.”
And then the hammer came from Hurdle — through the media — at the 25-year-old Marte.
“This was a week of frustration for me with you,” Hurdle said, recounting to reporters what he said to his left fielder. “What we’re going to do, from now on, is we’re going to move forward. And these things, right now, if you’re not focused on them, you’re going to have to come sit with me for awhile and watch for awhile.”
Don’t try to read into that too much; it was exactly what you thought it was.
This was, make no mistake, a threat to bench a guy who this past Spring Training signed a six-year contract extension worth $31 million.
Good for Clint Hurdle.
Good for him speaking up so strongly.
Good for him for going against what is his normal M.O.
Such a statement was what Hurdle needed to do and, more important what Marte needed to hear to, in some ways, be embarrassed into getting his act together.
You see, Clint Hurdle is a manager who, most often, would dish out some answer to the media about the conversation being “private.” Or, relay to reporters that meetings between he and Marte were to remain between those two parties.
Or, perhaps most often, not even give an indication that such a conversation happened.
But not this time.
This time he put Marte on a blast.
In recent days, Marte has sauntered into an out at second base when he believed a ball four had been called. To upstage that one, Marte collided with center fielder Andrew McCutchen and knocked the ball free from McCutchen’s glove on a ball the center fielder clearly called for.
And, to complete the less-than-paying-full-attention triumvirate, Marte got picked off at second on a missed bunt attempt.
All this has ticked Hurdle off.
It is one thing to not produce as of late, which Marte hasn’t been doing — he was hitting .139 with nine strikeouts in his last 10 games heading into Monday night’s game at San Diego.
However, it is quite another to parlay that with having mental lapses. The former happens; the latter cannot be tolerated.
“His heart’s in it and he wants to make a difference,” Hurdle said. “Not a bad kid and I don’t think it’s attitude … it’s just that everybody needs a little kick now and then.”
Such a kick might work. Such a kick might not.
But Hurdle needs to be applauded here for not just giving that kick, but for giving an extra one to Marte by telling everyone about it.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.