Dunlap: Hurdle The Safe Play For Pirates

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Truth is, I would have been shocked if Clint Hurdle — as was first reported by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Monday — didn’t get offered and agree to a contract extension from the Pirates.

He’s done enough, he resurrected baseball in this town (along with Andrew McCutchen and a few others) and Hurdle deserves a lifeline for a little while longer — so inking a deal that will keep him as Pirates manager through the 2021 season seems logical.

It is the safe play, it is the prudent and judicious play.

Would it have been my play? I don’t know. I might have leaned toward picking up the option year for Hurdle and making him manage with a bit of pressure for the 2018 season and then evaluating him thereafter. But, again, I’ve got no problems with the extension. The man earned it.

What did come as a surprise, however, is that Hurdle took it.

Perhaps it is just me, but in the last few months there seems to have been an increasingly cantankerous feel around Hurdle.

In the pregame press conferences. In the postgame press gatherings. Just all the time. It seemed a far cry from when the man first arrived here in Pittsburgh, burst down your door with positivity and then spread even more positivity once he entered your house. Then he wouldn’t leave all night, keeping on with the positivity.

But, hey, maybe it was just the losing that got to Hurdle recently.

Or maybe it was a couple of his star players — Starling Marte and Jung Ho Kang — doing selfish things off the field to greatly impact the on-field chances of this club.

Or maybe it was the inactivity of the club in acquiring some people who could truly help them both last offseason and at various stretches leading up to the trade deadline this season when they were still very much in the National League Central race.

Or, maybe it was all of that jumbled into one big ball of miserableness.

Whatever it is (or was), I truly hope Clint Hurdle has a great time as he moves forward managing the Pittsburgh Pirates because, I know this to be fact, he’s a fine man. He’s a gentleman who truly cares about people — and at the core, there probably isn’t a finer quality a person can have.

In terms of a manager, especially the in-game, tactical stuff, I think the jury might still be out with Hurdle here in town. There is no question the man has mastered motivation and can force an impetus within players to achieve at a very high level, but I think if there is one drawback it is that Pirates fans want to see Hurdle outmanage the other guys (namely Maddon and Matheny) in the National League Central once in awhile.

Does he need to find a better second-in-command to do that? I don’t know.

Will Tom Prince grow into that man who has confidence aiding Hurdle much the way Jeff Banister did? That is the hope here and something that I strictly believe has the possibility of happening, making Hurdle a better manager than the record has shown the past two seasons.

Will the upper reaches of management go out and grab some players who can assist in making this thing better? One wonders if Hurdle would have signed back had he not been given assurance of as much.

With Clint Hurdle and the Pirates, I see a lot of similarities with the Marvin Lewis situation in Cincinnati. Both have over a .500 record with their current team and have taken them to the postseason — albeit haven’t had much success in the playoffs.

Both are very likeable men who seem to have the respect of their team and are appreciated by the city they coach in for their body of work.

With both Lewis and Hurdle, it kind of can be summed up with this for me: Could the franchises do worse in terms of a coach? For sure, absolutely, no doubt.

Could the franchises do better? Maybe. If they were to take a risk, let go of the man entrenched there and bring someone else in. However, the risk in finding out and taking that gamble simply isn’t worth it.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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