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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is the unending optimist.
And there is no time filled with more eternal optimism than Spring Training. You know, the “everyone has a chance” and “hope springs eternal” and “teams don’t win games on paper” sort of stuff that we hear coming out of Florida and Arizona this time of year — happens every single year from a bunch of different places and, to be sure, there is some truth in it.
However, what Hurdle said to the assembled media on Wednesday in Bradenton felt like it missed the mark just a little bit.
“I’m fortunate to have been here seven years; I know the organization, I know the players, I know the city, I know the fanbase and I’m humbled to be a part of it,” Hurdle said before dropping the hammer. “The place is going to explode when we win it all. The place is going to explode.”
OK. Slow it down a bit, Clint. Pump those brakes. Scale back a few mph, my man.
This is an organization that has slid from 98 wins in 2015 to one that won 78 games the next season and then 75 games in 2017.
This is an organization — although loathe to admit — in the midst of a decently-healthy rebuild wherein a bunch of young and not-too-experienced guys will have to fill key roles.
This is an organization with a fanbase still reeling from the reality that two of their favorite — and best — players were shuttled away in the offseason as both Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole not play farther to the West.
This is also a fanbase that is, fairly or unfairly, looking for any reason to criticize any member of Pirates management for just about anything these days, particularly something they view as disingenuous words.
And that’s why Hurdle’s message missed the mark here. That’s why so many are critical of what he said and taken a bit aback by him talking championship right now — it is because he didn’t need to go there.
You see, we get it. We know in this town that Clint Hurdle lists right there in Steel City history with Fred Rogers on the optimism continuum. Hurdle can take even the darkest and worst situations and find a way, somehow, to spin them into a bright spot and positive. He’s the kind of guy who can normally sell ice at the Artic Circle.
At this time, though, he should have said something akin to “we have a young, hard-working bunch that I’m excited to see meet the demands of this challenge.” Or he could have fired off something like “some of these men will get bigger opportunities than they have had in the past and I’m excited to see them be up to the task because, well, I think they are.”
Something like that would have been sufficient. Be more vague. Something like that would have stayed in line with Hurdle’s positivity yet also provided a realistic snapshot into what this team can do.
Quite simply, no one in Pittsburgh wants to hear people in the top reaches of Pirates management talking about championships right now. They just don’t. It was wrong time, wrong place, wrong message and — most of all — to the wrong people. The fanbase isn’t buying what he was selling right now.
Clint Hurdle meant well in what he said (and he forever has a utopian view on things) but he should have dialed it back a little bit.