Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hurdle's worth to Bucs invaluable

PITTSBURGH -- Only once since the Baseball Writers Association of America began its Manager of the Year awards in 1983 has there been a repeat winner.
Bobby Cox won the National League award in 2004 and 2005. Cox was worthy of any and all accolades during his many years with the Braves and received the ultimate honor in July when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It’s time for a second manager to join Cox as a back-to-back winner, and that is the Pirates’ Clint Hurdle.
Granted, there is a bias in watching Hurdle manage more often than others in his fraternity, but it’s hard to believe anyone in the NL maneuvered their team around more potholes this season than the Pirates’ skipper.
Just look at some of the, um, hurdles the Pirates overcame this year to make the postseason for the second straight year following 20 straight losing seasons.
Closer Jason Grilli melted down and was traded to the Angels in June. Fourth starter Wandy Rodriguez didn’t make it to Memorial Day before being released. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez developed throwing yips and had to be moved to first base. Right fielder Gregory Polanco didn’t live up expectations after being called up from Class AAA Indianapolis.
Then there were all in the injuries. Center fielder and reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen spent time on the disabled list. Alvarez, left-hander Francisco Liriano, right-hander Gerrit Cole, catcher Russell Martin, second baseman Neil Walker and left fielder Starling Marte joined him.
Yet Hurdle held it all together with his positive attitude that reassured his team that everything would be fine and provided confidence to those players who had to step in to fill various voids.
“I’ve been in situations where you can tell you just aren’t good enough,” Hurdle said. “That thought never crossed my mind this year. The beauty of it is that, on paper, there probably are a lot of teams that look better than us. But I continue to remind these guys that we don’t play on paper. We get to go play on grass. That’s what we do well. We’re a good team.”
One of the hardest things to do in baseball is determining a manager’s worth. Not in this case, though. Hurdle has meant everything to the Pirates.

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