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Clint Hurdle Rumors
The Pirates have announced that they've extended the contracts of general manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle for three years each through 2017, with club options for 2018. Huntington and Hurdle had both been under contract through 2014, with team options for 2015. With Huntington and Hurdle's deals done, the Pirates are currently working on contracts for assistant GMs and coaches, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets.
"Neal and Clint have led a team of baseball professionals, in the front office and on the field, that has transformed the Pittsburgh Pirates into a club that again must be reckoned with in the National League," says team president Frank Coonelly. "We are extremely pleased that they will continue to lead this team in Pittsburgh."
Prior to 2013, the Pirates had five straight losing seasons under Huntington and two straight under Hurdle, who was hired prior to the 2011 season. (Huntington inherited a poor big-league team and farm system upon taking the Pirates' GM job in 2007, so the losing in the first several seasons was not primarily his fault.) The team endured second-half collapses in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
In 2013, however, Huntington and Hurdle led the Pirates to their first winning season and playoff berth since 1992, as the team won 94 games and beat the Reds in the NL Wild Card game before falling to the Cardinals in the NLCS. Huntington's offseason acquisitions of Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano and Mark Melancon were crucial to the Pirates' success. Hurdle led a shift-heavy defensive strategy that was a key component of the Pirates' surprising season, and he took the 2013 National League Manager of the Year award for his efforts.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Pirates extended general manager Neal Huntington following the 2011 season and extended manager Clint Hurdle this week. Despite those moves, Huntington and Hurdle face pressure from above, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports. Owner Bob Nutting said the organization’s decision makers expect to win and that the franchise “must take a step forward."
"The idea that an extension is somehow a free pass is exactly the message I would not want to send, and not the message Clint heard,” Nutting said. “We've shown we're willing to make a change if we need to, irrespective of the contract terms."
Nutting said the Pirates aim to win the World Series, but declined to clarify what a step forward would look like in further detail. Ending the franchise’s 20-year streak of losing seasons isn’t a goal in itself and would be "an inappropriate target" in Nutting’s view.
The Pirates came close to ending their streak of losing seasons in 2012, but finished with a 79-83 record. Huntington added Russell Martin, Jeff Karstens, Jason Grilli, Francisco Liriano and Jonathan Sanchez this offseason.
The Pirates have officially extended the contract of manager Clint Hurdle through the 2014 season with an option for 2015, the team announced. Hurdle was entering the final season of his three-year deal with Pittsburgh.
“I feel privileged to have the opportunity to continue and finish what we started,” he said. “There’s no place I would rather be than in a Pirates uniform.”
Hurdle led the Pirates to a surprisingly hot start last season that peaked with a 64-54 mark in mid-August but the Bucs ultimately wound up with a 79-83 record. For his managerial career, Hurdle owns a 685–798 record, good for a .462 winning percentage.
Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first reported the agreement (on Twitter).
The Pirates fell below .500 when they lost to the Brewers last night, but that’s not why the team is making headlines today. Details surrounding some unusual player development practices have surfaced, generating surprise and criticism. Here are the details:
- Pirates prospects spent this past weekend in Florida performing military drills directed by former Navy SEALS, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. General manager Neal Huntington and assistant GM Kyle Stark implemented the program, which started at 5 am daily and included running along the beach with a telephone pole, flipping truck tires, and diving into sand piles. Earlier in the year Stark emailed his players, encouraging them to “Dream and be creative like a Hippie. Have the discipline and perseverance of a Boy Scout. Be crazy and take risks like the Hells Angels.”
- Kovacevic calls the Pirates' actions inexplicable and indefensible.
- Players dreaded the activities and team officials feared them, Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports. MLB executives expressed skepticism about the program’s effectiveness. "I didn't like it,” one person told Passan. “Nobody did. They don't know what they're doing."
- Top prospect Jameson Taillon once suffered a non-serious knee injury during the program’s hand-to-hand combat component, Passan reports.
- “Whispers are becoming louder” that Huntington’s job status isn’t completely secure, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. However, an ownership source told Heyman the Pirates’ upper management really seems to like manager Clint Hurdle.
The Brewers continue their push for the second NL Wild Card spot as they look to win their series against Mets this afternoon at Miller Park. However, they will have to do so without Corey Hart. Hart has been sidelined for the last six games since he partially tore the plantar fascia, the connective tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, in his left foot a week ago. Hart did running drills this morning, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, and all did not go well. Hart, who was able to run in a straight line but suffered discomfort when making stops and turns, said, "It’s a little frustrating. Today was the first day I tried to run the bases, and it didn’t go as planned.” Elsewhere from the NL Central:
- The Cardinals, currently tied with the Dodgers for the final NL Wild Card berth, may receive a boost from Chris Carpenter, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Carpenter threw a 90-pitch simulated game yesterday and manager Mike Matheny suggested only a poor recovery from the session could derail his return to the active roster sometime next week.
- In a separate piece, Strauss suggests the 2013 Cardinals will look remarkably similar to this year's version.
- The Pirates can blame their second-half swoon on their pitching, writes John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times. The Pirates have shaken up their rotation by replacing James McDonald with Kyle McPherson.
- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told reporters, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel, the team will not be going to a six-man rotation. Hurdle informed Jeff Karstens today management wants to see the right-hander work out of the bullpen before considering putting him back into the rotation.
Major League rosters can expand to 40 players beginning September 1st. Not everybody thinks it's such a great idea. Tigers manager Jim Leyland recently vented to reporters, including Jason Beck of MLB.com. "I've been really adamant about that, really a stickler on it," Leyland said. "When I have that meeting with the Commissioner [as part of the special committee for on-field matters], I talk about that all the time. Myself, if everybody went to 28, that wouldn't bother me at all. I think that's fine. That's just my feeling, but any manager who does a pretty good job of managing all year, and then at the biggest month of the year, he loses some of his ability to maneuver." Let's take a look at what the plans are for other clubs looking to maneuver over the season's final month.
- The Pirates are mulling their September call-ups with the post-season in mind, as they entered play today holding the second NL Wild Card spot and with Triple-A Indianapolis likely playoff-bound. General Manager Neal Huntington told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Where we go from there … it’s a delicate balance. I’ve been with another organization where we raided the Triple-A team as it was headed to the post-season. The guys came up and didn’t play very much, and that didn’t go over very well on many fronts." At least one left-handed reliever and another catcher will be added when rosters expand, writes Biertempfel.
- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle adds another consideration when deciding upon September call-ups: cost. In Biertempfel's piece, Hurdle pointed out, "In my rookie year, if you got a call-up, you made $5,000 or $6,000 (in September). Now you’re talking about making $75,000. So if you call up 10 guys, you’re picking up $750,000 in salary and everything that goes with it.”
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter has acknowledged the team's September call-ups will be affected by the team's playoff chase. Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com lists possible players, both on the disabled list and at Triple-A, who could join the O's when the rosters expand.
- The Padres may not have the roster space to bring Jedd Gyorko up in September, according to John Maffei of the North County Times. The Padres already have 49 players on their 40-man roster (nine are on the 60-day disabled list) and may not want to start Gyorko's service clock just for a September sneak peak, writes Maffei. Since Gyorko has less than three full seasons in pro ball, the Padres don't have to add him to the 40-man roster next season.
- Lucas Duda will probably have to wait until September 1st to rejoin the Mets because the team wants to take a longer look at Mike Baxter, tweets the New York Post's Mike Puma.
- The Nationals have several candidates for September call-ups including pitcher John Lannan and 2011 first-round draft pick Anthony Rendon, writes MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
As we hope for Wilson and Cain rather than clouds and rain in San Francisco tonight, here are a few news items…
- In an appearance on WEEI's The Big Show this afternoon, Peter Gammons predicted that Cliff Lee will re-sign with Texas and Victor Martinez will sign a four- or five-year contract with Detroit since "I don't think anyone else is going to give him four or five years." Gammons also reiterated that the Red Sox have a big interest in Carl Crawford this winter. WEEI's Kirk Minihane has a partial transcript here.
- The Braves have signed Beau Torbert to a minor league contract, according to the Sioux Falls Fighting Pheasants, Torbert's American Association team. Torbert, a 17th-round pick of the Astros in 2004, was Baseball America's Independent Player Of The Year for 2010.
- The Pirates haven't interviewed a managerial candidate in two weeks, but FOXSports.com's Tracy Ringolsby believes the Bucs are waiting to speak to Clint Hurdle, who is "a serious consideration" for the job. Pittsburgh has to wait until the World Series is over to interview Hurdle, the former Rockies manager and current Rangers hitting coach.
- The Marlins hope to settle on a manager by next week, tweets Newsday's Ken Davidoff. Edwin Rodriguez is "still in the mix" according to Davidoff, which coincides with news earlier this week that the Fish were "leaning toward" keeping their current manager.
- Pedro Martinez is "looking for motivation to come back," tweets Enrique Rojas of ESPN. Martinez is training with the Dominican League's Licey Tigers, whose pitching coach is Pedro's brother (and former major league pitcher) Ramon.
- Andy MacPhail tells MASN.com's Steve Melewski that the Orioles aren't likely to re-sign any of their pending free agents before the deadline.
- Tom Gage of the Detroit News implies that Jim Thome could be the Tigers' backup plan if the team fails to sign any bigger-name free agents.
- We had heard that John Gibbons wasn't a managerial candidate in New York, but Jack Curry of the YES Network reports that the Mets have already contacted other teams for infomation about the Royals bench coach. Curry says the Mets haven't contacted Gibbons himself, but will probably do so once Sandy Alderson officially takes over as GM. (All Twitter links)
- Hoping your team can unload a bad contract this winter, or at least trade one for another team's problem? ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin has a rundown of each team's most unwieldly financial commitments.
Here are some afternoon tidbits:
- The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro, in his latest piece, reiterates that Brandon Webb only wants to discuss his 2010 option. The Diamondbacks are hoping to add a 2011 option to the deal. Webb, however, hopes a healthy 2010 will increase his 2011 value.
- Dave Cameron at Fangraphs breaks down Bobby Abreu's value, and concludes that a two-year, $16MM offer from the Angels is a fair one.
- Both Bobby Valentine and Clint Hurdle refused to comment on Cleveland's managerial search, adding to speculation that both are being considered for the job.
- The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck thinks that Bob Melvin should be Baltimore's next bench coach.