‘Collective shortcoming’ led Pirates to part ways with manager Clint Hurdle
Clint Hurdle announced his arrival to the Pittsburgh Pirates with charm, charisma and his intention to reconnect the city to its major-league baseball club amid a two-decade losing streak.
The Pirates announced with a news release Sunday that Hurdle had been fired as manager, shortly after he said he needed to “win more games” and “sell more tickets.” It was about 90 minutes before the season finale at PNC Park.
Pirates announce the Club and Clint Hurdle part ways. pic.twitter.com/TeUvUD3LK0
— Pirates (@Pirates) September 29, 2019
Tom Prince served as interim manager against the Cincinnati Reds.
Hurdle had a 735-720 record (.505 winning percentage) in nine seasons as Pirates manager, ending the drought of losing campaigns with a 94-win season in 2013 that was the first of three consecutive second-place finishes in the NL Central and wild-card playoff berths. He had two years remaining on his contract.
“Clint’s tenure here should be celebrated,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “He was the absolute right man at the right time. He walked in the door to a very tough situation, and he’s the manager who helped lead this major-league team to a winning season for the first time in 20 years, to three consecutive (wild-card) berths.
“Unfortunately, we’ve fallen short these last couple of years. I need to continue to emphasize that this is a collective shortcoming.”
The Pirates have missed the playoffs three consecutive years, following an 82-win mark in 2018 by finishing this season 69-93. They allowed 10 or more runs in 31 games.
They were 44-45 at the All-Star break, only 21/2 games out of first place and the wild card, but lost 24 of the first 28 after the break.
The Pirates were plagued by injuries and infighting, especially after they lost starting pitcher Jameson Taillon to Tommy John surgery. The Pirates suspended both players and coaches for scuffles, and Hurdle was blamed for losing control of the clubhouse.
“Some of it absolutely fits here, man,” Hurdle said before the game. “You’re the manager of the team, and when you don’t play well the responsibility falls upon the manager of the team.”
In a prepared statement, Pirates chairman Bob Nutting expressed his “great deal of appreciation” for Hurdle by saying that “Clint is not only a great baseball man, he is a great family man.” Nutting called the firing “easily the most difficult season of my tenure.”
Nutting issued a vote of confidence in Huntington and the baseball operations department, which will be retained.
“I would like to express my appreciation, respect and give appropriate thanks to Clint Hurdle,” Huntington said. “This has been a challenging decision because of who this man is. He’s a great man with a big heart.
“He vowed to re-bond the city with its baseball team, and he’s worked tirelessly every day to do that. He bleeds black and gold. He’s poured into all of us, we’ve poured into him and there is great deal of love and admiration and sadness.”
Tay Waltenbaugh,65, of Hempfield, an avid Pirate fan, was furious when he heard the Pirates fired Hurdle.
“I think the timing was horrible,” Waltenbaugh said. “Today was Steve Blass’ last day. Why couldn’t they do it some other time?
“I don’t like the owners or the management. Other owners are in it to have a winning baseball team, but it seems like they’re just in it to make a profit,” Waltenbaugh said. “I think Clint Hurdle was a decent guy, but it’s hard to be a manager when you don’t have the backing of the management and owners.”
Arden Lyons, of the Natrona section of Harrison, said he thought Hurdle was doing a “terrible job.”
“They should have fired him last year,” Lyons said. “The way he manages doesn’t make sense.”
Lyons questioned Hurdle’s decision to not play some of his best hitters in games after the All-Star break.
He wants to see the Pirates bring in a manager with fresh ideas.
“I’d like to see a younger person in there,” he said.
East Deer resident Ron Sadowski said he was disappointed to hear they fired Hurdle. Sadowski said he follows the Pirates and he liked Hurdle.
“It’s a shame,” he said. “He only did what he could with what he had.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .