John Steigerwald: Don’t blame Clint Hurdle for Pirates’ failures
Who’s the greatest manager in MLB history?
I don’t know. You pick.
Is it one of the three or four guys lucky enough to manage the New York Yankees when they were putting an All-Star team on the field every game?
Whoever it is, if he had been brought back from the dead to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, how many more games would they have won?
They won 69 with Clint Hurdle managing them, and he was fired Sunday. Maybe the Pirates had a good reason not to wait until Monday instead of creating the uncomfortable situation of the manager having to walk out of the clubhouse after showing up for work.
It won’t make any difference next season.
If the Pirates win 10 more games next season and still finish below .500, who will get to say it was the new manager?
Joe Maddon was a genius until the Cubs fired him over the weekend, but he had a team that was expected to win. Hurdle’s team did what everybody expected it to do.
Maybe the consensus was 75-80 wins, but can you blame Hurdle for the five wins they didn’t get?
Think they might have won a few more games if Jameson Taillon’s elbow hadn’t blown up?
How about if Gregory Polanco’s injury hadn’t added to the growing speculation he is a major bust?
Think the Pirates would have been a little better with Gerrit Cole in the rotation?
How about Tyler Glasnow? And would Austin Meadows’ 33 home runs in the outfield have helped? Neal Huntington, the guy who fired Hurdle, traded them away.
The Pirates have had five full-time managers since Chuck Tanner managed them to a World Series win 40 years ago. Do you know how many of them finished with a winning record?
Jim Leyland managed them to three division championships and four winning seasons in 10 years, but his general manager, Syd Thrift, made trades to bring in players such as Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke and a Cy Young Award-winning pitcher, Doug Drabek. The opposite of what happened to Hurdle.
So was Hurdle fired because the team might have underachieved this year or because there were reports of players fighting in the clubhouse?
Would whoever you picked as the greatest manager in history have prevented the fighting?
The Pirates have had four winning seasons in the past 27 years. They haven’t won a postseason series in 40 years.
The manager’s not the problem, and a new one won’t be the solution. And it might not be the general manager. Huntington might look a lot smarter playing with the Chicago Cubs’ or the Boston Red Sox’s money.
Want to blame the owner?
Who’s looking smarter right now, Bob Nutting or Bob Castellini, the owner of the Cincinnati Reds? Castellini spent $128 million on players this season and finished fourth.
Nutting spent $72 million and finished fifth. That would seem to mean $56 million more in Nutting’s pocket.
The Reds drew about 350,000 more fans, but they have a much larger population to draw from in a 100-mile radius.
There have been five general managers since Thrift pulled off a miracle and put together the team that won three division titles from 1990-92. One has been in charge when the team had a winning season. That would be Huntington.
The Pirates are playing against a stacked deck because MLB’s economics are a joke. Some smaller-market teams succeed sometimes, but generally teams that spend the most win the most.
The Pirates’ best years are behind them.
Fans can only hope for another appearance of the lightning in the bottle that got them the three winning seasons from 2013-15.
What you’ve seen for most of the last 40 years is pretty much what you should expect from the Pirates for the next 40.
Who’s managing or general managing will have little or nothing to do with it.
John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.