Pirates’ Clint Hurdle has seen his share of clubhouse arguments
When asked about the culture in his clubhouse, Clint Hurdle made two points:
• If there’s a confrontation, he said he won’t back down from it.
• Heated conversations happen in big league clubhouses “way more than you have any clue about.”
In the wake of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ epic slump — 24 losses in 28 games before they won three of the next four — an article in The Athletic detailed incidents that did not place the team and its culture in a good light.
Among several incidents, the article referenced an attempt by Hurdle to step in the middle of an argument last month between relief pitcher Keone Kela and Pirates peak performance coach Hector Morales. The Athletic reported Kela berated Hurdle in front of others. A day after the alleged confrontation, the Pirates suspended Kela for two games.
Before the game Saturday against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park, Hurdle did not comment on the article, but he said he is no stranger to heated clubhouse conversations or confrontations during his time with the Pirates.
“We’ve had some really good, strong-willed men in this clubhouse over the nine years that I’ve been here,” he said. “We’ve had very open conversations.
“Presentation and timing are critical. Sometimes, somebody chooses a poor presentation and poor timing and that can escalate. My encouragement is always to take it downstairs in an office. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. They choose otherwise.
“I don’t go looking for confrontations, but I’m not going to back down from it either.”
Anyone who visited the Pirates clubhouse during Hurdle’s tenure, especially when the team was going good from 2013-15, can attest to the type of men who hung out there.
“Gosh,” Hurdle said. “Russell Martin, A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole. I can continue. It happens. I think you need to take it in context. Is it an outlier? Is it something that happens all the time? What might be the other circumstances?
“It happens in the staff from time to time. You stand up for what you believe in.”
Before The Athletic article appeared, pitcher Joe Musgrove assumed a leadership role and arranged for the team to get together in the clubhouse after victories, name a player of the game and have him say a few words.
Kela said Saturday such actions can “galvanize” the team as it tries make sense of the season and how it can reverse fortunes now and in 2020. He added he wants to be part of the team next year.
Hurdle agreed with Kela, saying failure to celebrate victories might result in regrets in the future.
“There are going to be days you’re going to be sorry you pass all those things over,” he said. “I encourage them to celebrate the wins. I encourage them to find fun even when it’s hard and you’re not getting the results you want.
“As a hitter, if you are only going to enjoy the good times, you’re going to miss out on 70 percent of the time. And that’s if you’re good.
“One of the best sounds you can ever have in the major leagues or minor leagues, in sports, is that noise you hear after games.
You don’t get that anywhere else but in sport here. Embrace it.”
Asked if Musgrove reminds him of Burnett, who was an outspoken clubhouse leader during his time in Pittsburgh, Hurdle agreed.
“Mound presence, ability to spin the ball, fierce competitor. He’s a contagion in the locker room. I think he creates a wake, a very positive wake.”
There is one difference, though.
“I haven’t got any dugout confrontations from Joe yet. Could be down the road,” Hurdle said, with a smile.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .