There's no doubt that the Pirates feel they may have the skipper who can turn the Pirates into a winner after two decades of sailing in rough, losing waters.
The organization decided to extend the contract of manager Clint Hurdle, and Bucco fans have their reservations about the decision. Feelings that you can't blame many for having, especially the pessimistic thinking of the average Pirates fan.
Since Jim Leyland's departure, the Pirates have gone through managers like Taylor Swift goes through boyfriends. The main difference being, Swift has been able to turn those failed partnerships into hit singles and Grammy awards. The Pirates don't have anything to show for it. The tipping point came after third base coach Jon Russell was promoted to manager after Jim Tracy was fired. People had to be assured that PNC Park was not the sight for the filming of "Weekend at Bernies III."
In comes Clint Hurdle, a guy who has had one winning season. A miraculous one that ended in a National League pennant for the Colorado Rockies, before losing to the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 World Series. So Hurdle, who has had a losing record his entire career as a manager, comes into Pittsburgh, which could be considered by many as a place where careers go to begin their end, and brings energy and a goal to make the team a winner. Not an easy feat for a Pirate skipper over the last twenty years.
In his first two seasons, Hurdle had the Pirates playing well and making fans fall in love again with the American past time. But when the weather turned colder and the days got shorter, the Bucs fell apart. 2011 was easier to stomach as a fan, but 2012 for many, if not all, was unacceptable.
The Pirates were division leaders and one of the best teams in the game last season. A 6-21 September proved to be the dagger as Pittsburgh clinched its twentieth straight losing season in a style that only the Pirates could do it in.
Many question Hurdle's extension because of two straight collapses at the end of the season. Trades, which include the Brad Lincoln trade always come back up in conversations, but Hurdle's presence has raised the attendance at home games and has fans eager to see what this team does in 2013. Fans still showing up to game after two decades of a mediocre product is nothing short of a miracle.
Hurdle is the not the only guy to point the finger at. As long as Bob Nutting is around, he'll keep receiving the most grief from the fans. Nutting is a guy who owns a wallet that rarely opens wide enough to satisfy the needs to build a winner. The Velcro must have something sticky on it.
The argument about Hurdle wanting guys like Clint Barmes and the recently departed Rod Barajas left judgmental eyes on Hurdle. He wanted them, and they didn't produce. Barmes plays well in the field, but has a pitiful batting average. Barajas, we talk all night.
The Pirates have a promising team, which includes a pitching staff that is getting stronger, the best center-fielder in baseball, and a third baseman that when he's hot can help the team win.
Maybe the third times the charm for Hurdle and these Buccos? It's up to Hurdle to work with what he's got. Hurdle knows his boss won't spend the money that a team like the Indians have shelled out this winter. But, if the Pirates finish 79-83 again, Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington might be thrown overboard.