Hurdle’s track record impresses Pirates
Texas Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg did not expect Clint Hurdle to enjoy a long tenure as the team’s hitting instructor.
“When we brought him in this year, we figured he probably wouldn’t be around too long,” Greenberg said. “We knew it was just a matter of time before another team would want to hire him as (its) manger.”
Greenberg was right. On Monday, exactly two weeks after the Rangers lost the World Series to the San Francisco Giants, Hurdle was introduced as the Pirates’ new skipper.
“The Pirates hired a good man,” Greenberg said. “Clint’s a great fit for that team. He’s an excellent motivator, and he’s got a very positive mindset that’s infectious.”
The results Hurdle got from his work this season were impressive. The Rangers led the American League in team batting average (.276), were fourth in on-base percentage (.388) and sixth in slugging percentage (.419).
But what certainly made a bigger impression on Pirates general manager Neal Huntington was Hurdle’s performance from 2002-09 as the Colorado Rockies’ manager. Hurdle is the franchise’s winningest manager and guided the Rockies to the 2007 World Series.
Huntington is banking on Hurdle to produce the same — or better — results with the Pirates, who may be in a similar position to where the Rockies were about five years ago.
“There really was no single factor (for hiring Hurdle),” Huntington said. “It’s the person he is. It’s the intelligence, the passion, the commitment to doing it the right way, the leadership, the presence, the charismatic personality, the intensity, the ability to communicate.”
Then, Huntington listed the most crucial criteria: “It’s the fact that he’s been there and done that in a market very similar to this one.”
In 2002, Hurdle took over the Rockies after Buddy Bell was fired and inherited a roster of grumpy, unproductive veterans. Hurdle made some gritty decisions: He banished high-priced flop Denny Neagle to the bullpen and called out Mike Hampton, then the game’s highest-paid pitcher.
Over the next couple of years, Colorado purged its roster and went young. Hurdle, using a keen eye for talent he honed as a minor league manager in the New York Mets’ system, assembled the Rockies’ new core of players.
“Clint’s a good evaluator and he understands the game,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who competed against Hurdle in 1987 when they both were managers in the Single-A Florida State League. “He’s been part of winning teams and has gone through the process of knowing what you need to have a winning team.”
By 2007, Hurdle sensed it was time to subtly shift his role — he allowed the players the freedom to run their clubhouse and jell into more of a team. The Rockies — with a $54 million payroll, the sixth lowest in the majors — won 21 of their final 22 regular-season games, then reeled off seven straight playoff wins to reach the World Series.
Although the Rockies lost the Series in four games against Boston, they established themselves as a franchise.
“In 2002, I had kids in my neighborhood in Colorado who got beat up for wearing Rockies gear to school,” Hurdle said. “Those kids don’t get beat up for wearing Rockies gear anymore.”
The Colorado Rockies’ season-by-season under Clint Hurdle:
2002: 67-73,.479 winning percentage,4th in NL West
2007: 90-73,.552,2nd (Won NL pennant)