For the second day in a row, a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization has received a National League award. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has won the Sporting News’ NL Manager of the Year award voted on by other NL managers. The second and third place finishers were Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves and Mike Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals.
This happens almost every year. The “Cinderella” team that isn’t expected to go far finds a way to reach the playoffs and that team’s manager is automatically a lock to win Manager of the Year. Hurdle has done a lot of great things for the Pirates and for the city of Pittsburgh. He has taken a city that didn’t even know they had a baseball team and turned it into a legitimate baseball city. Before Hurdle arrived, once hockey season was over, people were already waiting for football season to start. Not anymore. Now people can watch baseball in Pittsburgh after hockey is over.
Even though Hurdle has re-connected a city with its baseball team, that doesn’t necessarily mean he deserves Manager of the Year. Shouldn’t this award be given based on tactical baseball decisions? There were many instances in 2013 where Hurdle made terrible decisions. In the beginning of the season, he made several questionable decisions with his bullpen; he eventually figured out how to use his bullpen properly, though, to his credit. Hurdle is also a big fan of a play that I, personally, cannot stand: the bunt. A runner on first with no one out, bunt him over. Runners on second and third, no outs, bunt them both into scoring position, right? No! Play for a big inning once in a while! Giving up outs doesn’t seem like a good strategy to me. There are some cases where a properly executed bunt can be a good thing. Late game situations when the team is down by one run and is playing for a tie game, sure, bunt the runner over to second base so he can score on a base hit. Any time the pitcher is batting with a runner on base, okay, let him bunt.
Hurdle isn’t all bad, though. He is a gut-decision, old school type manager, but he has adapted to some new-school ideas. The Pirates were the most aggressive team in 2013 with defensive shifts, leading to one of the best pitching staffs and the most efficient defense in baseball. Despite me having major issues with his philosophy on bunting and playing small ball and despite having a team with a lot of home run power, I can’t argue with him winning this award. It tends to be given to the underdog team every season anyway, so this is nothing new.