Coming off of a great 2013 campaign in which the Pittsburgh Pirates won 94 games and made it to the NLDS, the team has decided to extend the contracts of general manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle through the 2017 season with club options for 2018. Both Huntington and Hurdle were deserving of extensions; I’m not sure that point can be argued, even by the most cynical Pirates fans.
Think about where the Pirates were prior to Huntington taking over in 2007. The organization was already in Year 14 of the 20-year losing streak, and general manager (at the time) Dave Littlefield had no plan moving forward. When Huntington came aboard, there was immediately a plan installed. Huntington and his staff would rely heavily on Sabermetrics when evaluating players; they would build from within through the draft and through trading established talent for prospects — and they would do it all under a strict budget. Huntington has made his fair share of mistakes during his time with the Pirates, some bigger than others, but his positive impact is undeniable and his good moves far outweigh his bad decisions.
The Pirates hired Hurdle prior to the 2011 season. Immediately after the hire, things began to change in Pittsburgh when it came to their baseball team. Instead of the chronic negativity and apathy that surrounded the team, Hurdle forced optimism and positive feelings on his team and the fans. This was when things began to move in a positive direction for the Pirates.
Here we are, in 2014, and the Pirates’ losing seasons streak is over. The Pirates were in the postseason in 2013, they took out the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wild Card game and took the St. Louis Cardinals to game five of the NLDS before eventually falling to the clearly superior Cards. The Pirates have one of the best farm systems in baseball, with some experts calling it the best overall. The team has the reigning MVP of the NL, Andrew McCutchen. PNC Park is setting single-game attendance records seemingly every other week. Baseball isn’t just a bridge from the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ season to the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ in the Steel City anymore. That alone is enough justification for the contract extensions.