By John Perrotto
If there is one thing the proliferation of all the poker shows on television has brought, it’s the phrase “all in.”
Pirates management uses it all the time. General manager Neal Huntington is forever saying he and his baseball operations are “all in” in their attempts to rebuild the franchise from the ground up after 18 consecutive losing seasons.
Funny thing, their new manager likes to use the phrase, too. In fact, Clint Hurdle did not agree to his three-year contract with the Pirates over the weekend until getting a satisfactory answer to one query.
“The biggest question I had of the people in this organization was if they were all in,” Hurdle said Monday when he was introduced as the 39th manager in Pirates’ history. “I had never met (chairman and majority owner) Bob Nutting before and we had a very nice and interesting conversation. But the one thing I had to know was if he was in. When he said he was in, that’s when I knew this was the job for me.”
Hurdle will be facing one of the biggest challenges in all of professional sports in attempting to right a franchise that has not won in a generation and is coming off a 105-loss season that was its worst since 1954. However, he says he relishes the opportunity to be the manager who could be credited with getting the Pirates back on track.
“I came in very open-minded,” Hurdle said. “I know the lack of success they’ve had here in recent years but I didn’t want to judge the organization from the outside. I wanted to hear what they had to say.”
Hurdle, who spent last season as the Texas Rangers’ hitting coach, spent all day at PNC Park on Nov. 10 interviewing with club president Frank Coonelly, Huntington, player development director Kyle Stark and scouting director Greg Smith. He knew then that the situation was not as bleak as it might appear to an outsider.
“I walked out of PNC Park feeling really good about the people running the organization and that they had a solid plan in place to make this franchise a winner again,” Hurdle said. “I thought that was a very appealing job.”
Hurdle also interviewed for the New York Mets’ manager opening last week and was believed to be one of three finalists on GM Sandy Alderson’s list along with fellow former major-league managers Terry Collins and Bob Melvin. However, when the Pirates told him he was their first choice, all Hurdle needed to do was work out contract details.
“I just feel it’s the right place at the right time,” Hurdle said. “I believe good things are going to happen here.”
Hurdle was the last of eight candidates interviewed by the Pirates and their decision came down to him and internal candidate Jeff Banister, who finished last season as the bench coach following eight years as the minor-league field coordinator. Hurdle’s experience won out in the end, though as he managed the Colorado Rockies for seven years and spent 10 years in the major leagues as a player.
“We had two very good choices,” Huntington said. “We just felt Clint was the right fit for what we’re looking for. He became the manager of the Rockies when they were down and he guided them through some tough times and helped that team grow to the point where it went to the World Series. He was highly touted as a player, got to the big leagues a year-and-half after graduating high school, didn’t have things work out the way he wanted then down to the minor leagues and battled his way back as a bench player. He’s has a lot of different experience on a lot of different levels, and that was very appealing.”
John Perrotto is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports. He is the editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com