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The Pirates 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers Monday night in extra innings was a perfect summary of their season.
Pittsburgh has a 3-0 lead entering the seventh inning, yet, they had been playing with fire all night and everything came crashing down in the seventh.
Gerrit Cole had six shutout innings going thanks to getting out of two bases loaded jams prior to the seventh.
Then Clint Hurdle left his pitcher out to dry.
As Cole’s pitch count was over 100, he began to start losing some zip and control on his pitches. Cole had run out of gas and it was clear to anybody that it was time to go to the bullpen.
The stubbornness, though, of Hurdle played out and getting out of a third bases loaded situation unscathed wasn’t going to happen as Cole’s 112th pitch would be crushed by Curtis Granderson for a grand slam and the amazing Dodgers turned a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 lead by tagging Cole for 5 runs in the seventh.
The Pirates would fight back to force extra innings with a 2-run eighth of their own, while a Yasiel Puig solo home run in the 12th off Dovydas Neverauskas would see the Dodgers get their 88th win of the season and Pittsburgh fall to 60-65 on the season.
It was fitting that the grand slam in the seventh came from Granderson, a player available for next to nothing that Pirate fans have been clamoring for the Pirates to acquire.
Just as was the case with Jay Bruce, $4+ million due to Granderson for the rest of the season saw Pittsburgh never pursue Granderson prior to Granderson becoming a Dodger.
If Bob Nutting treated being the Pirates owner as a hobby like many other owners do, Curtis Granderson or Bruce likely would have been a Pirate at somepoint over the last month and heck maybe Neil Walker would have been a Pirate.
But, for the budget Pirate management is allocated from ownership, there was no feasible way to add a Bruce or Granderson, team sources say.
Team officials contend outsiders just don’t comprehend what adding $4 million in salary for two months does for the budget they are permitted to work with.
The 2017 Pirates season has become one of the most frustrating over the last 10 years in that this group from the top on down has bobbled so many things from blowing winnable games, to bad coaching, to questionable/lack of roster moves.
Neal Huntington failed this ball club in constructing it starting in the off-season, Bob Nutting has failed this team by not giving the authority to add a Jay Bruce type when the Pirates were still competitive and could have bolstered the roster with deals that wouldn’t drain the farm, and Clint Hurdle has mismanaged this group more often than not this season.
The dynamic emerging now is this:
Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle have both had one year extensions on the table for months that may or may not have already been signed. The Pirates notorious for announcing things months later, are mum on whether any extensions have actually been signed or not.
The situation, though, is heading down a road where it’s no longer a lock that both would be back in 2018.
Whispers throughout the organization continue to persist that Bob Nutting’s inner circle of his closest associates in the organization that dictate just about every decision Nutting makes with the big league roster, have begun applying pressure to Nutting [hide] that a major change is needed.
The scenario being put on the table to Nutting, sources say, is a managerial change, and with ticket sales down and enthusiasm way down, the growing sense emerging is the Pirates are headed towards a PR disaster if they stay the course.
Bob Nutting is not going to open the vault this off-season to significantly upgrade the roster, — minority owners and others concerned about the direction of the club know that–, but discussions among the ownership group, top executives is whether a managerial change should be made from even a perception standpoint that the ownership group at least looks serious about trying to turn things around.
On the baseball side of things, contentious discussions have also been on-going about the need for a new voice from many ends in the organization.
Nutting, though, has always planned for a peaceful transition in changing managers and although Clint Hurdle does not plan to manage too much longer, he’s not ready to move on just yet. [/hide]