Pittsburgh media already turning on first-year Pirates manager Clint Hurdle?

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Clint Hurdle had to know what a tough job he was taking when he agreed to manage the Pirates. They’d had 18 straight losing seasons and during that time six other managers had tried and failed to turn things around.

Hurdle probably thought he could do what the six before him couldn’t and if not at least he’d be earning around $1 million per year. What he likely didn’t count on was that the mainstream media in Pittsburgh might turn on him three weeks into the job.

Andrew McCutchen made the final out of last night’s loss to the Nationals by unsuccessfully tagging up from third base on a fly out to right field. His run would have merely cut the deficit from 6-3 to 6-4, yet afterward Hurdle declined to blame McCutchen for making a tactical mistake.

Instead he opined that “the only reason that we’re asking that question is because he was out … I bet everybody in the ballpark including [the media] thought we were going to send him.” Or as Pittsburgh Post Gazette columnist Bob Smizik put it, Hurdle “took a small first step toward damaging his credibility in Pittsburgh” and “spoke nonsense.”

Here’s more from Smizik:

If Hurdle really believes that, he’s not as smart as he’s been given credit for being. … It’s baseball 101 and Hurdle knows it. He compounded his malarkey with the following: “That’s going to win us more games than it’s going to cost us.” …

First of all, stupid baseball, which is what the play was,  is not going win more games than it loses. There was no reason–none–to send McCutchen and Hurdle and Leyva know that. Playing aggressively is admirable. But it’s a fine line between being aggressive and being reckless. McCutchen’s play was reckless, particularly since he challenged such a strong throwing arm. If Hurdle is trying to set a tone, he’s setting the wrong one. He’s setting a tone for stupid baseball, not aggressive baseball. … And if Hurdle wants to maintain a semblance of credibility, he shouldn’t treat the fans like they don’t understand the game.

It’s a very long rant, so I had to cut out some sections for the sake of brevity, but you get the idea.

Phillies sign Francisco Liriano and Neil Walker to minor league deals

Francisco Liriano
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Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.

Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.

Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.