Just days before the All-Star break, the Pittsburgh Pirates are just 1.5 games out of first place in the National League Central Division. Yep, that’s right. You can go back and reread that sentence over and over again and it’s still going to be true no matter how weird that it sounds.
It’s been nearly two decades since Pirates fans have had something to cheer about and I can’t say I believed this team was going to change that run — at least not this year. I did enter the season liking young players like Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez. The crazy part is that only one of them — McCutchen — has really been a key cog as the other two have been hampered by injuries.
Instead, manager Clint Hurdle has seen an impressive run by his pitching staff full of players that are hardly household names. And the Pirates have themselves in playoff contention simply by playing blue-collar baseball. That’ll certainly earn you some respect in Pittsburgh, where they finally have a baseball team to be proud of again.
Clint Hurdle joined The Dan Patrick Show with guest host Tony Bruno to discuss how the Pirates have turned things around, how the city has responded to the success, if the Pirates now need to be buyers at the trade deadline, the Pirates’ All-Star snubs and how much of the success should be attributed to himself.
Why is this Pittsburgh Pirates team good all of the sudden?:
“The biggest reason is this team is pitching extremely well. We’re getting great efforts from our starting pitchers. They’re getting us to points in the game where we can use our bullpen when we want to, not when we have to. Our bullpen has responded just as well. … And offensively we scratch, we claw. It’s chicken wire, duck tape and spit.”
What has the reaction been from Pittsburgh fans?:
“There was a lot of skepticism; there was cynicism. There’s 18 years of baseball that they haven’t appreciated that’s gone on. I told the boys we need to be respectful of that. … That being said, baseball’s a game that can rekindle people, can re-energize people. Our goal coming in through the winter and spring training was to be the group of men that puts a foot down and reverses a trend and re-bond the city with a baseball team, so there is a groundswell of support right now in Pittsburgh. … It’s a blue-collar town, we’re a blue-collar team. … We’re building some momentum for everything — the city, the organization, the fans and the players.”
Do the Pirates have to be buyers this time in the trade market to contend for the postseason?:
“We’re definitely going to start a series of meetings today … of identifying maybe some potential fits — more bat-related than pitching-related. We also have 10 players on the disabled list that are going to be coming off. … That would be a good fix if we get those people back and be productive with the bats. … But we’re definitely looking externally if something makes sense.”
Are you bothered that your team didn’t garner more All-Stars, particularly Andrew McCutchen?:
“We’ve got to earn more by doing more. The Pirates name on the front, we’re one of a handful of teams that most people say, ‘Well, they get one All-Star. They always get one All-Star. They have to get one All-Star.’ … I do think we’re changing the mentally and the perception outside of Pittsburgh about who we are. … I feel like we threw more than one player out there that should have had All-Star consideration, Andrew being one of them and Kevin Correia with 11 wins being another one. Nobody’s pitched better than Jeff Karstens in our division. … He’s another guy that’s just completely off the radar. We’ll figure it out as we go forward. I’ve said all I’m going to say about Andrew. You can go somewhere and look up all the things I’ve already said. I’ve expressed my thoughts. We’ve moved on and he’s moved on.”
How much of the success can be attributed to you as the manager?:
“A manager’s job is to accept the blame and take that onus off the players when things don’t go well. It’s also to push the success and the accolades out into the clubhouse and the coaches when things do go well. That’s the way I learned it from other men that I respect. … I’m not in it for anything other than a ring. I want to win a World Series ring. I’ve been there three times and they say the fourth time is the charm. … I’m just humbled to be a small part of it.”