Saturday, June 09, 2012

Finding Ways to Win

We'll say it again:  Clint Hurdle is the right manager for this Pittsburgh Pirates ballclub, the best manager by far this franchise has had since Jim Leyland, and a guy who merits being in the conversation for recognition as Manager of the Year, at least for the first third of the season.

How is Clint Hurdle making this ragtag team legitimately competitive?  This ragtag collection of misfits, castoffs, never-wases, semi-prospects, fledgling major leaguers, and one legitimate star position player (Andrew McCutchen) -- how is Clint Hurdle  pulling this team together, herding cats and actually putting them ahead of bigger-payroll teams like the Cardinals, Brewers and Cubs?

People around here are so used to complaining about the Pirates -- rightfully so -- that many fans may not appreciate how good a manager Hurdle is right now.   Just some of the things we like about him, totally apart from his baseball acumen: He's genuine, down-to-earth and it shows.  He communicates well.  He keeps it real, giving credit to the other team when they play well.  He's steady.  He reads books.  He goes against the book -- like issuing an intentional walk to Jay Bruce, the winning run, in the bottom of the 10th inning the other night in Cincinnati, just because it felt right -- and it was. The Pirates then closed the deal to register probably their best win in years.

Thanks, Lucinda Williams, for the picture.
They won again last night, at home before a sell-out crowd in the first game of interleague play this year.  Somehow, we get the feeling they are going to keep winning at a pace that will keep them competitive for much of the summer.  It's good to see.

Some fans, seam-heads and stat geeks often get so wrapped up in statistics, Sabremetrics and wins-and-losses that we forget the people in uniform are people, too.  Clint Hurdle is a good baseball man, yes, but we get the impression he is a good person, too.  We appreciate that Hurdle has a life outside of baseball, that he has a special-needs kid, and that he contributes a lot of time off the field to the Children's Institute in Squirrel Hill and other worthwhile organizations.

Clint Hurdle is an easy guy to root for, never mind the dangling prepositon.  It's good to see the Pirates competitive again, and playing like the scrappy, hustling team that Pittsburgh desires and deserves.  It's fun to have baseball back.

Gratuitous Music Note

Tons of good free concerts in the city this summer ... just this past week, People of The Burgh were treated to free concerts by Joan Osborne, the Average White BandDawes, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, plus a multitude of other free concerts courtesy of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, the County Parks Free Concert Series and JazzLive.

Tonight, another real treat, with a free concert by the Del McCourey Band.  If you've never seen a living music legend, now's your chance.  Even if you don't think you'd like bluegrass, go check it out.  Good bluegrass music played live is as good as it gets.