Hurdle chats with fans on busy first day
It was a very busy day for Clint Hurdle, but that didn’t stop him from chatting with fans during a live chat at Pirates.com just hours after being introduced as the Bucs Manager.
Hurdle: Hello, everyone, I’m looking forward to answering your questions today and it is an honor to be the new manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 39th in history. I want to make sure that you hear it from me, that we are all committed to establishing a turnaround in record and a commitment to winning play, and a final destination of winning a world championship. Let’s get started.
Congrats Mr. Hurdle, welcome to the Steel Town. Any idea who you will ask to become part of your coaching staff?
Hurdle: As soon as I’m done today, Neal and I will put our focus on putting together a staff. I have a few external candidates that warrant consideration and I’m aware of some internal candidates that we need to have dialogue about also. I believe it’s important as we move forward together that we always look internally when we look to add onto the staff at the Major League level.
Mr. Hurdle, thank you for becoming our manager. Will you have this team play small ball?? It is definitely a small ball team, not a home run hitting team.
Hurdle: We are aware of the strengths and the challenges that we will have next season on the offensive side of the ball. One of the strengths of a championship club outside of pure batting average and OPS is the ability to make good outs. Bunting when appropriate will be an option, the hit and run will be a play that we’ll depend upon and we’re going to encourage a more aggressive running style of play as we enter the 2011 season.
What do you think of the young talent?
Hurdle: I’m impressed with the young talent that is in place. One of the reasons I am here is because there is talent here to build upon.
How will you change the performance of the team to get to a winning path in the future?
Hurdle: Holding ourselves to a higher level execution. It will be a challenge but it is the only way to ensure we are all headed in the same direction, and that be playing championship- caliber baseball.
Mr. Hurdle, how do you prevent negativity/pessimism from invading your clubhouse when a team is struggling?
Hurdle: Good question. One of the great challenges in sports and in life is your degree of mental toughness. And for us to keep things simplified, we will not let outside distractions interfere with the internal focus that we need to have to play better baseball. We will stay committed to the beliefs inside the clubhouse knowing that we can change the external view of the club is by giving them tangible evidence of a winning team.
Mr Hurdle, did you get very familiar with the depth of the organization and young talent level while considering this opening?
Hurdle: One of the most encouraging parts of my interview was spending the morning session with Tyrone Brooks, Doug Strange, Greg Smith and Kyle Stark listening to these men share their vision and asking them questions, and getting meaningful answers in return. I left that part of the interview very confident in the scouting process that we have in place and the personnel we have at the Minor League level to develop the talent.
Mr. Hurdle, Welcome to the Pirates! As manager of the Rockies you won the NL pennant in 2007. Looking at this Pirates team, do you think there is enough core talent to work with to take this organization to the postseason in the not so distant future?
Hurdle: Absolutely. The distance we need to cover initially is off the mound. We have some young pitchers given the opportunity to pitch meaningful innings last season and will be rewarded in the future for that experience. It takes courage to have patience, and I believe this leadership team in place over the last three seasons has shown courage. Young players have played, and young players have gained experience. It is time for many of these young players to take that next step. This will always be a market where young players have an opportunity to transition in at the Major League level.
In your philosophy, what is the single most important aspect in a winning team?
Hurdle: Trust. Trust in themselves, trust in the front office, trust in their teammates, trust in the leadership in the dugout.
Manager Hurdle, what will be your first task as the Pirates new skipper? Welcome aboard!
Hurdle: Establishing communication with the personnel on the 40-man roster. And then I’m going to look for a hat!
Do you have a formula for using the bullpen or will you allow your closer to go two-plus innings?
Hurdle: The two-plus innings idea for a closer is very creative. One of the things we will ensure is the fact that most of the pieces we have in the bullpen can pitch multiple innings. Every once in a while we might have a situational piece in the bullpen, but versatility and depth are two of the strongest things a bullpen can have. No one will pitch more than three days in a row. that’s one of the things I’ve always done as a manager. the only time I’ve gone out of that is maybe during a stretch run where his pitch count was so low his pitch count was not going to be a concern.
Has the front office made a commitment to you that pieces will be added to make this a championship-caliber team?
Hurdle: Absolutely. Some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had with Bob, Frank and Neal were in regards to their commitment to using resources to help up become a championship-caliber ballclub.
Our batting last year was a roller coaster. One game we’d hit good and the next do bad. What do you plan to do to get the players to hit more consistent?
Hurdle: To redefine our approach at the plate and our philosophy. Each team gets 27 outs. We have to find a way to be more efficient and make better outs on top of getting more hits and scoring more runs. On base percentage will be a topic of discussion and focus. Quality at-bats will be a focus. We need to have a “pack of wolves” mentality when we’re on offense.
Welcome to Pittsburgh. Does the fact that the Pirates haven’t made the playoffs since 1992 bother you at all? How will you change that? Any specific players you will look to bring in?
Hurdle: The greater the challenge, the greater the reward. My plan and desire is to be a part of a leadership group that’s able to establish a winning trend here in Pittsburgh, to give the city tangible evidence of winning baseball which will lead to championship baseball.
What do you feel you bring to the Pirates organization that will help improve the team?
Hurdle: Perseverance, resiliency, a consistent approach day-in and day-out of development, of accountability and of responsibility.
“Accountability” has seemed more a concept than a reality for the Pirates these past few years. How will you ensure that players are held accountable for mental mistakes, poor fundamentals, or lack of effort?
Hurdle: Great question. In life as in sport, we stay in control of what we can control. Not be distracted of things out of our control. One thing the manager has control of is the lineup, and it is usually a task-efficient way to get a player’s attention. The pen is mightier than the agent. Always, you point out shortcomings, give a player an opportunity to resolve them. If they can’t be resolved, then you move on to step two. You want to treat your players the way you would like to be treated. And I had plenty of managers who benched me for the appropriate reasons from time to time!
What’s more important to you, Mr. Hurdle — the number of 2010 Pirates’ wins or developing young players?
Hurdle: Sounds like a trap question to me, but here it goes … I just looked at the record again from last year. More wins required.
Can you give us three words to describe yourself?
Hurdle: Confident, efficient and specific.
Will pitch counts remain a priority like they have in past years?
Hurdle: One of the staples of a championship-caliber club is to get starting pitching to pitch meaningful and quality innings so you can use your bullpen when you want to and not when you have to. Pitching deeper into games for our starters is a must. The pitch count will not be an ejector button. As long as the pitcher remains effective, they will pitch on deeper in games.
Thanks so much for the support and for the questions. I would love to take more, but I have to run and finish the rest of the media rounds and get things taken care of while I’m in town. We will definitely do this again soon. Thanks again Pirates fans!