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Column: Hurdle’s extension baffling but timing convenient

Pittsburgh, PA — Call it curious timing, but according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Pittsburgh Pirates beat reporter Bill Brink, manager Clint Hurdle has agreed to a four-year contract extension. This new agreement, which has yet to be confirmed by the Pirates, would keep Hurdle under contract until 2021.

What exactly does this mean? Well it is quite telling if you ask me.

For one, the length of the deal is quite confusing. It seems, at least from the outside, that this has been a trying season for Hurdle. There have been so many mixed messages this season where collectively management and yes, even Hurdle at times have thrown darts at a wall hoping for a bullseye but not even hitting the dartboard.

Hurdle was dealt quite a terrible hand by Pirates management, which knew full well that Jung Ho Kang would not be available and likely knew about Starling Marte’s positive Nandrolone test, yet the team never received any true support or signs of life from management.

The Tyler Glasnow experiment, at least to this point has not met expectations as the tall right-handed starting pitcher has struggled with command, delivery times to the plate and overall effectiveness.

From the outside, it seems as though Hurdle has been more irritated this season. Speaking to the media twice a day for 162 regular season games, not to mention pre and potential postseason games for six-plus years with the Rockies and soon to be six years with the Pirates does wears on you. Hurdle, 60 has shown signs of tire over answering questions which can get repetitive, especially when you have been in the game as long as he has.

The timing of this deal is quite ironic and rather convenient for the team as well.

Fans and media alike have certainly let general manager Neal Huntington have it for his statements regarding the handling of Juan Nicasio’s situation.

That statement had more to it then the usual best wishes company line. If there was a so-called rival club that low-balled the Pirates it likely came from the National League Central and was one of three teams.

In taking a chance at unloading Nicasio, the Pirates had the intention of getting him to sign with an American League team. Instead, the Philadelphia Phillies landed Nicasio, which went against the Pirates aspirations and definitely manipulated Nicasio.

The message was clear. Thank you for your service, you were a great reliever and our second best this season but we cannot afford you, so do not let the door hit you on the way out.

Acknowledging the $600,000 sum was just about where the press release began and probably should have ended as the rest was atrocious.

In short, the Pirates struck out worse than Pedro Alvarez here, and that is saying something.

So with attendance down and the Pirates making as many cost cutting moves as possible, the timing of this report wreaks of desperation on the team’s end. It is an effort to save face and make it look as though the Nicasio money is actually going somewhere that will benefit the team.

It also guarantees that Huntington’s extension will be coming as well, though the team has put itself in a tough position with that.

Huntington’s statement was bold regardless of where you, the fan, stand on it. Announcing an extension now will further anger fans, but waiting manipulates Huntington and also raises additional media questioning.

The person that benefits least from this news is Tom Prince and if I were him, I would be very upset at how this entire situation has played well.

Prince has been a baseball lifer and rising through the ranks in a relatively short time to earn a position as the team’s bench coach. This season he has learned from Hurdle as well as Dave Jauss who previously held the position and also has counted Terry Francona as his boss.

To say Prince has received all the tools needed to succeed is an understatement. If he spent another season as the bench coach, it would be understanding, but to have to wait an additional three is appalling.

Prince clearly is well liked by the team, a fact which was shown in Toronto when the Pirates took the first game in the series. Every player on the Pirates team went up to Prince and gave him a hug. If that is not a sign of acceptance and appreciation, then what is? Prince has certainly paid his dues.

None of that is a knock on Hurdle.

This likely will be Hurdle’s final contract as the team’s manager and really he has earned the right to manage the team.

Though the past two seasons have provided challenges on many different fronts, Hurdle is a big part of why the Pirates were not only able to achieve success but re-energize an entire fan base.

Hopefully Hurdle asked management the important questions before signing on the dotted lines. Those questions would start with raising payroll so the team can compete, not adding money just to say it was done.

If not, then this signing will really be a waste of everyone’s time, which would be extremely unfortunate.

There are not many rooms which Hurdle steps into where people fail to be motivated and challenged. The question now is if Pittsburgh is ready for four more years and even further if Hurdle himself can do another four years if this season is the high point, something which could be a possibility.

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