By Jason Shetler
When Clint Hurdle was hired as the Pirates manager to replace John Russell prior to 2011, his press conference brought so much excitement to the fan base that it was like getting ready to open presents on Christmas. After all, fans had to listen to a manager who would have been perfect for a Sounds of the Ocean CD. But for as more upbeat as Clint Hurdle is compared to John Russell, is Hurdle any better of managing talent than Russell?
As far as Russell, the team he took over in 2008 had some talent on it, but when trades were being made that season and the following, it left Russell with not a lot of talent. Outside of Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones and Ryan Doumit (when healthy), what talent did he really have to work with? When you look at what Clint Hurdle has to work with this year, he seems to play guys who give you less than what others would. For example, Rod Barajas over Michael McKenry. Granted A.J. Burnett prefers having Barajas as his personal catcher, but McKenry should have been catching every other starter. McKenry’s offensive numbers are better and so is his defense. Clint Barmes keeps being put out there even though they have a better and younger option in Jordy Mercer. Yet whenever Barmes gets a day off, Hurdle decides to go with Josh Harrison who has never played much shortstop even in the minors and as a result, is a big liablity there. The latest now is not playing Starling Marte for whatever reason and instead going with Alex Presley who is nothing more than a fourth outfielder. If your not going to play Marte, at least put Travis Snider out there, who can give you another power bat in the lineup. I’m not saying that John Russell was the answer because he just couldn’t seem to motivate players with his demeanor, but Clint Hurdle has more talent to work with and just refuses to go with options that are essentially better. I just hope next season that Hurdle knows what kind of talent he has and uses the right players sooner rather than later.