Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 11/18/14
The Pirates took home a Sporting News award for the second straight day: Clint Hurdle was named NL Manager of the Year on Tuesday. This shouldn’t surprise anybody – the consensus choice for manager of the year is usually the manager of the team that surpasses preseason expectations (or “overachieves” based on their percieved talent level) the most – and that was certainly the Pirates this year. Even if you ignore that thinking (which is hard to do), Hurdle is obviously very deserving. I’ve gotten upset at him several times due to some in-game management problems, but in the long run, he has been the perfect leader for the team. There’s no doubt he has done a great job changing the attitude, getting people to buy in, and maintaining a very positive culture within the organization (and even the city – remember his stated goal when he was hired, about wanting to “re-bond the city with a ball team” … he’s accomplished that). In addition to all the rah-rah stuff, though, he’s also improved from a decision making standpoint as well. There were still mistakes, of course, but this year I thought the bullpen management was a lot better (it helped that there were tons of good options available), he was willing to move past his attachment to terrible veteran players when they weren’t doing the job, and his willingness to adopt the defensive shift strategy was huge. Buying in on the shifts – which was a pretty extreme thing – is a huge leap for an old-school manager to make, and it paid enormous dividends. Anyway, the Sporting News award isn’t the Manager of the Year award most people think of – that’s the BBWAA award, which comes out in November (same with the Cy Young, MVP, etc). This one was voted on by fellow managers, though, so it’s noteworthy, and Hurdle is a shoo-in to win the other award as well, so I’m writing this now. He’ll get more praise in a month, and he will deserve all of it. Other news and notes… Tim wonders if the Pirates should explore trading Francisco Liriano. It’s a good thought exercise, and as always, he makes a strong case. I think the Pirates are officially in “win-now” mode, though, so it won’t happen. I wouldn’t do it myself, either, barring an unbelievable return. Liriano is cheap next year, he was an excellent veteran leader in addition to his excellent numbers (which could be needed if Burnett leaves), and I’m giving him extra props for his “big game” ability. That may be a myth, but he seemed to come up huge every time the Pirates were desperate for a win. He was also tremendous in the postseason, and while the Pirates have a deep pitching staff, we’ve seen that it’s huge to be able to have a guy that can dominate twice in a series. Liriano is that guy for the Bucs – and it’s easy to wonder how the Cards series would have been different if the Bucs had won the Central and could have used him twice (and the Cards could have only used Wainwright once).  The Giants just signed Tim Lincecum to a two year, $35 million deal. They have some money to throw around, but if that’s any indication of what the market will be like…yikes. Lincecum isn’t all that great anymore…he’s got a 4.76 ERA over the last two years. A.J. Burnett is much older, of course, but would be worth more than Lincecum over the next two years. I don’t think he’ll go looking for that kind of money though. The Phillies are looking for a new pitching coach, and the Pirates granted permission for them to interview Jim Benedict. Benedict is officially a “special assistant” but is known more as the team “pitching guru,” and he has been very valuable in helping guys like Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole. He would be a notable loss if he ends up in Philly. Did you miss “Pittsburgh Pirates Day”, which was apparently a real thing?
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