Clint Hurdle of the Pittsburgh Pirates was recognized as 2013's best manager in the National League on Tuesday, beating out the Atlanta Braves' Fredi Gonzalez and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Don Mattingly.
The Pirates had the news:
Hurdle had some stiff competition for the award, which was voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Gonzalez managed the Braves to 96 wins and an NL East title, while Mattingly dealt with significant injuries to Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp yet still got 92 wins and an NL West title out of his club.
Who should have won this award?
But Hurdle's transformation of the Pirates, an organization with a payroll $20 million less than that of the Braves and $150 million less than that of the Dodgers, according to Cot's Contracts, wasn't going to be overlooked.
The 56-year-old has been steadily building toward this recognition.
After taking over the hapless 105-loss Pirates in November of 2010, the former Rockies manager delivered a complete 180, leading Pittsburgh to 72 wins in 2011 and 79 in 2012—a 20-win improvement in just two years.
Both of those seasons were sullied by post-All-Star break collapses, but Hurdle kept the Pirates focused for all 162 games in 2013. Hurdle sounded extremely honored when talking winning the prestigious award (via MLB Network):
Clint Hurdle on winning the @officialBBWAA NL Manager of the Year Award: “It is a bit overwhelming. It’s humbling. It’s gratifying.”— MLB Network PR (@MLBNetworkPR) November 12, 2013
With a lineup that featured very little consistency around MVP-candidate Andrew McCutchen (11th/8th/6th in the NL in batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) and a make-shift pitching staff, Pittsburgh won 94 games and made it to the postseason out of the ultra-competitive NL Central.
Ironically enough, it was what Hurdle, a former hitting coach, was able to get out of his pitchers that proved crucial to the year's success (pitching coach Ray Searage also deserves loads of credit).
A.J. Burnett had arguably the best season of his 15-year career. Jeff Locke, sporting a 5.82 ERA in 12 career appearances, tossed 30 effective starts. Francisco Liriano won the Players' Choice Award for Comeback Player of the Year in the NL. Gerrit Cole's jump to the majors was seamless. Charlie Morton had a career year.
Moreover, the "Shark Tank," AKA Pittsburgh's bullpen, sported the second-best ERA in the NL behind relatively unknowns like Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Justin Wilson and Vin Mazzaro.
Hurdle squeezed the most out of almost every player on the roster, and it resulted in the team's first playoff appearance since the first George Bush was in office.
There is very little question he is deserving of this award.