Pittsburgh Pirates: Clint Hurdle Returns To Coors Field With Pirates

David MartinAnalyst IApril 29, 2011

Love him or hate him, Clint Hurdle is making his Coors Field return over the weekend with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Things didn't end well in Colorado for Hurdle. He was blamed when the Rockies stumbled out of the gate in 2008 when the Rockies were trying to prove that their run to the World Series was no fluke.

When they didn't recover, Hurdle was under fire.

With a slow start once again in 2009, the Rockies front office made the move, and sent Hurdle packing.

Less than two years removed from leading his young team to an improbable run to the National League pennant, Hurdle was unemployed, turned away by the very group of people he helped lead to the promised land.

The fact is, it was time for Hurdle to move on. He did a great job with a young team full of prospects who were looking for leadership at the Major League level. His boisterous personality was a great addition to a team that needed a figurehead. He was able to show those players how to live day-to-day at the big league level.

The only problem was that eventually those players grew up.

Much like a teenagers feel the need to spread their wings and move out on their own, the Rockies grew up. They no longer needed a hands-on manager who treated them as if he was their father.

They were all grown up, and suddenly, the manager who was their good friend became the guy who wouldn't leave them alone.

Make no mistake, Hurdle did a phenomenal job in Colorado. The former first-round draft pick, and then failed prospect had one of the most difficult jobs in baseball.

He was put in charge right when the club's front office decided that it was time to tear the team to pieces and start over. He was asked to be patient as the team groomed prospects at the minor league level, all the while struggling with re-treads at the big league level.

That might sound like a pressure-free job, but the reality is Hurdle's all-time record will haunt him for life. When he was let go, his enemies would point to the fact that his winning percentage was hovering in the .400 level, not anywhere near a winning mark.

It was easy for them to forget that Hurdle began his managerial career penciling in names like Jose Hernandez at shortstop, and trying to win games with Jose Jimenez closing them out.

While Hurdle was patient with less-than-perfect talent, the Rockies were blessed with the perfect personality for a young prospect coming up through the system.

Hurdle was anointed the next big star in the big leagues. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 21 years old. He was dubbed as a "can't miss" prospect.

So when young stars came up through the Rockies system, as they were doing frequently before the club's surprise trip to the World Series, Hurdle was able to impart the wisdom that he acquired when he was in their boat.

Hurdle believed in his players. He insisted on getting the most out of each and every prospect that was coming through. He wasn't afraid to make a player mad to prove a point.

That may seem like a recipe for disaster, but with a young team, it turned the focus to team instead of player, as happens all-too-often in major sports.

For some in Colorado, Hurdle will be remembered as a guy who fell from grace, and couldn't motivate his team when he had the most talent.

However, Hurdle should be remembered for helping to shape a team that maintains a mentality of team-first, player-last. He helped create an atmosphere where winning was the only thing that was important, not hitting .300 or driving in 100 runs.

Anyone who is a Rockies fan should understand the impact that Hurdle has had on the club, even three years after his departure. He is a good manager, but an even better man.

His time was done in Colorado, and he needed to move on, but if anyone thinks that he can't find a way to win in Pittsburgh, a franchise in almost the same shape as the Rockies were in '02, they are mistaken. Hurdle will once again impart his experience and knowledge into a whole new group of prospects looking to make a name for themselves in the big leagues.

Hurdle might be coming into Coors Field in the visitors clubhouse, but his fingerprints remain on the home team.

For more on the Rockies visit RockiesReview.com

This article is also featured on INDenverTimes.com


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