Andrew McCutchen was not in the starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Los Angeles Dodgers on 5/12/2011. Bucco Skipper Clint Hurdle called it "a manager's decision," according to Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Usually when a team that hasn't had in a winning season in nearly two decades benches its best player over discipline, it is a very bad sign. Not so in this case. Clint Hurdle continues to impress and far outperform his apathetic predecessor, John Russell.
Hurdle is smart enough to realize that this team isn't going to turn it around overnight. Yes, they are competitive in the second month of the season, which is sadly better than they have been able to claim for quite some time.
McCutchen's sin was a relatively minor one. He struck out, but when the ball squirted away from the catcher, Cutch failed to hustle down the line to gain the free base. Hardly the worst offense ever on a baseball diamond, but Hurdle has been indicating that he wants his guys to be accountable.
Basically, Clint Hurdle has used Andrew McCutchen as an example for the rest of his team. If you are a player on this team and you see Cutch face discipline for his action (or inaction), you know that if you pull a similar stunt you will be on the pine as well.
Getting the team to buy into his philosophy will continue to be Clint Hurdle's biggest challenge. Through consistent application of discipline and accountability, he not only will gain the respect of his team, but he'll also have them playing sound, fundamental baseball.
It has been a long time since Pirates' fans could count on that.
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