May 14, 2011: Pittsburgh Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle is ejected after arguing a close call at first base.
You are probably asking yourself, why is that news, and how on earth is it part of any plan? Baseball managers get ejected all the time.
Well, you're somewhat right about the last part, most of the time. I did some "research" (read: Googled while eating) on former manager John Russell and could only find record of one instance where he was tossed from a game, and that was on June 20, 2010.
Most of the time, you would have thought Russell was filming a reboot of Weekend At Bernie's in the dugout the way he reacted—or rather, did not react—to what was happening on the field. His interactions with the media were conducted with about as much joy as the announcement of a sudden death.
He has been involved, passionate and articulate about his methodology. Also, at this point I believe Hurdle's ejection against the Brewers was a calculated move. The Pirates haven't won in Milwaukee since VJ-Day. Okay, maybe a little more recently than that, but they have lost a lot of games in Milwaukee.
It was a close game with Milwaukee up 2-1 at the top of the seventh inning. Maybe his players were starting to feel the season slipping away as they start to dip back under .500.
There was a close play at first with the Pirates batter called out. Replay shows that it was indeed a close call, but that was not the point. Hurdle was standing up for his team. They have to know that he will have their back on close calls.
Eventually, the game got ugly, and the final score was 8-2 in favor of the Brew Crew. That happens. Even though the team played poorly, there were some additional questionable calls, and the Pirates reacted with spirit.
Baseball seasons are long, especially for teams that have lost for 18 straight seasons. While each game only counts once in the standings, yesterday's will stand out. It was the day Hurdle showed his guys they are in it together, consequences be damned.