Clearing the Hurdle

13Clint Hurdle was a one-time “Phenom” of the Kansas City Royals but inconsistent play, insufficient power and probably, a few too many beers (read the extraordinary SI article for details), relegated him to journeyman status by age 25 when he hooked up with the Mets. Hurdle appeared with the Mets in 1983 (wearing No. 33), 1985 (when he wore No. 13) and 1987 (wearing No. 7). Although his contributions with the Mets were modest, the Mets and manager Davey Johnson liked him quite a bit: when he was lost to the Cardinals on a Rule 5 pick in ’86, Johnson was so upset he reportedly cried. The Mets in fact liked Hurdle so much they got him started on the road to managership shortly after he retired: He managed Met farm clubs for 6 years then was hired by the expansion Rockies, for whom he became manager in 2002.

Aside from an extraordinary 21-1 run that vaulted the Rockies all the way to the 2007 World Series, Hurdle’s career in Colorado was remarkable mainly for its length. He is the only manager in major league history to begin his career with five consecutive losing seasons and not get fired. His ability to hang on, many say, was due to a willingness to take bullets for the front office, and for his personal charm. I’ve always enjoyed his guest turns on Mets Extra when the Rockies visited. He wore No. 13 throughout his tenure in Denver.

Those who’ve studied his managerial tendencies have not been impressed, noting an adherance character-building but ultimately witless strategies like the sacrifice bunt. Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times suggests Hurdle’s most striking tendency as manager “is that he has arguably done the worst job picking batters for the No. 1 slot of any manager in the last half century where the data exist.” After enduring five years of bunt-happy, passive baseball under Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph, I am sure a change would be welcome.

But if Hurdle’s malleability and charisma can trump his tendency to botch strategy, he might not be a bad choice for the Alderson-led Mets. He evidently is among the finalists.

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One comment

  1. Jon Springer says:

    Submitted by gored82 on Sun, 11/14/2010 – 6:26pm.
    I guess Hurdle and the Mets didn’t want each other enough for him to say no to the Pirates…

    a shame

    Submitted by Jon Springer on Sun, 11/14/2010 – 8:13pm.
    Seems to me Hurdle is the kinda Skipper the Pirates are always hiring. I was kinda hoping they would get off the mat finally.

    ??

    Submitted by gored82 on Sun, 11/14/2010 – 10:18pm.
    Jon, I’m not sure what you mean – do you think Hurdle will help them get off the mat, or that he won’t?

    Yeah, I’m scared he won’t

    Submitted by Jon Springer on Sun, 11/14/2010 – 10:28pm.
    I guess the Pirates are relying more on his ability to bring along young guys and improve their self-esteem than to win games by strategy, so maybe it works.

    I’m trying to sell myself on Melvin now.

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